City on a Hill: The Aftermath of Los Angeles' Utopia


Brenda McNary

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The now derelict Socialist commune of Llano del Rio lies silent in the Mojave Desert 50 miles north of Los Angeles. Founded in 1914 by a prominent Socialist party politician, the commune represented the most successful secular alternative community in Southern California. At its peak, over 1,000 people lived and worked there, and thousands of visitors flocked to the site to observe the community in action. Despite the success, the commune eventually failed due to a lack of water. The commune remains an ominous reminder of the many alternative futures people hoped Los Angeles could provide for them. My project is to better understand the people who were willing to take risks in order to realize an alternate community while simultaneously positioning them within the social context of Los Angeles in this era in order to determine how acceptable radical living communities were at this time. In a movement to better compare the commune dweller with the outsider, I will also consider modern attitudes toward alternative communities and how the history of Llano del Rio may or may not have impacted future endeavors to create communes around Los Angeles. To a large extent, I am researching the ways in which Los Angeles presents a ?sunshine and noir? dichotomy, both then and today through the trope of Llano. Llano was one way residents could realize the vision of Los Angeles they desired, and it reminds us of the city?s history of aspirations toward alternative social visions.


Regina Freer and Sharla Fett




Walter C. and Patricia Harris Mack '52Fellowship

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