Pioneertown – Pioneertown, California - Atlas Obscura
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Pioneertown, California


A fake town founded by Western movie stars is now becoming a hip desert community. 

Two hours outside of Los Angeles, there is a tiny little desert town that looks frozen in the 19th century. Dusty slatted cabins are adorned with cow skulls and cactus gardens. Old fashioned barrels and rocking chairs sit on every porch. There are actual tumbleweeds tumbling.

This isn’t an abandoned ghost town; far from it. The population’s average age is around 30, and in the past year a restaurant, a recording studio, and a vintage store opened up in airstream trailers and the old slatted buildings. Paul McCartney recently played a set at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace saloon.

As a New York Times piece described it, “Pioneertown wants to be the new Old West.” But it wasn’t ever the real Old West to begin with. Pioneertown was built as a set for Westerns in the 1940s, but was also designed to accommodate actors during filming.

The saloons, trading posts, and other frontier storefronts were used as backdrops in a number of early Western serials from The Cisco Kid to Judge Roy Bean. Given the swift and prolific production schedules of the televised adventures the set was soon expanded to accommodate real residences where the actors could live while their very houses made up the sets. The construction of the town was even funded and overseen by such Western greats as Roy Rodgers and Russell Hayden, and a bowling alley was even built where Gene Autry would often film his show.