Farmer Iverson Shifts Focus to Film Sets


One morning in 1912, young Joe Iverson watched as a stranger climbed the dusty, winding road to the Iverson ranch house in Chatsworth. The stranger explained to the Iversons that he wanted to bring a camera crew to this rocky landscape in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley and make a movie about Amazon women.

Speechless, Joe’s father, Karl Iverson, turned to his wife, Augusta, the original homesteader on these rugged acres, who responded without hesitation: “For $5 a day, you can make your movie on the ranch.”

Over the next 70 years, more than 2,000 films were made at Iverson Movie Location Ranch, including “Ben Hur,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and John Ford’s epic “Stagecoach.” Years later, a Hollywood director observed, “When you see a rock in a motion picture, it’s either a studio rock or an Iverson rock.”


After serving at the front in World War I and enjoying success as a farmer--he was known as the “potato king” of the Valley--Joe Iverson focused his attention on the family movie business.

Responding to the popularity of the “oaters” or B-grade westerns of the 1930s and 1940s, Joe began to build permanent sets and accommodations for film crews working at the ranch. Like the Garden of the Gods and Lone Ranger rock, his Western Town set provided a familiar backdrop for numerous movies and TV shows.

By the late 1950s Joe was wealthy. Although he indulged his passion for big game hunting and butterfly collecting, he and his wife, Iva, lived simply on the ranch homesteaded by his parents nearly 80 years before.

Construction of the 118 Freeway in 1969 bisected the ranch and closed a chapter in film-making history. A year before his 1986 death, Hollywood turned out to honor Iverson and take a last look at the ranch before bulldozers made way for condominiums.