Quinn Memorial Library
show's Western town set at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills,
Calif., was originally constructed in 1927. In remodeling the
saloon, telegraph office, jail, general store and rooming house
that would become Michaela's clinic, "We mainly went for the
rough-board look," says original production designer Al Heshong("Gunsmoke"),
who did the pilot.
was a country church with raised steps and a few windows on
each side, a barber shop, a blacksmith area and a log cabin
which was the first homestead. Sepia tones predominated.
Production designer Diamond has helped the town mature. He brought
in a narrow-gauge, fuel-oil steam locomotive railroad train,
laid a few hundred feet of track, built a train station and
moved the telegraph office there. He even enlarged the sheriff's
office to include a cell that's been getting more action as
the town becomes more dangerous with the arrival of an onslaught
also oversaw construction of a little red single-room schoolhouse,
an enlarged two-story log cabin for the new homestead; and this
season, added a bank building with a brick facade. "It's more
like Eastern architecture. neo-classical, very stylized," describes
Diamond. "The town is now moving from this very crude fashion
of rough timber, rough woods."
On a sadder note, the Cheyenne tribal camp, which had teepees
marked with tribal colors and individualized with animal skins
when the show began in 1867, has now been replaced with an Army
controlled reservation where the survivors of several tribes
are forced to co-exist in plain canvas teepees. "There were
no markings allowed ' None of the crafts were really evident,"
Relying on books and historical photographs, Diamond has used
rough pine and cedar wood for most of his construction, darkening
the wood with burnt umber, sienna and redwood stains. Phania
tape dresses up the windows in the church and saloon, adding
pattern and color. "It's a poor man's form of stained glass,"
he explains. A possible Western Victorian hotel is in the planning
Props come from swap meets, catalogs and authentic replica companies,
as well as individual craftsmen, like the guy in Kentucky who
just sent the show some handmade brooms.
A book of patents from the U.S. Patent Office comes in handy
for verifying what inventions existed at the time - like an
icebox that figured into a story about con men. "People don't
realize today that they had quite a bit back then. The thing
is that the frontier towns, being at the end of the line so
to speak, often didn't have a lot of those things only because
they didn't quite have a way of getting to them easily." says
Nature still plays its role in determining the look of the town,
even as it did a hundred years ago. Rains cause mud every winter,
and as darkness obscures the store-fronts each night. Kerosene
lanterns offer the only source of light. Not for long, perhaps.
Diamond points out, "A lot of these towns, even the Western
ones, had street lights. Granted, they were very crude and they
were nothing more than just a form of coal oil lamps hung independently
off the building." Through it all, Diamond has to continually
plan the future, because change comes everywhere, even to Colorado