Historic Buildings in Solstice Canyon Are
Burned: Park Is Closed
Matthew Keller House and TRW
Aerospace Research Buildings Destroyed by Corral Fire
The solitude and serenity of
wondrous Solstice Canyon ended at daybreak last Saturday
when the Corral Fire roared onto the federal
parkland from its starting point on state-owned holdings miles
The Chumash people, who historically used
this area for food, water and shelter, would not have been
surprised to see flames claiming land they called “the
valley of smoke.”
Grasses where ranchers once grazed cattle
exploded. Deer raced along hiking trails and rabbits scattered.
Lost to fire were four historic buildings,
landmarks of sorts that served as occasional residences for
National Park Service employees.
Two of the buildings were currently
inhabited and evacuated safely, but almost all of the
residents’ personal belongings were lost to the flames.
The structures include the Matthew
Keller House, a stone cottage that was originally constructed
in 1865 and is visible from Solstice Canyon Trail. It is
considered to be the oldest stone building in Malibu.
Also damaged were the so-called
“silo” and the “dorm,” landmarks of the
early era of space exploration. The structures were built
between 1960 and 1964 by Space Technology Laboratories, Inc., a
subsidiary of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW), which
rented 10 acres from the owners of Solstice Canyon, the
Roberts family, from 1961-1973.
TRW ostensibly tested satellite equipment
for space missions, including the Pioneer series, and conducted
medical research in magnetic resonance imaging.
Solstice’s remoteness and lack of human activity were the
main attractions for some of the work that was labeled
Recent improvements in the park, including
a shelter used for educational programs and public
restrooms, survived the blaze.
The National Park Service announced that
damage assessments for the structures and natural
resources are now underway.
A special events and tactical team is at
the site to assist with security and continue patrols at
the park, which remains closed indefinitely until fire
Also closed is the section of the Backbone
Trail between Latigo Canyon and Malibu Canyon roads.
NPS spokespersons said it is too soon to
determine whether the buildings can be restored and put
back into service.
In addition, a Burned Area Emergency
Rehabilitation Plan will be prepared to address park soil and
plant issues after the fire.
The Park Service indicated that closed
areas will be reopened as soon as public safety is assured.