Midgetville: Then and Now (Southern California)
- Published: Friday, 04 January 2013 09:12
Midgetville has become a generic term for small villages which contain miniature houses presumably constructed for “little people.” These tiny communities can be found in several states including Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but the most mysterious of all of the Midgetvilles is rumored to be found in Southern California. A longstanding legend in the Long Beach and Riverside areas states that Midgetville was constructed during the heyday of midget performers in the 1930’s following the filming of The Wizard of Oz. Although the tiny village which also goes by the name, “Munchkinland,” cannot be located by professional or amateur researchers, it is undeniable that the legend is based in fact.
There are many versions of Southern California’s Midgetville and it appears that there are many possible locations and origins. One version of the legend of Midgetville states that the actors who were used on the set of The Wizard of Oz (none of whom were listed in the movie’s credits) used their money to build a tiny village. They built their community in a small, isolated area, the Virginia Country Club in the Bixby Knolls community of Long Beach, California. Short stop signs, small doors on regular sized houses, strange “Stay Out” and “Turn Around” signs in front of gated communities, and an abundance of he-said-she-said stories have led investigators into the La Linda community of Long Beach. La Linda was once the palatial estate of a wealthy Long Beach banker, George Hathaway Bixby. Upon his death in 1922, the land was sold to a developer who subdivided the estate. It is from this development that the Midgetville stories began to circulate, but the small community of little people has remained elusive.
Another version that slightly parallels the Long Beach adaptation of Midgetville reports that the same group of actors from The Wizard of Oz and the performers of Klinkharts Troupe of Midgets Circus, who were stranded in Riverside when the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus disbanded in 1938, constructed their small village on the slop of Mount Soledad in Riverside, California. Extensive searches of the area have failed to reveal the true and documentable location of the illusive settlement.
The most peculiar of all of the theories surrounding Midgetville states that it was or is located on Hillside Drive, in La Jolla, near Riverside and was built by “The Doll Family” in 1935. The Doll Family was a group of four midget siblings who were brought to the U.S. from Germany in the 1920’s by businessman Bert Earles. The children began performing in Southern California sideshows under the name of Dolls, but all available research lists them as having adopted the Earles name. Daisy, Gracie, Harry, and Tiny Earles were picked up by Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus. During these years, the Dolls became very popular and were highly sought after by movie producers. The first film featuring a Doll was the silent film, The Unholy Three, starring Lon Chaney, in which Harry Doll played Tweedledee. The Dolls individually and as a quartet appeared in many films during the 1930’s, including The Wizard of Oz. Their success gained them prominence and wealth.
In 1935, furniture maker turned Rancho architect, Cliff May, constructed four houses on Hillside Drive in La Jolla. The houses had extraordinarily small front doors, very low windows, tiny fireplaces, and miniature outbuildings. It has been proposed that these four houses were built for the Doll Family, citing the small features of the houses. The houses’ blueprints can be found in the book, MGM: When Lions Roar, and L. Frank Baum, writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, lived in La Jolla in the 1920’s and 30’s. Although only one of these houses exists today, searchers cannot seem to agree at which Riverside Drive address the last possible Doll house is located.
The southern California Midgetville has been dubbed, by many, as an urban legend, however, curious Californians still search for the illusive tiny village of little people and believe that someday it will be located. StrangeHistory.org researchers are of the belief that Midgetville was a real place at one time and that the “legend” of the community has survived the test of time. We urge Californians to continue searching for Midgetville. Good Luck! …………Igor’s Alley??? We don’t know what to think!