|Model of Mission San Juan Capistrano at Knott's Berry Farm, 1950s.|
Walter Knott approached difficulties creatively at his famous berry farm. Once, when faced with an ugly but unmovable irrigation standpipe near his wife’s expanding Chicken Dinner Restaurant, he solved the problem by building a “volcano” around the pipe and making it a tourist attraction. That kind of creative problem-solving led to much of what we now think of as “classic” Knott’s Berry Farm.
|It was "fiesta time" at Mission San Luis Rey in this miniature scene.|
The man Knott hired to fill that canvas was artist Leon Bayard de Volo. The plan was for Bayard de Volo to construct models of all 21 of the California Missions, each to be placed behind windows in separate little display structures along the wall. A walkway, called El Camino Real, (named for the road that once took travelers from mission to mission,) would lead tourists from one model to another. A wall would have been enough to keep people out of the stagecoach’s path, but Knott’s El Camino Real would also be attractive and educational.
|Leon Bayard de Volo with his model of Mission San Antonio de Padua, March 1956.|
|Actors Marge & Gower Champion with Bayard de Volo's Hollywood model at the 1951 L.A. Home Show.|
Walter Knott wanted a similar set of Mission models,– only larger. Even with his previous experience, Bayard de Volo’s new project required thousands of hours of research and construction. And, as each mission was completed, a background painting was also created for the display.
|Small viewing structures housing Missions line Knott's El Camino Real, July 1964.|
|The same view, almost 50 years later -- sans Missions|
Continue on to Part II...