Some older residents of Santa Clara Valley may remember Frontier Village, an amusement park located at the intersection of Monterey Road and Branham Lane in San Jose. It opened in 1961 and closed in 1980. Laurence “Laurie” N. Hollings was the main designer for the park.
As part of a year-long, National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded project in 2016 to preserve and catalog our backlog of oversize archival material, we processed an extensive collection of Hollings’ original designs for Frontier Village, which were transferred to HSJ in 1999 from the University of California, Berkeley.
Born in South Africa, Hollings settled in San Francisco with his mother when he was 14, where he went to work making theater fronts for movie premieres. He expanded his experience by apprenticing as a set builder for the San Francisco Opera, later moving on to displays for department store windows, museums, and the 1939 World’s Fair. He was approached to create sculpture work for the Hollywood movie King Kong, which led to modeling work for animation short features.
During World War II, Hollings worked in camouflage school, occasionally designing sets and doing miniature work for training films. After moving back to the Bay Area after the war, Hollings moved into the amusement park business. In addition to designing Frontier Village, Hollings helped design rides at Disneyland, Space City, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, San Francisco’s Playland, and Happy Hollow Zoo.
These original, hand-drawn artist drawings, schematics and plans by Hollings, created between 1961 and 1978, include artist sketches and schematics for rides and buildings, signs and artistic features, as well as landscape design drawings, and plans for park expansion. The bulk of the sketches are pencil on paper.
Find out more about the collection of drawings through our online catalog. The collection is available to researchers by appointment with the Curator of Library & Archives.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.