Pepperdine Libraries is pleased to announce the completed finding aid for a new collection about our neighbors to the north, the Malibou Lake Mountain Club. Nestled in the mountains near Malibu Creek State Park, the Malibou Lake Mountain Club was founded in 1922 by L.A. businessmen George Wilson and Bertram Lackey. Originally envisioned as a fishing and hunting club for upper-middle-class Angelenos, the club grew to encompass a lively social scene as well. The original Clubhouse, built by architectural firm Russell & Alpaugh of Los Angeles, hosted frequent dinners, shows, dances, and other events for members. “Licensee” members also laid claim to lots on which they could build cabins and docks. By December 1923, the club boasted over 500 members, despite the fact that a drought prevented the lake from filling until 1926! In December 1926, 258 members bought out Malibou Lake from Lackey and Wilson for approximately $250,000. The new club was incorporated as a member-owned and operated community led by an elected Board of Directors, and it remains so to this day.
Even if you’ve never heard of Malibou Lake, it’s likely you’ve seen it before. The idyllic lake has served as the location of over 100 films, and many more TV shows and commercials. Many lake residents have also been involved in various aspects of the film industry, from actors to camera operators.
You’ve probably also heard of Malibou Lake’s one-time honorary mayor, Ronald Reagan. The Reagans owned a ranch nearby, had many friends around the lake, and attended many club events. In May 1953, a dinner dance was held to install Reagan as the lake’s honorary mayor – his first political appointment!
Although much has changed since the 1920s, club members continue to enjoy and protect the lake’s independent, quiet atmosphere. Malibou Lake has faced several challenges over the years, not least of which was the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which devastated the Santa Monica Mountains and burned several homes and structures around the lake. Despite this, the community remains strong and committed to preserving their unique way of life.
This recently processed collection contains materials donated to Pepperdine from the Malibou Lake Mountain Club. It includes individual member files and correspondence going back to the 1920s. Also included are the club’s administrative files, such as by-laws, president’s reports, and financial and environmental reports. You can also find a collection of the club’s monthly bulletins, which began publication in 1922 and continued into the 21st century. The bulletins are a rich resource about the club’s history and social life, as they informed residents of events, shared announcements like births, marriages, and deaths, and, occasionally, became an outlet for expressing controversial opinions about club management. The bulletins are now available online as part of Pepperdine Libraries Digital Collections.
The Malibou Lake Mountain Club Records are complemented by another collection currently being processed by Pepperdine Special Collections. The Nan and Elmer Carlson Collection contains materials assembled by the Carlsons, who resided at the lake for over 40 years and were experts in club history. In addition to reports, newspaper clippings, and other documents, the Carlson collection contains more bulletins and a large number of photographs of Malibou Lake, from the 1920s through the 2000s.
The Malibou Lake Mountain Club Records are now available to anyone with an interest in local history, the Santa Monica Mountains, film history, or anyone who just wants to learn more about some of Pepperdine’s unique and fascinating neighbors! You can check out the Finding Aid for the collection here, on the Online Archive of California.
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