Huttopia opened its first Californian site in July 2021, in a place steeped in history: Paradise Springs. Here’s the story of a remarkable place visited by colourful characters and the magic of Hollywood.
It all started in 1910, when a Californian lawyer looking for a place to enjoy nature purchased 165 acres of land at Big Rock Creek in California. Louis Luckel built a camp there to host his family and friends for fishing and hunting gatherings.
Five years later, Noah Beery and his brother Wallace, both Hollywood actors, bought the property from Luckel with the help of several celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. The Beery brothers would go on to attract everybody who was anybody in Hollywood to the property, throwing the biggest parties of the era there.
After that, Paradise Springs fell into obscurity. The site was rented to several entrepreneurs, but none of them managed to make any profit from it. In 1965, Gunner Payne had the idea of turning the site into a holiday camp for Christian families. It had strict rules: no alcohol, no gambling, no dancing and Mass by the pool every Sunday morning. He eventually threw in the towel in 1981.
Four families of Christian investors then decided to renovate the site, which opened up three years later under the name of ‘Paradise Springs Christian Camping/Retreat Center.’ This campsite scraped by for 35 years, until Wilma Odell, the last owner, decided to sell it to a French nature-focused camping company named Huttopia.
A feww years later, press tycoon William Randolph Hearst, once a client of Paradise Springs, opened Hearst Castle, just a few kilometres due south. Competition was fierce between the two resorts. After several attempts at burning land on Paradise Springs, Hearst managed to introduce a buffalo onto the land. The wild buffalo caused terror amongst the hundred or so guests! What was the Beery Brothers’ response? A larger-than-life party the following week with barbecued buffalo as a centrepiece free of charge for guests…
This conflict, climate woes, the Great Depression combined with some unwise choices led Noah Beery to bankruptcy in 1940.
Paradise Springs then fell into anonymity. The site was rented out to a host of entrepreneurs but none of them managed to truly succeed. Up until 1965 when Gunner Payne had the idea of transforming Paradise Springs into a holiday camp for Christian families. The rules were strict: no alcohol, no gambling, no dancing and mess every Sunday morning, by the poolside. Faced with difficulties, he finally threw in the towel in 1981.
Four Christian families of investors then decided to fully renovate the site which opened three years later under the name of “Paradise Springs Christian Camping/Retreat Center”. The camp would welcome groups for 35 years, up until the last owner, Wilma Odell, chose to sell this little haven of paradise to a french company, Huttopia.
1. Noah Beery Sr. (right), his son Noah Beery Jr. and his wife
2. Wallace and Noah Beery Sr. in front of the Paradise Trout Club
3. Charlie Chaplin with Gloria Swanson (right) and Marion Davies, all Paradise Springs regulars, here at the première of the film City Lights in 1931
4. Noah Beery, silent cinema star of over 300 films, and the actor Jack Holt
5. The grand ballroom, where newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst had a buffalo set loose during a party
6. Noah Beery’s cabin, which became known as Noah’s Ark after it survived the flood of 1928.