Our History

A Hollywood History

Our camp property has a rich and somewhat racy history: throughout the decades of the twentieth century this property changed hands (and missions) several times.

Known for it’s family friendly atmosphere today, in the early 20th century Paradise Springs served as a retreat for early Hollywood stars, and was known as a somewhat more hedonistic place.

The original 165 acres was purchased by a successful Pasadena attorney by the name of Louis Luckell.  Mr. Luckell bought the land with the intent of using it as a weekend getaway.  He dreamed of having a place to escape the rigors of daily courtroom life.  His daughter Adelaide, preferring the social graces of Pasadena to the rugged wilderness of Paradise Springs, encouraged her father to sell the property.

Noah Beery Sr.An Actor by the name of  Noah Beery Sr., after “happening” upon it during a hunting trip to the San Gabriel Mountains and enjoying it, made an offer on the property.  With the financial aid of his brother Wallace Beery they purchased “Paradise Springs” with the intent of catering to Hollywood’s elite.  The Beery brothers built 27 stone cabins, an elegant ballroom and dining hall, and a series of trout ponds with a natural spring cascading through them.

In its Hollywood heyday during the early prohibition era Paradise Springs boasted up to 1,000 guests in a weekend. The guest list included such silent film stars as Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, W.C. Fields, Marion Davies, W. Randolph Hearst, Francis X. Bushman and Mary Pickford.  Later in its history Paradise Springs played host to John Wayne, Noah Beery Jr., and Johnny Weissmuller as well as many others.

bathtub gin made during prohibitionAside from being a posh weekend getaway, its natural beauty, and fresh rainbow trout, Paradise Springs offered a few extra amenities. These included bathtub gin (illegal during prohibition), gambling, and a slew of “starlets” ready to make the acquaintance of visiting studio executives. As one can imagine, there are many wild tales that have been told from this era.

As the great depression deepened it’s grip on the nation, and the “in crowd” moved on to other amusements, the money at Paradise Springs dried up.  In an attempt to salvage his dream getaway Mr. Berry went into partnership with Phil DeMerce, and opened Paradise Springs as a public recreation area.  He also tried his hand at selling the fish raised in the hatchery to restaurants in Hollywood such as The Brown Derby.  After a fire of a suspicious origin destroyed the ballroom, and a flood  destroyed many of the cabins, the resort went bankrupt.

The property then reverted to its original owner: Louis Luckell. Several entrepreneurs leased Paradise Springs from the Luckell family over the years with little success at running a profitable business. Adelaide Luckell (now Adelaide Pettijohn), approached her nephew Gunner Payne in 1965 about doing something with Paradise Springs.

In 1971 Gunner Payne and a group of Quakers formed a partnership, and reopened Paradise Springs as a campground and retreat center.  The new owners operated the camp in stark contrast to the property’s racy past.  The new rules were: no alcohol,  Sunday services for all, no gambling, and no dances.

Gunner and his wife Helen blessed many people in their time at Paradise Springs.  As they “matured” in age their front porch in Oregon beckoned them more and more, and in 1981 they sold the property to a group of five families who continued Gunner’s dream of providing a fun, safe, secure camping experience for anyone to come and enjoy.

Since 1981 Paradise Springs has continued to operate as a family friendly campground, retreat site, and outdoor education center open to the public. Rainbow trout still await you to catch in the clear pools.  The surrounding mountains still stand silent and impressive overlooking the camp. Most importantly, our guests still enjoy a wholesome family oriented atmosphere.