LOCAL COLOR: HIGH TIMES OF ALDOUS HUXLEY
During the 1920's, Aldous Huxley lived in Italy and France, and then immigrated to the United States in 1937. After dabbling with screen plays in Hollywood, fate would step in and change his plans. Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Huxley and his wife, Maria, moved out of Los Angeles into a small farmhouse in eastern Antelope Valley. It is believed that they moved because the start of WWII had snubbed any prospect for Huxley in Hollywood, but the family had other excuses for the move; the clean desert air would help Huxley's weak lungs and the bright desert sun would help him in his special eye exercises. (As a child, Huxley fell victim to a debilitating illness that left him for many years dependent upon strong eyeglasses.) Many say that his self-exile into the desert (and later to Wrightwood) and away from all he knew, was his new found religion of the Vedanta Society of mysticism and meditation.
The Llano farm was situated on an old hay field, and the simple non-impressive farmhouse had a small garden. The place had plenty of windows and Huxley had arranged for a big studio to be built, where the massive view of the Mojave Desert inspired him to write. The farm was 40 acres in size and the main house that was built in the 1880’s still stands, as does the studio that Huxley had hired locals to construct. Aldous and his wife, Maria, liked the life, for it was away from the war and gas rationing. Huxley actually treaded the grapes on his farm. With pants rolled up to his knees, he grinned as he treaded grapes in the old-fashioned way.
Huxley spent his summer at Wrightwood at the old Ward house north of present day Highway 2 and across from Wright's Apple Orchard. He had bought the land and small house from its previous owner, Lettie Ward. It was a perfect quiet place for his writing, as he worked on "The Gioconda Smile" as a stage script.
The small house is located at present day 1036 Highway 2, in Wrightwood. At the north end of the existing house was the original structure before add-on's were built to it. It was built by the Nevada Live Stock Company and served as the second U.S. Ranger Station in the area. Containing a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and sleeping quarters, it more than fitted the bill for any ranger. Directly behind the cabin was where the horse and pack animals were kept. Over the years, this cabin and its first occupants is what made it very noteworthy. The complete story of the Ranger Station, and later known as the Huxley House, is available to read at the Wrightwood Museum. Its story is told by the present day owners, Carl and Janet Smith.
The Ranger Station/Huxley House chain of ownership was provided in a written account of the house, and given then to the museum by owners Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They closed it with a touching salute, "Although Aldous Huxley was the most famous person to own and occupy the house, he only lived here for approximately five years. We feel the forest rangers and the Lewis and Peterson families, who lived here longer and contributed so much to our community, are the real history of this house." Amen to that.
1926-Property owners Sumner and Katie Wright sell to Nevada Live Stock Company
UNK -Nevada Live Stock Company erected structure and sold to United States of America
1943-Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of The United States of America sell cabin and property to Security National Bank of Los Angeles
1943-Security National Bank of Los Angeles sell to Letti Ward
1945- Lettie Ward sell cabin and property to Aldous and Maria Huxley
1950- Aldous and Maria Huxley sell cabin, property and second addition to house, to Donald and Mary Lewis
1958-Donald and Mary Lewis sell cabin and property to Wrightwood Company
UNK-Wrightwood Company sell cabin and property to Harry G. Bernier
UNK- Harry G. Bernier sell to George and Elsie Elfining
1965-Gerald and Carolyn Peterson take possession-darkroom, present day entry, master bedroom and bath are added
1987-Gerald and Carolyn Peterson sell to Dale and Debbie Reed
1996-Dale and Debbie Reed sell to Larry and Belen Boyes
1997-Larry and Belen Boyes sell to Carl and Janet Smith
Maria Huxley wrote to friend Suzanne, "I think Aldous is a little down without his mixed harem." As autumn's first snow hit in Wrightwood, Aldous was out shoveling in order to get to his studio to finish his projects. The studio was a trailer of sorts placed in the old corral section north of the house. During winter seasons, mostly around Christmas time, Huxley and Maria's time was spend on their spacious ranch in Llano, near present day Lake Los Angeles. It was on February 29, 1947, when the pair moved permanently to Wrightwood. It was called a “hideous little house” by some associates of the Huxley's. It was in fact smaller than the farmhouse. Huxley had to work in a trailer in back and always had to isolate himself. However, Aldous loved it. Maria liked it, too, but was more connected with the farmhouse in Llano. Because the town had only a few phones, they had very few visitors in Wrightwood. In their chalet in the mountains, Maria had no regrets, but there always seemed be a sense of fragility in her moods. Marie would write, "One of those wonderful California evenings when the sun is just warm enough and the air cool enough and there is the promise of so much happiness if we did not mar it."