Nichols Canyon, Los Angeles
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Nichols Canyon has a natural, year-round, spring-fed creek and water fall over 60’ high, and several natural and man-made small water falls. They are among the many natural water falls in the streams of the Santa Monica Mountains, which run through the City of Los Angeles. The stream that flows through the bottom of Nichols Canyon attracts coyotes, frogs, deer, raccoons, skunks, rabbits and other wildlife. Hawks can often be seen circling the area as well. Home to many celebrities throughout the years, Nichols Canyon is a favorite jogging and cyclist road.
Nichols Canyon was named after John G. Nichols who served as mayor of Los Angeles, California between 1852 and 1853 and again from 1856 to 1859. He was a businessman and a builder who lived in the first brick house to be built in Los Angeles, and he was the first mayor to expand the city. In 1851 his son, John Gregg Nichols, was the first Anglo American to be born in the city.
In the early days, approximately 3/4 mile up the canyon, was a small sales office with an old western type porch and roof overhang where canyon children would gather to play in the stream and make forts in the native sycamore, oak, sumac, sage, yucca and laurel. It is now known as "Rick E Lake", named after the current owner, Rick Ambrose. The property features 150 ft (46 m). of waterfront on a year-round stream with four waterfalls. Prior to being converted into a residence, the structure served as the real estate office for the Nichols Canyon development (1941). Remodeled several times, the home was featured in 1976 issue of House Beautiful's Home Remodeling magazine. Expanded to the present 2 bd/2ba configuration, the interior now features a rustic antique heart pine interior,inspired by James Cagney's 1930 cabin in Lake Arrowhead. Today, few of the original bungalow and cape cod style houses remain, having been expanded or replaced entirely.
There are many stories to be told about the Canyon. For instance, on the evening of May 13, 1874 a sheriff’s posse from Los Angeles camped near the mouth of Nichols Canyon a mile and a quarter northeast of Greek George’s ranch house. The next morning, in a shoot out at Greek George’s, they captured the Mexican bandit Tiburcio Vásquez. The present day Los Angeles County Park of Vasquez Rocks was one of his favorite hideouts.
In more recent times one of the more bizarre residents of Nichols Canyon was Father Yod, an ex-marine and self-styled guru for lost and wayward youth, who founded The Source restaurant in the 1970s. He lived in a three bedroom house that at one point housed nearly a hundred people. Everyone slept in a beehive like complex of cubbyholes. In 1974 he took his cult of followers to Hawaii to avoid a child endangerment charge.
The British artist David Hockney was a Hollywood Hills resident near the top of Nichols Canyon. He created an acrylic painting on canvas (213.3 x 152.4 cm or 84" x 60" inches) called Nichols Canyon in 1980. The bright colors depict the winding road and landscape of the Hollywood Hills in the late 1970s. Nichols Canyon is also featured in his painting Mullholland Drive.
The two story red-roofed white house featured prominently in the center of the Nichols Canyon Road painting is the Michiels House, which is located approximately one mile up Nichols Canyon Road from Hollywood Boulevard. As in the Hockney painting, there is a stop sign and a right hand turn in the road in front of the house. Members of the Michiels family have lived in this home for three generations. Next door lived Ava Gardner who purchased her Nichols Canyon home in 1948. This home is featured in Architectural Digest's "Hollywood at Home" issue, March 2006. In the mid-1950s it was home to Madeline Foy O’Donnell, one of The Seven Little Foys’s of Vaudeville fame.
Steve McQueen lived on Astral Drive for many years and was known to the neighbors for driving his various sports cars on the canyon roads. In about 1960 or so, he was a passenger in a car that drove off a curve on Mulholland and landed in a vacant lot on La Cuesta Drive, which runs directly below Mulholland.