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Pioneertown: Old West town originally built as a 1940s movie set designed to accommodate actors during filming

David Goran

In the hills above Morongo Valley, in the high desert community of Yucca Valley, Ca., lies Pioneertown, a small Old West town with motels, trading posts, bowling alleys, jails, and saloons.

Originally built for filming western movies and TV shows, it was founded in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors. The idea was to create a movie set but also a place to house actors and film crews during filming.

Established in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors and named after the music group “The Sons of the Pioneers”  Photo Credit

Established in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors and named after the music group “The Sons of the Pioneers”  Photo Credit

 

A combination of a movie set and living quarters   Photo Credit

A combination of a movie set and living quarters   Photo Credit

 

A whole town built with facades to replicate a 19th century western town  Photo Credit

A whole town built with facades to replicate a 19th century western town  Photo Credit

Among the original developers and investors are the actors Dick Curtis, Russell Hayden, Gene Autry, and several members from one of the United States’ earliest Western singing groups The Sons of the Pioneers.

Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, more than 50 popular movies and several TV shows were filmed here, including The Cisco Kid, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 26 Men, Buffalo Bill, Jr., Whirlwind, The Range Rider, and many Gene Autry’s Western TV shows.

Entrance to Pioneer Bowl Photo Credit

Entrance to Pioneer Bowl Photo Credit

 

Pioneertown Gunsmith  Photo Credit

Pioneertown Gunsmith  Photo Credit

 

The Bath House  Photo Credit

The Bath House  Photo Credit

 

The Jack Cass Saloon  Photo Credit

The Jack Cass Saloon  Photo Credit

What was once a live-in Old West motion picture set to either house or entertain the film crews and actors, today is a living town with a post office, a church, a vintage store, saloons, and a restaurant.

People began moving into the set buildings which look like real works of art. According to Wikipedia, as of 2006, Pioneertown had a population of 350.

Chapparosa Saddlery on Mane Street  Photo Credit

Chapparosa Saddlery on Mane Street  Photo Credit

 

Saloon, bank, bath house and livery stables on Mane Street  Photo Credit

Saloon, bank, bath house and livery stables on Mane Street  Photo Credit

 

Facade of Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace  Photo Credit

Facade of Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace  Photo Credit

 

The motel, originally built to accommodate the actors and their crew is still in use today   Photo Credit

The motel, originally built to accommodate the actors and their crew is still in use today   Photo Credit

One of the most famous places in the town is The Pioneertown Motel (originally called The Townhouse), an 18 room lodge that formerly housed the Hollywood stars and their crews. The motel is still in use today, with individually decorated rooms, such as the John Wayne Room, the Rose Room, and the Antique Room, where travelers can spend the night.

Read another story from us: Texas Hollywood/Fort Bravo: the film set for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns in the 1960s

Another popular place on the main street (called Mane Street) is Pappy and Harriets, a saloon-style restaurant, serving food and drinks and hosting music entertainers since 1982.