Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Ghost Town Of Llano California, Or, The Perils Of Unrestrained Idealism

Most ghost towns are the result of capitalism at work. But Llano, CA is the result of taking Karl Marx seriously. It's located on California state highway 138 about 20 miles east of Palmdale; it can also be reached by taking the highway 138 exit off Interstate 15 north of San Bernardino.

Llano was founded in 1915 by Job Harriman, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer and avowed socialist. He acquired the land for Llano with the intent of proving the socialist model of living was viable. Residents purchased "shares" of Llano and were paid $4 per day for their labor; however, transactions between residents were on paper instead of in cash. In very short order, the residents had opened a hotel, a library, a printing shop, a community dining hall, and housing (including barracks-style accommodations for unmarried residents). To feed the residents and generate income from the outside world, land was farmed, a dairy was established, and a steam laundry, a cannery, a rug-making plant, and a soap factory were opened. There were also team sports and dances for the residents.

The most impressive ruins at Llano are of the hotel. Here you can see the support pillars and the fireplace/chimney in the middle:

There are no complete structures still standing at Llano, although there are numerous walls , as the two photos below illustrate:

You can find some interesting building foundations at Llano. The one below is not residential, but I'm stumped as to what it was. Note the "partitions" at the right:

Today's lefties are really into being environmentally conscious, but that wasn't the case at Llano. The area is littered with rusting cans, bottles, and other waste. (But remember-----today's trash is tomorrow's historical artifacts, so don't use trash cans and ensure employment for future archaeologists!)

Llano was faced with a host of problems, such as a lack of enough water for farming. But the biggest obstacle was human nature. I located an article in the May, 1963 issue of Desert magazine that had an interview with Tony Vacik, who lived in Llano. "Some people will just not cooperate," he said. "Fourteen comrades would be assigned to a project, and probably four of them would do all the work." In other words, the residents of Llano figured out something in 1917 that the leaders of the USSR wouldn't find out until 1991, namely that socialism can never work because it is contrary to the harsh realities of human nature.

By 1917, Harriman abandoned the Llano experiment but not his faith in socialism. He bought land in Louisiana and established Newllano, supposedly an improved model drawing upon the lessons of the failure of Llano. Newllano lasted until 1920, when a dispirited Harriman admitted defeat and returned to Los Angeles. Newllano morphed into New Llano, LA, and still is around today as a typical, for-profit community.