Visitors to our chamber office are often astonished to find among the history photos that adorn our walls, a 1940’s era photo of Lucille Ball in front of a wood mailbox with the address 19700. Via the use of property records, street maps and aerial photography, that address has been determined to have been on Devonshire Street at Corbin Avenue between the Northridge and Chatsworth orange groves. The house was set back many yards from Devonshire and accessed via a long driveway. The acreage was surrounded by a white rail fence as seen in the mailbox photo.
In 1941, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, then 28 and 23, purchased their partially-built “dream home” for $16,500 which sat on a 5-acre ranch at 19700 Devonshire. They called their “ranchito” Desilu Ranch which was a combination of their names and later their famous Hollywood studio. The house itself was designed by renowned architect Paul Williams who also designed a second home for the Arnazes in Palm Springs. He is famous for the space age LAX Theme Building.
Lucy and Desi purchased a station wagon and moved in with a pack of dogs and six cats and they always had lots of other animals around. Desi commenced to plant fruit trees and built a game room, a large barbeque pit, a pool and the pool/guest house which also served as Desi’s home in exile when the couple fought, which they often did. The couple’s two children were born while Lucille and Desi lived there; Lucie in 1951 and Desi, Jr. in 1954.
In 1956 the family moved to Beverly Hills and sold the house and ranch to former child star Jane Withers. The move was necessitated by the increased demands to be at the LA/Hollywood studios due to the rising popularity of I Love Lucy. Their commute, which did not include freeways at the time, was far too long. It was also said the couple had concerns for their privacy due to their rising stardom, the encroachment of adjacent homes due to the post war housing boom and increased traffic. Their house in Beverly Hills had a wall around it which offered them more privacy and security. It is reported that the couple loved the Northridge/Chatsworth area so much that they often drove by the old homestead after they moved out.
Lucy and Desi were heartbroken when Desilu Ranch was demolished in 1976 to make room for a housing development, but also likely due to its reported terrible condition following the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Unfortunately, the home and address, no longer exist. A similar home on Tuba Street, located on the adjacent large piece of land, also dates from the 1940’s. At one time that home was mistakenly listed for sale as the Desilu home, but that was quickly cleared up. That Tuba home, greatly altered, stands today on that property along with a newer home, all surrounded by a housing development. Detailed information on the Desilu Ranch property at the Devonshire address can be found at BTTF# 22: Searching for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's Desilu Ranch in Chatsworth | San Fernando Valley Blog
During that era many Hollywood stars lived in or owned second homes in the San Fernando Valley including Barbara Stanwick, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, William Holden, Janet Gaynor, Zeppo Marx and movie mogul Harry Warner. The area was famous for horse ranching. Also on display on our chamber walls is an artistic aerial map showing the location of the horse ranches which were prominent in the Valley, many owned by these stars.
Stop by the chamber and check out our other fabulous historical pictures that remind us of Northridge’s rich history.
“Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.” ― Lucille Ball.