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Old Posted Dec 2, 2013, 8:37 PM
Martin Pal Martin Pal is offline
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MONKEY ISLAND opened 75 years ago

Originally Posted by ethereal_reality View Post
My heart palpitates at the mere mention of Monkey Island.
Well, E_R, I hope the palpitations are worth it! As I’ve been going through the thread, I, too, have been intrigued by this Monkey Island that I had never heard of before. And many years ago, for over five years in fact, I rode past the area it is “alleged” (Lol!) to have been located in almost every day.

Using the search function, which we all know has it’s limits, I have read three dozen posts and links about this place and find it amazing that it’s still steeped in mystery. There’s relatively few photos of the place and information of it’s exact location seem to vary from person to person and source to source.

NLA poster Michael Ryerson even began to wonder about the exact location even after he posted his 1943 road map image where it’s pointed out.

I don’t know if my post will cause added confusion or clarity and I can’t assume that I’ve read every post now about Monkey Island, as the search function seems to waver in its accuracy as other posters have corrected, but I am going to post a few things that I found that I didn’t know, so I think are new here, with the “search engine” caveat. I’ll start with this photo I originally found on an LAPL blog about favorite photo discoveries of the year.

Herman Schultheis, 1939, LAPL

The caption states:
Orangutan tug o' war at Monkey Island, Herman Schultheis, 1939
Paul Palmentola with assistance from architect George Sprague and engineer R. McBeanfield designed the amusement park, which opened Thanksgiving Day in 1938. A six story building housed the offices, hospital and laboratories.

I searched Michael Ryerson posts, but didn’t see that he’d posted this photo, even though he had on his Flickr page:

As for the caption, it’s the first I’d heard that there was a six story building associated with this place. The reason for the hospital and laboratories may have been because the managing director apparently let others use some of his monkeys for testing and research. (Although when I had read that in one of the links I assumed it was not done on or near the premises, but by other facilities.)

I found this entry on a Yahoo group dedicated to the Pacific Electric Railway. Someone on there had asked about a post someone made mentioning Monkey Island and a link to some info about it (nothing that wasn’t on NLA) and Raphel Long posted this memory:

Monkey Island was located on the north side of Cahuenga Boulevard just west of Dark Canyon Road. The Cahuenga Parkway ended just west of the Barham-Dark Canyon Bridge where it crossed the Pacific Electric at grade. Cahuenga became Ventura Boulevard at Lankershim Boulevard. As I recall, Monkey Island folded around December of 1941. The "mountain" was visible all through the War.

Then I found this in a post on the Los Angeles Daily News site which was an article about the San Fernando Valley’s history and such.

Depression easing in region
By Kelly Corrigan, Correspondent

As the San Fernando Valley entered the 1940s, the area gave every indication that the Great Depression had loosened its grip on the community.

Stories in The Van Nuys News, the predecessor of the Los Angeles Daily News, told of an unprecedented building boom in the Valley, which also continued to draw more than its fair share of celebrities.

From the mundane to the remarkable, the paper offered a compelling look at Valley life in 1939-40. Here are select excerpts:

The excerpt of interest to this NLA subject:

Monkey Island Resort Popular

Over 30,000 persons of all ages have visited Monkey Island, 3300 Cahuenga boulevard, since it opened December 9, according to Louis Weiss, managing director of this unique simian zoo ... Many unique features are daily being added to Monkey Island's anthropoid ape performances and among the small monkeys on the "island" itself.

Bert G. Fisher, curator, is teaching "Jimmy," his "high school" chimpanzee, a "Ferdinand the Bull" act, with a trained goat doubling as the "bull" ... "Bennie," notwithstanding her name, is a female Java monkey and an expectant mother. While waiting for the monkey stork to bring her baby, "Benny" has adopted four small Rhesus monkeys, which she feeds all the food she can collect - or steal. "Benny," who looks like a small male lion, can be very ferocious whenever any of her adopted babies are molested. (Jan. 12, 1939)

So, we have a discrepancy in it’s opening date: The LAPL photo caption said it opened on Thanksgiving in 1938 (November 24th) and this article says December 9th. (Maybe it
had a trial opening, a pre-opening?)

Lastly, I found a Pacific Electric Magazine dated November 10, 1938, Vol. 19-No.5, that has an article titled:

Novel attractions for ourselves and for our railway and L.A. Motor Coach patrons scheduled for November opening.

The first paragraph:

This month two new enterprises will open to the public for their entertainment and amusement. One of them, “Tropical Ice Gardens” is located at Westwood Village, reached by the Wilshire-University Line of the Los Angeles Motor Coach; the other, “Monkey Island”, located at 3300 Cahuenga Boulevard, on the San Fernando Valley Line of this railway, between Barham Boulevard and Lankershim Boulevard.

The next ten paragraphs are all about the Ice Gardens, along with a rather large rendering of the facility. The last paragraph is about Monkey Island:

“Monkey Island”, modeled somewhat on the plan of the famous island in one of the Chicago parks, will undoubtedly be a lure for many people who find amusement in the antics of the little animals. The Builder, Mr. Weis, is authority for the statement that when in complete operation, the island will have 600 monkeys “on the loose”. Such a monkey business. Can you imagine how the price of peanuts is going to advance in that territory. Possibly he may not feed them on a strictly peanut diet, but what’s a monkey without a peanut. Anyway, there should be lots of fun and laughter around “Monkey Island”.

There is also a rendering of the place with the caption “600 Monkeys to Call This Home”.

Whether it was built like the rendering is unknown to me, but it shows the front building with the entrance (like the one in the photo above) and the neon sign which we’ve seen in previous posts, above it. On the right side of the entrance area is a location labeled a Restaurant. There is another on the left, but not legible, although it could be a gift shop or something like that. The “Monkey Island” itself looks to be behind this and the rendering shows it to be enclosed with a low-ish fence of some kind. There also looks to be a tall pole arising inside—some kind of night illuminating structure I’d guess.

This whole place has no other buildings in view and hills are in the background; it is not “on” a hill like those odd remnants people have wondered about. Of course, again, this is a rendering.

I have no means to post this photo, so if someone does, I, and I’m sure others, would appreciate it! It’s on this pdf link:

…the mysterious “Monkey Island” opened 75 years ago…
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