Edgar Rice Burroughs by Tom Yeates
by Bill Hillman

Tarzana Ranch ~ 1921The Hillmans by Tom Yeates

Edgar Rice BurroughsEmma BurroughsThe Burroughs Family: Joan, Hulbert, Emma, Jack, Ed
Danton Burroughs

Tarzana Ranch 1921

"I said, JoN, we gotta go. Ed's waiting. I said we'd be there before noon. Time's a wastin'"

In my dazed state, stuck somewhere in the limbo of deep daydream, I looked around me as I clutched the leather encased steering wheel of the Packard. I slowly realized that Sue-On was beside me on the front seat while Danton was shouting from the rear, as he slammed down the lid of the vehicle's trunk.  He crawled into the rear cockpit of the deluxe auto and I turned to focus my gaze through the dusty windscreen. In the distance, surrounded by rolling ranchland and grain fields, a sprawling Spanish-style home and outbuildings commanded the summit of a tree-dotted hill. The plastered walls, cupolas and the many sturdy arches of its arcades gave it an appearance of a Moorish castle.

Main Ranch House and Ballroom-Theatre
"Sorry, Dan, must have dozed off while you were making your call. Did we have the right number?  0-220"

"Naw. But no problem. There's only one Burroughs in the area and central knew the number right off - Reseda 222. I spoke with his secretary."

Pulling out onto Ventura RoadOn the way to Tarzana Ranch - view from the Packard
Building on Ventura RoadPackard Approaching Tarzana Ranch
Finally shaken from my daydream and gaining full control of my senses I pushed down on the clutch pedal and struggled to grind the obstinate gearshift into first gear. We rumbled out of the store lot and turned west onto the packed gravel of Ventura State Highway. After a few hundred yards a voice from the rear suggested that I turn left onto a road which took us past a number of business buildings and homes under construction. We followed the dusty road in the direction of the hilltop estate that I had admired a few minutes before -- past what appeared to be a subdivision in its early stages of development. Passing by single story Spanish-style cottages, orange groves, berry fields, and small truck & poultry farms, we were soon winding through barley and wheat fields interspersed with stretches of natural rangeland grasses. The canvas top of the Packard shielded us from the mid-day heat of the California sun while the windowless open sides invited the cool, scented breezes.
Approaching Tarzana Ranch EstateExotic trees on the hillside to Tarzana Ranch Estate
After a few minutes we started our ascent of the hill which was festooned with a great variety of rare shrubbery and plants. Someone must have combed the world for the greenery on this knoll, as there were hundreds of exotic plants that could only have come from far-off continents. We passed an elaborate gatehouse and followed the driveway up toward the house where we were struck with the full impact of the impressive Burroughs estate. The home was a virtual modern castle -- set on top of a wind-swept hill, looking across immense valleys on all sides to the purple peaks of  mountains in the hazy distance, all a part of the “ranch.”
Tarzana Ranch 1921Packard turning into the driveway of Tarzana Ranch EstateDriveway gate at the bottom of lane up to Tarzana Ranch
The driveway curved through rose bushes and lush greenery and past a newly constructed building which we learned later housed a ballroom, a theatre and projection room, a study and classroom, servants quarters and a garage containing a fleet of high-powered cars. As we drove past a swimming pool on the west side of the main house we could see landscaped hillsides with terraced lily ponds amd grape arbors. Finally, the driveway reached the north side of the house. We drove under a flower and vine-clad pergola beside a wide, tiled verandah stretching almost the full length of the house.
North SideTarzana Ranch east side
Tarzana Ranch north sideEd Burroughs at front of houseEmma Burroughs and Tarzan the dog
Forwarned by Danton's phone call and hearing the rumble of the approaching Packard, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Rice Burroughs emerged to meet us from under one of many arches that fringe the house. I struggled to bring the behemoth to a halt and we peered through the settling dust cloud to survey our hosts.

"Welcome travellers. . . you've found our Tarzana abode. You've had a long journey." Edgar Rice Burroughs was every inch the gentleman farmer. Beneath a soft leather equestrian jacket he wore a white shirt and tie, riding breeches and tall, laced leather boots -- all topped off with a cavalry hat, probably from the time he had served with the US Seventh Cavalry in Arizona Apache country.

JoN exiting Packard - San Fernando Valley in backgroundSue-On Hillman ~ DejJoN and Danton Burroughs arrive at Tarzana Ranch
"Good afternoon, Mr. Burroughs. I'm JoN, this is my wife Sue-On... and my co-pilot back in the rear cockpit is Danton Burroughs. . . a relative of yours who has made a long journey to meet you. . . again. . . after many years."
Garage and Ballroom building with Hully and JackHully hunting squirrelsTarzan, the Airdale TerrierHulbert ~ Emma ~ Ed
"Please, call me Ed. Climb out of that mighty monster and meet Mrs. Burroughs. . . and our daughter, Joan. And over there coming out of our new garage where they've been pestering our ever-patient dog, Tarzan, are our boys, Hully and Jack. They've been hunting squirrels all afternoon. Get over here big game hunters. Let me hold the gun for awhile. It's not everyday we are honoured with a visit from a member of the Burroughs clan. There certainly is an uncanny family resemblance. I can't recall our previous meeting though. . . perhaps later, after you have settled in, you can jar my memory over dinner? You know the Burroughs family has a tradition of drawing from our somewhat sprawling and deep-rooted family tree in the naming of our off-spring. "Danton" is a new one on me, though. How did you come by this moniker?"

"It's a rather long and perhaps unbelievable story, but my dad christened me with the name."

Joan and pet on north drivewayDanton at front door with Tarzana Ranch signal bellJohn Coleman 'Jack' Burroughs
Just then Danton and young Jack made eye contact and I felt what could only be described as a strange tingling up the back of my neck. A sudden, almost eerie kinship was evident between the youngster and the middle-aged visitor as both instinctively reached out a hand to the other to meet in the clasp of a lingering handshake.
Secretary John SheaEd under Pergola on north side of houseCarlNorth VerandaGuest Room
"Come along. Mrs. Burroughs will introduce you to the staff, who will show you to your rooms so you can freshen up after your trip. Oh, I see John Shea coming around the pool. John's my secretary and right-hand man. He's been putting up some new arbors by the water gardens. John! Come over and meet the guests you spoke with on the telephone. John will fetch our man Carl to help you with your luggage."
Ed reading on the patio with new hairdoEd's hand-carved pipe ~ his life story in carvings
Danton was escorted to a bedroom on the main floor overlooking an opening to the south patio while Sue-On and I were led upstairs to a large second-floor guest suite. The room contained a hand-carved double bed, and furnishings and decor showing a strong Spanish influence. After washing up and unpacking we descended the stairs and opened the door to the patio. Ed Burroughs sat in a shady corner, reading a Los Angeles paper and smoking one of his personally carved, ornate pipes.

"Ed, how did you ever find this place. It's truly a gem -- a dreamworld almost beyond imagination."

Tarzana Ranchhouse from Southwest: pergola, pool, patio entrance, water gardens
"Well, we moved from the Chicago area a few years ago when the film business started to demand more of my time here. General Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the LA Times, had bought and developed the property around 1911, calling it Casa Milflores. It's actually located in the west end of the San Fernando Valley, in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, just north of our state highway, Ventura Road. Otis was largely responsible for construction of the Owens River Aqueduct that brought water -- and -- life to this valley. But after his death, 550 acres of the property came up for sale, including the main house. This was about the time we were scouting for a home in California and it seemed perfect for us, as Hollywood is but a short drive to the southeast. On March 1, 1919 we took possession of the ranch with its 4,500 square feet 20-room hacienda and renamed it Tarzana Ranch. The original cost was $125,000, but I've been sinking money into it ever since. We've done some major construction to put our unique stamp on the property.. It's always been my dream to farm and to raise livestock so we got pretty heavy into raising Berkshire hogs, goats, dairy cattle, Rhode Island Red chickens, pure-bred Herefords and Percherons... and of course riding horses which have been a lifelong passion of mine. The wild sprawling canyons and hills on the ranch are ideal for riding and we have all spent many happy days enjoying the invigorating delights of outdoor living.

Harrison Gray Otis

"Each year the valley has become more wonderful to me. It never changes, and yet it is never twice alike. See the purple sage away off there, and the lighter spaces of wild buckwheat, and here and there among the scrub oak, the beautiful pale green of the manzanita - scintillant jewels in the diadem of the hills. And the faint haze of the mountains that seem to throw them just a little out of focus, to make them a perfect background for the beautiful hills which the Supreme Artist is placing on his canvas today.  An hour from now He will paint another masterpiece, and tonight another, and forever others, with never two alike, nor ever one that mortal man can duplicate; and all for us. . . if we have the hearts and the souls to see! Ah, but I wax a little too poetically. . . that infamous Burroughs florid prose that my critics so often meet with derision. Sometimes I have to laugh at it myself.

Plan for the Tarzana Tract SubdivisionPromotional Booklet to sell Tarzana Tract plots
"Confidentially, we've had quite a few farming setbacks and I don't know how long I can keep pumping my writing royalties into the operation to cover losses. My neighbour, Adamson, has the world's largest herd of pure-bred Guernseys at his Adohr Dairy Farms. Adohr is just his wife's name spelled backwards. Another neighbour of mine is subdividing and developing a 320 acre tract of land on Reseda Boulevard between the Southern Pacific railroad tracks and Ventura Boulevard. He's even about to found a town, "Runnymede." There seems to be a pretty good market for one-acre plots and farmland in the area and I've been thinking of doing the same down along Ventura to recoup some of my losses. John and I have even been tossing around the idea of incorporating to get control over my own publishing. We might even build an office on the highway.  I'll give you an advance copy of the booklet I'm preparing to promote the Tarzana Tract venture. Can you believe it? My own little town -- "Tarzana." I've even gone ahead and had a subdivision map drawn. . . it's buried somewhere under all the junk in my office."

The creator of countless alien cities chuckled at the thought of trying his hand at creating his own city in the real world -- and giving it the name of his most famous fictional character. At that moment Danton appeared in the doorway to the patio.

"Oh, Danton... come join our little party. Is the room to your liking? You've probably noticed that it presents a fine view of the ranch and the mountains beyond. As I am wont to do, I was rattling on boring my guests with some of my outlandish daydreams. But now I beg you all to excuse me for bit. I must retire to my study to write some business letters after which I have a business meeting with John Shea. I swear that shyster lawyer Kosch from Numa Pictures is about to drive us both to drink.We're hatching a plan for a movie production company of our own that should add some money to the bottomless farm coffers. No rest for 'the laird of the manor' you know. Please make yourselves at home. . . and take the run of the house. It's a very busy day for Mrs. Burroughs and the staff -- the start of harvest, you know -- but I see that Hulda has laid out refreshments for you in the shade of the patio. And we'll dine together at 5. You'll hear the dinner bell."

Front Door Bell

Entire Text
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Pt. I: Illustrated
The Arrival
Pt. II Illustrated
Ed's Inner Sanctum
Pt. III Illustrated
Mansion & Ballroom
Pt. IV Illustrated
Trail Ride
Pt. V Illustrated
Hollywood Visit
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Danton Burroughs
From Tarzana, California
Memories from the
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