Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles served as a backdrop for movies and TV shows for nearly a century, from Klondike Annie starring Mae West in 1936, to the hit sci-fi drama series Westworld, shot around 80 years later.
One of the most famous parts of the Ranch was Western Town. The purpose-built setting for movie and TV production dating back to the 1950s had dirt streets and quaint wooden buildings including a hotel, mercantile and saloon.
"You basically walked in and it was ready to shoot," said Amelia Brooke, a Hollywood art director whose credits include Everything Everywhere All at Once. "You can focus on the story that you're telling, as opposed to all of the money that you're sinking into the surrounding sets."
The Woolsey Fire incinerated most of Western Town's flimsy pastel-colored structures in 2018 along with other older buildings related to the Paramount Pictures production era of the 1920s-40s. Now Paramount Ranch, which is part of the National Park Service's Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is being rebuilt to be functional while being able to withstand the perils of future climate change-driven disasters.
Congress appropriated $22 million worth of disaster relief funds in 2019 for the rehabilitation work at the site and it will be open soon. That money only goes so far. Szymanski said the agency has had to make some tough — and even unpopular — decisions, including choosing not to bring Western Town back.
Only two of Western Town's structures survived the Woolsey Fire: the little chapel from Westworld and the train depot built for the 1990s western TV drama Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.
The National Park Service said it's not planning to rebuild these structures if they get taken out next time there's a fire. But they will live on in the many films and TV shows that were shot at Paramount Ranch.