How many of you knew of Monkey Island in the San Fernando Valley? There has been new interest in this early 1940's tourist attraction recently and I thought it would be fun to do some research on it. Here are some photos and information I recently found. Had any of you ever visited Monkey Island in what is now known as Cahuenga Park?
In the fall of 1938, Monkey Island opened at 3300 Cahuenga Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley. Today it is the site of El Paseo del Cahuenga Park is.
B movie producer William-Ross was known back then for the film “Jungle Menace,” and his idea was to own his own tourist attraction where he could also make more movies about the monkey's. So in November of 1938, he imported 500 Asian monkeys, the “largest single gathering of monkeys ever to arrive in America, through the Long Beach Harbor.
According to the Los Angeles Public Library, Monkey Island was designed by architect George Sprague, engineer R. McBeanfield, and art director and set designer Paul Palmentola. The park included a six-story administration building – which ominously included a monkey hospital and labs – along with the concrete island itself, which featured a towering fake mountain topped with palm trees and surrounded by an artificial lake.
During the Depression, these attractions were a cheap way to entertain the masses. Unlike other animals, monkeys were easy to get and could be taken care of at a relatively low cost. Monkeys, in many respects so like humans, were personified in the media and became local celebrities. Fluff pieces in the Los Angeles Times ran charming stories about Nellie, the Los Angeles Monkey Farms’ simian “school teacher,” who taught baby monkeys new tricks so that they could be rented out for film shoots. When Rowdy, a baby dwarf chimpanzee, turned two, keepers at the Farms dressed selected monkeys in human “gala attire,” and sat them at a long banquet table reminiscent of the Last Supper. At Monkey Island in the Valley, the simians were joined by four goats-Sneezy, Marie, Cecile, and Yvonne. During one particularly hot September day in 1939, it was reported: destination wedding
Monkeys at Monkey Island on Cahuenga Blvd. huddled together at miniature waterfalls as the sun’s rays poured down on their bowed heads, but their elder brothers, Jiggs, an orangutan, and Sammy and Sourpuss, chimpanzees, reveled in a cake of ice, a streaming hose, lemonade and ice-cold watermelon.