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Llano, California

Ruins at Llano Del Rio

The remnants of a failed socialist commune can still be found just off a California highway. 

Today the ruined foundations of the Llano Del Rio socialist colony look like the remains of some ancient settlement, but less than a century ago, the site was an optimistic vision of the future.

First established in 1914 by lawyer Job Harriman, the colony was the man’s fall back after failing to earn a position as mayor of Los Angeles. Harriman’s goal was to try and move the country to embrace a form of socialist capitalism by starting his own colony as an example. Harriman’s followers bought into the colony, becoming shareholders, and came to live on the land Harriman had acquired for the purpose in 1911.

The colony continued to grow until a peak of over 1,000 colonists were living on the colony grounds in 1917. It should be noted that the colony only allowed white people to join. Over the years, the colony had constructed buildings and homes out of the local granite and stones, but unfortunately the settlement was not long for the world. As the number of colonists grew, so did the infighting and personal bickering among those in charge. Coupled with a growing water shortage and a general lack of success in many of the colony’s goals, it went bankrupt in 1918, abandoning their headquarters.

The buildings left behind by the colony were left to decay and erode over the decades, and are now nothing more than ruins. The remains of the ambitious experiment make an interesting relic in these modern days where the very notion of socialism is any form sends a certain segment of the population into hysterics. But given the Llano Del Rio colony’s racial views, maybe its failure was for the best.  

Know Before You Go

The ruins are easily accessible off of westbound CA 138, where there is a large dirt area to pull off. Driving through the ruins (even on the dirt roads) is not recommended to anyone without a dedicated off-roading vehicle, as large ruins and other obstructions are on (or under) and around the roads.