Mountain History

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A Short History of the San Jacinto Mountains (continued)

Cecil B. DeMille discovered Idyllwild in 1914 and began filming in Garner and Strawberry valleys, including among his earliest productions “The Girl of the Golden West.” At least 20 feature films were shot here during the 1920s, and it remained a retreat for Hollywood personalities for years after. In 1961 Elvis Presley came to town to film the musical, “Kid Galahad.” Village life still gets rearranged periodically by the activity of film crews.

To give Idyllwild a broader community base, Claudius Emerson in 1920 began donating land (or selling it at bargain rates) to religious and scouting organizations, as well as to Riverside County, for use as organized camps.

aSwimming pool at Idyllwild Pines religious camp.

Subsequent development of purchased sites throughout the mountain area created a flourishing camp industry by mid-century. Although Riverside County Park absorbed some of the early camps, enterprises like Camp Emerson, Idyllwild Pines, Azalea Trails, Camp Buckhorn and Pine Springs Ranch continue the tradition today.

aElvis relaxes with co-star Joan Blackman and local villagers.
aPinecraft furniture in an old Idyllwild home.

Beginning in the 1930s craftsmen built and marketed rustic furniture derived from locally harvested timber. The preeminent line was Pinecraft, created by Selden Belden, but Woodland Craft by Ellis Griest was a strong competitor. Their successors were unable to sustain the business beyond the 1950s, but specimens can still be found in Idyllwild homes and at occasional garage sales.