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Los Angeles Had an Alligator Farm?

Vintage postcards and black and white photographs reveal a forgotten era when alligators once slid down chutes and young kids rode the backs of large reptiles outfitted with a saddle.

These rare images, recovered from the USC Libraries collection, were taken at the California Alligator Farm, once dubbed the world's largest alligator farm. Originally located next to an ostrich farm in Lincoln Heights, the California Alligator Farm opened in 1907 near Mission Road and Lincoln Park Avenue.

With an admission fee of 25 cents, the alligator sanctuary soon became a tourist and local attraction which housed thousands of snakes, lizards, alligators, and other reptiles. The farm also included a gift shop that carried a variety of trinkets and items made out of alligator skin. Owned by Francis Earnest and Joe Campbell, the farm relocated to Buena Park, Calif., in 1953, across the street from Knott's Berry Farm. It eventually closed down in 1984 after attendance plummeted.

Some of the farm's most popular alligators, most notably Billy the alligator, even managed to land a few seconds of stardom in Hollywood feature films. Were you lucky enough to witness the wonders of the California Alligator Farm? Anchor Val Zavala tells the story of a forgotten landmark in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles and interviews public historian and writer Nathan Masters.

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.

Featuring Interviews With:

  • Historian Nathan Masters
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