Antelope Valley – The Remains of a Socialist Colony at Llano del Rio

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Just off Route 138 in the Antelope Valley, immediately east of 165th street, lies the remains of the Llano del Rio collective, the once hopeful socialist experiment that occupied the land from 1914 until 1918.  The crumbling rocks and bare foundations give little indication of the fascinating history behind the place.  Job Harriman, a leading socialist of his time, had run for Vice President of the United States, governor of California, and mayor of Los Angeles.  In 1913, at the age of 55, he gave up on politics and sets his sights on realizing his socialist dream in a colony far away from the big cities.  By 1914, he had purchased Llano del Rio and was drawing settlers.  New residents paid $2,000 for shares in the corporation that owned and operated the community, or worked in exchange for shares.  By 1915, the colony had more than 500 settlers, and eventually the settlement would have as many as 1000 residents at its height.  Life was difficult; fresh produce was scarce, work was hard in the bare sun, and housing was insufficient.  Still, there was hope and an organized community.  But, the colonists would not enjoy success for long.  Even as the socialist vision seemed to come to fruition in 1916 and 1917, the commune was beset by external enemies and divisions within.  The Los Angeles Times, long a critic of Harriman, continued to deride and criticize the collective.  In 1916, the California Commissioner of Corporations denied the commune’s application for water rights to irrigate the land.  Then, in 1917, political dysfunction led to a lost crop. This, combined with lawsuits from dissident colonists and supposed mismanagement, led to weakened finances.  By the fall of 1917, Llano del Rio was failing, and the leadership decided to move to the settlement to Louisiana.  New Llano, as the new community was called, continued to operate in Louisiana as a commune until 1937.  

From the freeway, off 138, you immediately see the remains of the hotel.

Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.

 

Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.

 

Compare this photos with these below from 1914 and 1916, courtesy of the West Antelope Historical Society.    

Here’s the advertisement for settlers placed in the Western Comrade, a socialist publication of the time.  

As you walk further away from the the hotel and Route 138, you come to more remains.  

Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.
Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.
Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.
Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.
Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.

 

As you walk back toward the hotel and the freeway, this is the view.  

Llano del Rio was a commune established in 1914 in the Antelope Valley, CA. Too far from other communities to sustain and economy, the colony was abandoned in 1918 and moved to New Llano, Lousiana. Photo by Ming Lo.

 

Here’s a map with the location of the Llano del Rio Ruins.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Sources:

https://la.curbed.com/2017/5/1/15465616/utopia-socialist-los-angeles-llano-del-rio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llano_del_Rio

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ruins-at-llano-del-rio

http://www.colapublib.org/history/antelopevalley/faq.html#q1

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Llano_del_Rio

 

 

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