Country Club Drive is a unique and serene enclave of residential homes built in the early 1920's on a natural stream meandering from Deer Canyon in the Burbank hills. It is one of Burbank's most historic districts, as most of the city was not developed until the 1940's and 50's. Many people believe the street's name comes from the nearby DeBell Golf Course. However, the moniker actually comes from a country club that used to be located in this quiet and peaceful canyon many years ago.
Members of the "Sunset Canyon Country Club" also had access to several small cabins that dotted the hillsides of Country Club Drive. As membership increased in the 1920's, the country club began construction on a larger, more grand building down the mountain. No expense was spared during the construction, and only the finest architects and materials were used to build this extravagant new club. The purpose of this new, exclusive establishment was to host the elite Hollywood luminaries of the time, and offer them peace and respite from their hectic schedules in the studios down Hollywood Way. Coincidentally, after construction of the new club had finished, a fire swept through the canyon in 1927. With no modern day fire-fighting equipment and aerial support, many of the small cabins were destroyed in the blaze. Remnants of their foundations, concrete walls, and pipes remain scattered throughout the canyon, and can be seen from the street and in many current residents' own backyards (most visibly apparent in the historic ruins across the street from 949-1027 Country Club Drive).
Due to the combined effects of the fire and the exorbitant construction costs of the new building, the Sunset Canyon Country Club went out of business. The city of Burbank promptly took possession of the expansive property. From 1933 until 1939, the canyon was owned by the city and was, for the most part, deserted. During this time, the new country club building fell victim to neglect. Vagrants and graffiti abound. This once picture of opulence and luxury fell into disrepair. Eventually, the city of Burbank subdivided the canyon and sold off all properties.
In 1939, the newer country club building was inspected by Burbank fire captain (and Mormon church member) Howard Tolman. He deemed the site a perfect place to accommodate the burgeoning Mormon congregation in Burbank. The Latter-Day Saints outbid motion picture powerhouse Warner Brothers, and purchased the property. After a full restoration, the building that at one time was the Sunset Canyon Country Club rose from neglect back to glory. Still to this day, it houses three wards (congregations) for the Mormon church, and serves as their district headquarters.
The parcel which included the older clubhouse was sold to movie star and five-time Olympic gold medal winner Johnny Weissmuller, who was the original Tarzan in the movies of the 1930's and 40's. Weissmuller swam in the former country club's secluded mountain pool almost everyday, until he moved back to Chicago in the 1950's. The building was eventually torn down, and only remnants of the foundation and pool remain today.
Despite the fact that this canyon no longer hosts a country club, the street that once housed these moments in history continues to pay homage to its storied past by remaining "Country Club Drive."
Notable Past Residents:
Many past, as well as current, famous and influential people (especially from nearby Hollywood and its film and music industry) have called Country Club Drive home.
For the sake of privacy, current notable residents are not named. However, past residents (details on them provided in the "History" section) include:
Jane Weidlin (Founding guitarist and vocalist for platinum selling band The Go-Go's)
Johnny Weissmuller (Beloved actor and five-time Olympic gold medalist)
Laura Ingalls (Famed aviator and colleague of Amelia Earhart, as well as infamous Nazi agent)
Bill Miller (Frank Sinatra's pianist and closest musical advisor for over 40 years)
Doris Vick (The longest resident of Country Club Drive and matriarch of the canyon, died at the age of 95 in 2018). She lived for 50+ years at 892 Country Club Drive, before downsizing next door to 906 Country Club Drive, the last residence of record upon her death.
NEWSPAPER & MAGAZINE ARCHIVES
Dec. 4, 1927 (Los Angeles Times): A fire burned into Sunset Canyon. According to accounts: "The firemen had laid 2200 feet of 2 inch hose up the canyon floor from a swimming pool at the Sunset Canyon Country Club. The fire was so intense that the hose line had to be abandoned and the firemen had to flee for their lives."
April 14, 1938 (Los Angeles Times): "Before dawn Sunday several hundred residents of Sunset Canyon above Burbank will gather in the hillside amphitheater of the E.M. Hugglund home, 751 Country Club Drive, for the third successive Easter service."
Jan. 17, 1967 (The Daily Review): Miss
Laura Ingalls, who became the first flyer to complete a solo flight around the South American continent in 1934, died recently [January 10, 1967] in Burbank. She was 66.
Miss Ingalls had lived in California 30 years and at 1027 Country Club Drive 12 years.
The daughter of a socially prominent New York family, Miss Ingalls' great love was flying.
She placed second in the 1936 National Air Races in a special contest for women. She completed a transcontinental trip, flying alone in her Lockheed Orion, in 15 hours and 39 minutes.
Miss Ingalls was also enthralled by aerial acrobatics. The first woman to earn a transport pilot's license, she performed 980 continuous loops in her DH Gypsy Moth and 714 consecutive barrel rolls over St. Louis. In 1935 Miss Ingalls set out to set a record for the first non-stop coast-to-coast flight from east to west. She made the flight in 18 hours and 19 minutes. She then broke Amelia Earhart's nonstop record by 5 1/2 hours.
Miss Ingalls leaves a brother in Paris, France and a sister-in-law in New York. Private funeral services and burial were held.
NOTE: Amelia Earhart was also known to be good friends with Orlando C. Lane, and often visited him at his historic residence "The Rock House," located down the street at 902 E. Olive. Henry Ford once spent the night there after visiting Lane's Ford dealership (see picture below titled "A drive down Country Club Drive in a Model T").
More on Laura Ingalls and her infamous past as a Nazi secret agent can be found here: http://wesclark.com/burbank/ingalls.html
July 16, 2006 (The Boston Globe): Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra's longtime pianist and closest musical
adviser, who accompanied the legendary singer from 1951 until his last performance in 1995, died Tuesday at a Montreal hospital of complications of a heart attack. He was 91.
Mr. Miller, who lived in Burbank, Calif. for more than 50 years, was performing in Montreal with Frank Sinatra Jr. when he broke his hip two weeks ago. He subsequently had a heart attack and died after heart bypass surgery, according to his daughter, Meredith of Berkeley, Calif.
Sept. 13, 2004 (ContactMusic.com): Go-Go's founding member Jane Wiedlin is planning to quit her native America to run a nature resort in Panama. The guitarist and her husband, professional chef David Trotter, have purchased 500 acres of forest in the Latin American country. In preparation for their move, they have placed their four bedroom, two bathroom home in the hills of Burbank, California, on the market for $1.25 million (751 Country Club Drive).The home boasts a music room and a sun room and sits on close to two acres of land, backing onto a further 2,000 acres of open space.
May 28, 2013 (Variety Magazine): Ms. Wiedlin has previously owned a couple of homes in Los Angeles. In 2004 she sold a hill climbing mini-estate (751 Country Club Drive) tucked up into the mountains above Burbank for $1,200,000.
Pictures courtesy of Wes Clark (http://www.wesclark.com)
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