The art of the old west is the primary focus on this Old Trapper’s Lodge, located in Woodland Hills. It is a folk art setting that was designed through the work of creator John Ehn. His works were created over the course of thirty years. Characters in the sculptures were inspired by Ehn’s family as well as his personal mythology. The Boot Hill Cemetery was created based on his favourite folk tales and songs. The statues include portraits of characters who have passed away and the tombstones have epitaphs.
John Ehn, a former trapper from Michigan He relocated from Michigan to Southern California in the early 1940s. John Ehn was an actual mountain man, and also spinner of tall tales. He was employed by the State for over twenty years. He passed away aged 85 in 1981. He was disabled for a while and was a lover of Old West history. He designed goggles-eyed statues that depicted California pioneers. In his final 30 years of existence He created a variety of sculptures that were based on his family. They were displayed in his hotel that he named The Old Trapper’s Lodge.
Many of Ehn’s sculptures were moved several of his sculptures were moved to Pierce College in Woodland Hills. He designed these sculptures to honor his family. The College took over the majority of the artwork that was initially displayed at the motel. The College was able to agree to preserve these sculptures , and also to exhibit the works within Alvin Cleveland Park. In 1988 the College secretly moved the artwork and did not make the announcement publicly. This was a violation of the contract that was in effect at the time that the College acquired the art.
The sculptures were threatened with destruction. In response they Ehn family agreed to put the sculptures in a long-term loan. They also requested to the California State Historical Resources Commission to assist in navigating this tricky situation. The Commission offered to assist but they were not able to accept the move to a new location more appropriate for the artwork.
The State of California designated the Old Trapper’s Lodge as a California State Historical Landmark in 1985. It is a significant historical place because it was designed by an actual person and is an important cultural aspect of American the past. Many members of the family of the artist are known to have visited this site. One of them is the great-granddaughter of Ehn. The family is a an integral part of our community and been a major participant in the story and the history of this site.
SPACES (Saving and Preserving the Arts and Cultures) has named 10 California folk art spaces as landmarks. SPACES has collaborated together with members of the Ehn family to install smaller sculptures in museums , and has worked to move larger sculptures to one location for reinstallation. It is the goal of SPACES to safeguard the rich cultural tradition of California. The website contains information about the past of the lodgeas well as as well as the present state of the art as well as a webinar for free on the subject. The site also contains an animated short film made by Damian Sullivan that features Ehn’s family members on their first trip to the area after the desecration of the Boot Hill Cemetery section.