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Edendale in the Golden Age of Silent Film

A cache by DeadReckoner Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 9/14/2003
3.5 out of 5
2 out of 5

Size: Size: regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

Take a stroll back in time to 1915, and challenge your geographical, historical, and observational detective skills.

Today, Hollywood is famous worldwide as the home of movie studios and movie stars, and Edendale is a nearly-forgotten and no longer used place name. But back in 1912, William Howard Taft was in the White House, movies were silent, Hollywood was a little known suburb, and Edendale was famous as the home of the movie studios. This multi-cache takes you on a tour of historic Edendale sites, gathering clues along the way to help locate the final cache. You will be required to bring much imagination with you on this tour, as precious little remains of Edendale in its glory day. The quest will challenge various navigational skills and historical research skills, as you'll examine period photographs, assessor map books, and old phone directories in order to unlock the clues to the past and the coords of the final cache. Finally, you'll use the answers to reckon your way to the actual cache (a standard 2.4-quart round tupperware container).

Some logistical notes: You will visit 11 sites as part of a historical tour, gathering clues to construct the coordinates for the final 12th site. Explicit coordinates will be provided for some of the sites. Other sites must be determined, often by identifying correspondences between 90-year old photographs and the present-day sites, or performing other historical research tasks. (All necessary information is explicitly linked on this web page, or is gathered by observation at the 11 sites. No off-site or extraneous web research is required.) The first 9 sites are a walking tour, while sites 10 and 11 are a short drive away. Sites 1-9 are ordered for the most straightforward path, minimizing the crossings of a busy street by going up one side and then down the other. In order to accomplish this, however, sometimes you need to look across the street to observe things, make a mental note, and then remember how to find it when you later come back down the other side of the street. Most photos on this page are thumbnails which can be expanded to full size by clicking on them. There was a lot of fascinating historical information I wanted to share, but this page is long already. I offer links to various bits of historical info. I recommend you read them, as they will add much significance to the area you will explore, but the historical links are not strictly necessary for the solution of this cache. Finally, I recommend you read this whole page ahead of time to understand what you will need to do, and to prepare accordingly, especially including printing out all the relevant photos, maps, and documents.

Site #1. Mack Sennett / Keystone Studios Overlook (34 05.166 N 118 15.642 W)

These, the listed coordinates for the cache, will take you to the starting point of your historical tour. Stand at this location and face east. Much of what you see before you was owned by Mack Sennett and his studios. Read about the history and significance of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Studios, which includes Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. Carefully examine the photos of the studios, circa 1917, taken from roughly about where you are standing. As you compare the photos to what you see in front of you, you should recognize that a large sound stage still exists today, structurally intact, though put to a different use. Mark that building for future reference -- we'll call it the "sound stage". Also, if you carefully study the studio lot photos, you should see several houses across the street to the north. All of those houses are still there today! In particular, look for a 2-story house with a little hip-gabled dormer in the middle of the front roof. It's probably the house most easily recognizable from the photos and where you are standing. You'll find it in the photo just left and slightly above the "Mack Sennett Comedies" banner. Mark that house for future reference. (A general rule to keep in mind when comparing these old photos to the present day: pay most attention to the structure, as paint, plaster, and stucco can make things look different superficially.)

Site #2. Sennett / Keystone Studios Sound Stage

Proceed on foot to the building that used to be the old sound stage, which you marked from the photos you just examined. If you're bold, you can just dash across the street. If you're particularly law-abiding or safety conscious, please proceed one block south to Berkeley Ave, where you'll find a traffic light and safe place to cross Glendale Blvd. If you walk down to the traffic light, walk the 1 block along Allesandro (the slight diagonal) instead of Glendale Blvd, and keep in mind that Mack Sennett's studios also included everything along the west side of this block of Allesandro. When you arrive at the sound stage, note that this building is on private property, which you will not be able to enter, but you can see everything that you need to from outside the fence.

Question A

Look for a door to the building, that has some numbers and letters painted over it, closely resembling what is shown just to the right of this paragraph. Look on the building to find the number that "AAA" represents, and that's your first clue. 262-434

Site #3. Alessandro Ave (34 05.142 N 118 15.582 W)

Proceed on foot to the coordinates, but accuracy is not critical here, you needn't stray off of the sidewalk. You should have a good view across what used to be called Alessandro Ave, but now is Glendale Blvd. Sennett's studios occupied both sides of Alessandro Ave north of Effie St. Examine the photo of Sennett's studios on the west side of the street. You should recognize that one of the buildings in the photo is still there today. Mark that building, as you'll need to visit it later on in the tour. Also examine the photo of the car skidding around the corner. Sennett's crew used to put soap suds in the street to insure a good wild skid for their Keystone Cops chase scenes! If you look around, you should be able to spot that corner from where you're standing, and the building on the corner, which is still there. Mark that building also (we'll call it the "garage"), as you'll need to visit it later on this tour. Also, of historical note (though not necessary to find the cache), you should observe the wide grass median in the middle of Glendale Blvd stretching south from this point. That median was the rail bed for the Pacific-Electric "Red Car", which ran from downtown. Originally, the line only went as far as this point, but it was later extended.

Site #4. Old House

Walk to the old house with the gabled window that you saw from the starting viewpoint. It was built in 1903, and is the oldest house on the block (though others that you'll see near it went up in 1905, 1909, and 1910). Note its position relative to the other houses on this block.

Question B

Your task is to do some historical research to determine what the occupation of the owner of this house was in 1915. (Simplified copies of actual source documents are provided here, to give you the flavor of the historical research while sparing you all the legwork.) Your first stop would be the County Assessor's office, to research the history of the parcel. From preliminary research there, you'd move on to the Map Room in the County Archives. The records of those times were kept in oversize ledgers (2'x3' unopened!), with scale maps of property plots on one page, and a hand-written list of lots, owners, and assessed value on the facing page. First step is to figure out the lot number for the property in question. In Map Book 39 (1910-19), page 36, you would find this map. By relating this map to the block that you're standing on, you should be able to determine the lot number corresponding to the house. Then you would look at the property data on the facing page. For each lot number, the property owner is listed. This particular ledger was in use from 1910-1919. Whenever property changed hands, the new owner's name was written on the same line, right after the old owner. Often, the last two digits of the year that the transaction took place would be indicated after/above the name (like a footnote number). This ledger also showed the assessed value for each year, both on the land and the improvements. (What I've shown you is a cleaned-up reproduction of the document, to save you some eye strain. Here is an actual photo of the document.) By now, you should know the name of the owner of this house in 1915. You would then proceed to the LA Public Library (downtown branch), where you can find microfilm copies of old city directories, which listed people, their addresses, and their occupations. Here is a relevant excerpt of the 1915 Los Angeles City Directory. What did the owner of this house do for a living in 1915? (This question is multiple choice. Pick the right answer from the choices offered below. Then use the numeric value in parentheses for plugging into the final coordinate calculations.)

  • farmed (435)
  • worked with wood (285)
  • maintained clocks (350)
  • ran a cafe (375)
  • managed apartments (420)
  • taught children (260)
  • salesman (185)
  • wife of a salesman (325)
  • wrote books (300)
  • milked cows (240)
  • cut meat (395)
  • ran an electric shop (215)

Site #5. Mack Sennett Historical Plaque (34 05.370 N 118 15.558 W)

Proceed on foot to the coordinates. You will need to cross Glendale Blvd. Without going out of your way, you should find a pedestrian tunnel at Clifford St which will get you safely across Glendale. (Please do NOT J-walk at this point, as cars are coming off of the Glendale Fwy at near-freeway speeds.) This will take you to the site of the Selig-Polyscope Studios, the first motion picture studios in Los Angeles, established here in 1909. Read more about the history and significance of the Selig-Polyscope Studios.

Question C

Find a historical plaque at the coordinates. It is on private property, and you won't be able to touch it, but you should be able to read it clearly enough just peering through the fence. Ironically, the plaque is misplaced by about 3 blocks. By now, you should have learned enough Edendale history to recognize that this spot ought to have a plaque commemorating Colonel Selig and LA's first film studio, while this particular inscription ought to be placed back at Site #2. Locational inaccuracies aside, in what year was this plaque placed here?

UPDATE: The building on this site has been demolished as of Sept 2007, and now even the remnant where the plaque was mounted is gone. So let's do this. Look directly across the street, and you will see a restaurant named for the country of its cuisine. What is the country?

  • Mexico - 1924
  • El Salvador - 1934
  • Cuba - 1944
  • Spain - 1954
  • Brazil - 1964
  • Peru - 1974

Conditions on this site may be rather dynamic, as I think something new will be constructed. I'll try to keep an eye on it, but let me know if conditions change.

Site #6. 1922 Commercial Building (34 05.292 N 118 15.570 W)

Walk to the coordinates. Examine the building you are standing in front of. In 1915, this site housed, among other things, a barber shop.

Question D

This is another exercise in examining historical assessor data. Here is a representation of the property data found on page 8 of Map Book 39 (1919-25). What was the assessed value of this building in 1922 (improvements only)? (I have purposely omitted the map, which would allow you too easily to match the location to the lot number. By careful observation of the building, combined with a study of the property data, you should be able to make a direct connection between the two.)

Site #7. Norbig Studios

Your next stop is a short walk to the site of the Norbig Film Company in the period 1914-1919. Norbig was a rental film studio that provided a home for many director/producers who were just getting started. (In dot-com terminology, we would have called it an "incubator".) Director Hal Roach worked here, making films starring Harold Lloyd as "Lonesome Luke". (Hal Roach was well-known in this period, but would become even more famous in the 1920's with hits including the "Our Gang" / "Little Rascals" series, and would build his own studio in Culver City.) Charlie Chaplin also worked here briefly, under the Lone Star Studios moniker, before setting up his own studio at 1025 Lillian Way in Hollywood. At the time of the photo shown here, the Norbig site was leased out to Reaguer Productions.

Question E

You can determine where the Norbig Studios were located by first examining this property data from page 36 of Map Book 39 (1910-19), and then correlating it to the map found on the facing page. (Note: This is the same data and map from question B, so you needn't print it out again.) Which of the following coordinates is on the property that was owned by Norbig?

  • 34 05.282 N 118 15.573 W
  • 34 05.264 N 118 15.578 W
  • 34 05.254 N 118 15.580 W
  • 34 05.245 N 118 15.583 W
  • 34 05.226 N 118 15.588 W

Site #8. 1916 Commercial Building

Walk to the old building that you had marked in the old photo of the Sennett studios on the west side of Alessandro Ave (now Glendale Blvd).

Question F

What is the name of this building? (This question is multiple choice. Pick the right answer from the choices offered below. Then use the numeric value in parentheses for plugging into the final coordinate calculations.)

  • Aaron (33)
  • Branden (66)
  • Clift (99)
  • Keystone (11)
  • Scott (55)
  • Tienda (88)

Site #9. 1916 Garage

Walk to the building which, in 1916, was a garage and gas station. You had marked this building from Site #3, from an old photo with cars skidding around a soap-sudded corner.

Question G

There is a phone number painted on the building (the side of the building directly facing you in the old photograph). What are the three prefix digits of that phone number? (The prefix is GGG in 213-GGG-0000.)

Site #10. Mixville

After Site #9, go back to your car and drive to Site #10 by proceeding north on Glendale Blvd. Site #10 was known to the assessor as "Mrs. Garey's Tract", as shown on this map on page 2 of Map Book 276 (1918-27). You may be able to recognize it by the distinctive layout of the streets around the tract, comparing it with a modern map of the area, though be cautioned that nearly all of the streets around the tract had different names in 1918 than they do today. If you need some more context, you can spot Mrs. Garey's Tract on this index map from Map Book 276 (1927-34). In the 1910's and 1920's, that tract was more commonly known as "Mixville", as it was the main studio lot used by Tom Mix to make his famous westerns. There was a whole makeshift western town, an Indian village, and plenty of undeveloped hills in the vicinity on which to film horseback scenes. Read more about the history and significance of Mixville.

Question H

Tom Mix personally owned 4 acres of the larger Mixville site, as you can see from the map on page 4 of Map Book 276 (1927-34). You may note a couple of very faint pencil annotations in the space left of Glendale Blvd (too faint for you to read). The annotation corresponding to the lower half of the tract says "Tom Mix / 4.06 acres (Ex of Sts) S 600 feet of Lot 2, Mrs. Garey's Tract". The annotation corresponding to the upper half of the tract says "Bernard Sitton / 4.13 acres (Ex of Sts, and Ex of S 600 ft) of Lot 2, Mrs. Garey's Tract". Study the map and understand how it relates to the present-day site. Which of the following present-day businesses are on the property that Tom Mix owned? (This is multiple choice, and there may be multiple correct answers. Choose all that apply. Sum up the corresponding numbers in parentheses for use in calculating the final coordinates.)

  • Bank of America (95)
  • Citibank (114)
  • East-West Bank (87)
  • Ralph's (102)
  • CVS/Savon (91)
  • Starbucks (74)

Site #11. Red Car / Fletcher Bridge (34 06.318 N 118 15.402 W)

The Pacific-Electric Red Car was a popular and effective mass transit system across the greater Los Angeles area from the 1890's up thru the 1950's, when it was dismantled due to the increasing popularity of private cars (or, as some suggest, due to an evil plot by the automobile industry). The trestle bridge shown in the photo on the right enabled the Red Car line, connecting downtown and Edendale to Glendale, to cross Fletcher Drive. The bridge had a span of 453'6", and a clearance of 40'9" over the pavement. The bridge was originally built in 1904, entirely of timber, but the center portion was rebuilt in 1928 to allow Fletcher Drive to be opened underneath it. Read more about the history of the Red Car if you like.

Question J

Proceed to the coordinates (long walk or short drive), where you will notice pilings in the hillside, the remains of the Red Car bridge shown in the photo. You will see that the pilings are arranged in rows, with about 7 or 8 rows going up the hillside. How many pilings in each full row?

Reckoning your way to the final cache

By now you should have obtained numeric answers for questions A-J. Start with the coordinates from question E, then add or subtract the numbers from the other answers (assuming the unit of all other answers is 0.001 minutes) as shown here:

34 EE.EEE N 118 EE.EEE W
- 17 - 128
+ FF
+ J
34 XX.XXX N 118 XX.XXX W

Careful of the plus and minus. If you work out the XX coordinates correctly, they should lead you to a nice tupperware full of goodies, hidden in a site that also has some historical significance. Some hints are offered if you need them. The cache is a 2.4-qt round tupperware container. Initial trading items include a couple of vintage magnets (RCA Victor "his master's voice", Yellow Cab 5c cigars), a couple of c. 1920's photo postcards of downtown / central library, a compass, a personal mosquito repeller, and a 5-in-1 survival kit. Trade items with a historical theme are encouraged but not required.

UPDATE 1/25/11. The cache has been replaced once again (big thanks to benandjayme!). The new cache is a camo-painted cylindrical tin, about 8" tall and 4" in diameter. It is fairly well obscured, as the spot is popular with dog-walkers, but with close examination of the right spot, you should be able to see it. Note that you should not have to scramble up any steep slopes or go into anyone's backyard to find the cache.


After a hard day of historical geocaching, if you're thirsty for a beer as well as a bit more history (and if it's after 5pm), may I recommend you visit the nearby Edendale Grill, and its Mixville Bar. Set in a remodeled fire station, the foyer and bar offer a small gallery of photographs from Edendale in its glory days. You'll especially appreciate the historical photos after all you've learned today! To find it, proceed by car to 34 06.450 N 118 15.594 W, and look for the old Fire Station 56, built in 1924, and shown in this photo from the 1920's. (Or decode the address given in the last hint. :-)).


Special thanks to Marc Wanamaker of Bison Archives, an invaluable resource on the history of the early studios; to Delmar Watson and Coy Watson Jr., who have been very generous in sharing their incredible family history; and to Annalisa Magnuson, a local historian who showed me the way in and around the county archives and the central library historical records.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

[getting there hint 1:] Pbafvqre jung lbh sbhaq ng gur ynfg fvgr, naq gur vzcyvpngvbaf sbe ynaq hfr. [getting there hint 2:]Gur vaqrk znc sebz Znc Obbx 276 fubjf n srngher gung lbh jba'g svaq ba lbhe Gubznf Thvqr be Zncdhrfg zncf, rira gubhtu vg'f fgvyy gurer va fbzr sbez. [zeroing in:] Ybbx sbe n pyhzc bs fbsg ntnir ba gur jrfgreyl fvqr bs gur genvy jvgu fbzr wnqr nobir vg. [Edendale Grill:] 2838 Ebjran Nir. [Question C hint:] Nqq avargl-avar gb gur fgerrg nqqerff.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



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