My father searched for a home for Chalcedon long before its official creation in 1965. He had long hoped to create some sort of a study center, library, college, or seminary and had spoken to many people about it over the years. He visited a number of western states and canvased virtually every area of California, hoping to find either an existing facility he could use or inexpensive rural land to build upon.
This expansive vision was, in God’s timing, to be delayed for a season. Chalcedon started very small, and operated for over ten years out of our home. The classes my father taught took place at various locations in Los Angeles and during my father’s extensive travels, which gave him an audience that was dispersed around the United States, as well as throughout a number of foreign countries.
Chalcedon in Los Angeles
The first home of Chalcedon at its founding in 1965 was our rented house in Woodland Hills (a suburb on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles). We moved to that location because an informal group of Goldwater conservatives had pledged some support. Finding a home for my father’s library that was affordable was difficult, so a group of volunteers enclosed the roofed lanai to house at least a part of it. When the landlords disclosed that they wanted to sell the house, my parents bought a home a few miles away in the adjacent Canoga Park area. Once again, a group of volunteers built an additional room to house the growing library.
Soon after this acquisition, property values began to increase, more than doubling in a few years. Property taxes also rose yearly. Many homeowners were soon paying more in property taxes than they were paying in actual mortgage payments. It was common for people to sell because they were no longer able to afford their homes.
My parents were justifiably concerned that they would be priced out of their home as well, and so they began looking for rural property once again. Because of his wide-ranging travels, and the spread of his writing through the Chalcedon Report newsletter, my father did not really have strong ties to Los Angeles as a base of operations. This was a good thing, given that various properties in the vicinity which had existing facilities were either too expensive or too dilapidated to consider for relocating the ministry.
Chalcedon’s Relocation to Vallecito
In 1975 my mother saw a northern California property listed in a southern California newspaper: a Depression-era gold mine on one hundred acres with a ten-year-old home. My parents arranged to be shown the property and proceeded to drive 6½ hours north to Vallecito in Calaveras County, California, which had been made famous by Mark Twain’s first commercial success as an author, his 1865 short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
A hard rain made the trip difficult, and (as they would later enjoy relating) each of them got discouraged and decided it was best to turn back, but each did so at different times in the journey, with the other in turn suggesting they might as well keep going.
They loved the property, green from the rains, as well as the very rural nature of Calaveras County, which at that time did not have so much as a single traffic light.
My parents initially decided the property was outside their budget, because they did not want a thirty-year debt. But a few weeks later, the agent called them and said the property was available at a reduced price. Even then, an agreement could only be reached contingent on the county’s agreement to a proposed subdivision of the property. Subsequently, my parents bought sixty acres with the house, Chalcedon purchased twenty acres, my sister and brother-in-law, Martha and Bob Coie, bought ten acres, and Fred Vreeland, a Chalcedon supporter in New Jersey, bought the final ten acres. My parents began construction of a library building on their property that winter.
The timing of finding the Vallecito property was providential. Their house in Canoga Park escalated in price between 1971 and 1975, but prices in rural counties like Calaveras were still very low. Moreover, in 1978 a voter-led initiative (Proposition 13) reduced property tax rates by 57 percent and limited the rate of tax increases for as long as a given property was held by the family. My parents were thus able to afford a rural property, purchase land for Chalcedon, and (within two years) see their tax rate permanently pegged to that low value.
Visitors to my parents’ home during that time will remember the assortment of chickens, guineas, and peacocks that roamed the property. For a number of years, I helped Dad run cattle on the property. We then butchered them and distributed the meat to employees and local church families.
A road was cut into the Chalcedon property and a small building with an apartment and office was finished in 1977. Later two garage-sized warehouses were erected nearby. For a number of years the Chalcedon Report was printed locally and mailed from the tiny Vallecito Post Office. Our volume of mail kept it off a list of small post offices that were regularly threatened with closure in those years.
A few years later Fred Vreeland donated his parcel (which had highway frontage) to Chalcedon, and a building was erected on it in 1991. That structure initially served as home to Chalcedon Christian School (K-8) which operated from 1981–1999. Since the school’s closure, the building has been used for Chalcedon’s offices, shipping department, and the Chalcedon Chapel.
For years, the old playfield on the Chalcedon premises has been used as the landing site for regional air ambulance helicopters when EMS responders deem that injuries potentially require a full trauma center. Two of R.J. Rushdoony’s great-grandchildren were once air-lifted from there to a children’s hospital in Sacramento after their car slid off an icy road and crashed (both of them recovered completely).