Here, a short walk from the orchard that is now the Northridge mall, Ayn Rand wrote much of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. There she is on the upper right, Alisa Zinov’eyvna Rosenbaum of St. Petersburg, Russia, with her signature bobbed hair, holding court behind a moat designed by Richard Neutra. That’s Tampa Blvd. in the background, lined with eucalyptus trees, the farmer’s windbreak of yore.
Rand came to the Valley as a screenwriter for hire and an intellectual curiosity piece. She left with the manuscript of perhaps the most influential book of the 20th century, if reader’s polls are to be believed. Among the eucalyptus and the koi and the orange trees and occasionally Barbara Stanwyck on horseback, Rand composed the epic of John Galt, and the philosophy of Objectivism, aided by dexedrine and a thousand packs of cigarettes.
Serious People smoked then. Without a cigarette, you were naked. You lacked the baton with which to conduct the orchestra of your obsessions.
Rand returned to New York. Following publication, people came to sit at her feet and touch the hem of her garment. A chosen few were invited beneath the folds for further study. She was the closest thing to an intellectual rock star you could be in this country -as a woman, that is- and she behaved accordingly.
The house, built in 1935 for the film director Joseph Von Sternberg, was a modernist showcase of steel, concrete and glass…water-cooled by the moat. It was razed in 1971 to make room for, well, you can guess.