One of the San Fernando Valley's quintessential landmarks, the Sportsmen's Lodge was at the center of the Valley's social and political life for much of the twentieth century. The famed restaurant and banquet hall, located along one of the Valley's major arteries, was known for its fish ponds, outdoor gardens, and star-studded celebrations.
Although accounts vary, the site is believed to have been used for recreational fishing as early as the 1880s. In the early 1910s, it was known as Hollywood Trout Farms. The natural ponds were replaced with man-made lakes in the 1920s.
In 1939, Trout Lakes & Lodge, Ltd. purchased the property and constructed a bait and tackle shop. According to building records, the transformation of the site into the Valley's first fine dining establishment began in 1942. The name was changed to Sportsmen's Lodge in 1945.
As the Valley itself expanded and evolved, the Sportsmen's Lodge underwent numerous changes in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s in order to meet the needs of the surrounding community. The presence of the motion picture industry in surrounding Studio City ensured a steady stream of patrons from the nearby studio lots, including Clark Gable, John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Bette Davis.
The original buildings from the 1940s were designed by an unknown architect in a rustic Craftsman style to suit the site's recreational function. Buildings added in the 1950s and '60s, as well as the landscaped gardens, were designed in the Mid-Century Modern style.
Beginning in the 1920s, the surrounding neighborhood of Studio City, so-named due to the growing number of movie studios, emerged as a satellite hub of the motion picture and entertainment industries. The number of restaurants and bars in the area mushroomed as a result.
When it opened its doors in the early 1940s, the restaurant, like other establishments, was frequented by movie stars, film executives, and production workers, particularly those working at nearby Republic Studios (now CBS Studio Center).
During the Sportsmen's Lodge's early years, customers could rent fishing equipment and fish for trout on the property. The restaurant would then cook and serve the customer's catch. Though this practice ceased in the 1950s, it helped cement the establishment's status as a woodsy retreat for local residents.
In 1962, the owners unveiled a new hotel on the property, and the trout ponds then became home to a family of swans. As the lush facilities grew, the Sportsmen's Lodge solidified its reputation as the social center of the Valley, attracting residents, businessmen, politicians, and celebrities alike.
Located in the heart of Studio City, the lush Sportsmen's Lodge exemplifies the story of the San Fernando Valley itself.
As rural site that evolved into an urban destination, the buildings and landscape reflect the Valley's growth in the mid-twentieth century.
It is one of the Valley's earliest and most significant fine dining locations and was intended to be a lively roadside attraction within the context of the region's bustling automobile culture. It also represents the local community's unique connection to the entertainment industry.