The Legend of Midgetville

image For Christmas I received a great book, Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. Immediately I flipped through it to find anything about San Diego, and soon came across the legend of Midgetville.

Midgetville refers to the legend of a town consisting of scaled-down houses built for little people. Midgetville is said to exist in various places throughout America. As Moran and Sceurman note, the most credible rumor locates such a town in Jefferson Township, New Jersey, on the former estate of circus mogul Alfred T. Ringling. There really is a collection of small-sized houses there that could conceivably have once been home to a colony of midgets. However, another very persistent legend locates a Midgetville in San Diego.

Moran and Sceurman don't go into much detail about the San Diego Midgetville, but I realized that I had heard this legend before (my wife had also heard it). This is how it goes: back in the 1930s a group of little people who had made a lot of money in Hollywood appearing in movies such as The Wizard of Oz supposedly came down to San Diego and built a collection of miniature houses on Mt. Soledad where they could live in comfort together. But of course, nobody seems to know exactly where on Mt. Soledad this group of small houses was or is, though everybody has heard of a "friend of a friend" who once accidentally found the houses (though this FOAF can never remember how to get back there).

Determined to find the houses, I did a google search and came across an article from 2003 written by Kenneth Smith for the Daily Aztec detailing his own efforts to track down San Diego's fabled 'Munchkin Houses'. After many false starts, he finally discovered that they were most probably "a group of four cottages on Hillside Drive in La Jolla... built by famed architect Cliff May." Although no midgets or little people were ever known to live in these houses, Smith says that, "The houses do indeed have smallish features, accentuated by an optical illusion. The steep road that passes them makes them seem even smaller than they actually are." Unfortunately only one of the four cottages remains standing, but Smith provides directions to find it: "take Hillside Drive from Torrey Pines Road. The house will be on your left-hand side. Look for the crazy midget handwriting." He also mentions that if you peek through the window (the house is unoccupied) you'll see "cobblestone-like tiled floors and a little round fireplace."

Of course, I had to see this for myself, even if no colony of Wizard-of-Oz midgets had ever lived there. So on New Year's Day I convinced my wife to accompany me on a search for the Munchkin House. The results were mixed. It was no problem finding Hillside Drive, but as it turns out Hillside Drive is fairly long. We were driving up and down it (as a line of cars formed behind us) wondering 'exactly which house on the left did he mean.' None of the houses leaps out at you and screams 'Munchkin House.' But finally we settled on one house that we figured must be it: Seventy-Four Seventy-Seven Hillside Drive. It had small windows and a small door. Plus, the address written beside the door looked a bit like 'crazy midget handwriting' (though I think Smith was joking about this). Ignoring the 'No Trespassing' sign (even though part of the legend of Midgetville is that the midgets who live there fiercely defend their land from the Bigs), I peeked through the window and saw the cobblestone-like tiled floors and a little round fireplace. So I think I found the Munchkin House, though I'm not 100% sure. It's certainly not anything that would catch your attention if you weren't specifically looking for it since it's really not that small, which made the trip a bit disappointing. But the weird thing is, I've already forgotten how to get back there.


Posted on Sun Jan 02, 2005


I grew up near the Fort Worth "Midgetville" and toured it in early 60s or late 50s with a Girl Scout troop. I remember being told it was a miniature dairy run by Vandervort, I believe. It had full size cows though.
Posted by Gail  in  Texas  on  Sun Apr 22, 2012  at  12:16 AM
I've been there. We always called it Midget Village. I had heard about it for years and assumed it was an Urban legend like everyone else. But it's real. I met a guy one night in a bar on Camp Bowie. He was a friend of a friend and he lived in the guest house on the property. The main house was owned by an old Fort Worth oil money family. They were good friend of the Reagan's. It was then the largest private estate in Fort Worth. Anyway, they built a scaled down village for their children. It was built in the 50's/60's. By the time I was there their children had been long since grown and moved away. They had groundskeepers living in a couple of the small houses. There was a chapel, stables, houses, a gas station...several other small buildings. It was build behind their house down the hill. I took pictures but I'll have to do some digging to find them. It was a magical place. But for the record, there were never any midgets or dwarfs that lived there. It was only built for the kids. I ave to say, we got to tour the village but we also got to walk through the big house and that was nothing short of amazing. They had some incredible things in that house. There was a 12 foot tall gold Buddha, a set of china that was hand painted for a Czar of Russia, a fireplace that was taken from an estate that belonged to the British Royal Family...many many beautiful things from their travels. They were very old then (this was 15 years ago) so I'm pretty certain if they have not yet passed away yet it won't be long. The guy that lived there said that there were no other relatives that would be able to financially support the estate as is once they were gone. Once the money was all split not one of the children would have enough (or had interest) so the estate would then be broken down and sold off in pieces. It was a sprawling estate with an English garden and a staff of 15 or more on at all times. Primarily grounds keepers. I never once saw a maid in the house actually. Anyway, a really amazing place that I'll never forget. I wish I had taken more pictures but once there I kinda just wanted to take it in but keep it private as they wished it to be. I was told they never allowed people on the property for the sake of looking at the village. I was only allowed because I was a guest of a resident and he happened to be their godson.
Posted by Lori  in  Austin, TX  on  Tue Jun 12, 2012  at  08:51 AM
I live in claremont and can't wait 2 check out the village...but if its real and little do really live there, wouldn't we see a lot of them walking around claremont n shopping at the grocery store n stuff like that?
Posted by eri  in  claremont ca  on  Tue Nov 20, 2012  at  05:52 PM
I actually did some investigating of "Midgetvile" in Alamance County. The story seems to ring true. I received independent verification from several elders I spoke to.

When I lived in Alamance County there is a town called Glen Raven. When I heard the story it was referred to as "Munchkinland"

In Glen Raven there still exists the "Row Houses" which were one time company houses for the employees of the local textile mill. I saw the street in question. Imagine if you will, a long straight street with row after row of identical houses with large front porches. These houses have now been renovated and protected as historical buildings.

In the 1950's as the story was told to me, there lived little people on this street that tended to keep to themselves and inter-bred with each other so that the street had a large population of little people on it. This being the 50's there was no air conditioning so people tended to sit on their porches at night, with the porch lights on. Imagine if you will row after row of identical porch lit houses with little people sitting on them. It became a local tourist attraction for the 1950's "cruising" scene to drive down this street honking your horn in the middle of the night. Eventually the little people became irritated to the point they took to hiding in trees and throwing rocks at passing car. What I heard was they eventually all moved to a dead end street somewhere in town.
Posted by Charlie  in  United States  on  Fri May 03, 2013  at  09:49 AM
Yes ther is a midgetville in oakdale ny I luve 5 bkocks away its located in idle hour in oakdale ny right off montalk hwy make a rt before 7/11 off main street stay left at the fork and its down a few blocks on ur right walled ib but u can drive thru..pretty cool no midgets tho lol.
Posted by adam k  in  long island NY  on  Sun May 19, 2013  at  01:00 PM
Omg to the ones who have hears about the town in Claremont I've been there too and I too believe that the old lady is a ghost it possessed or something cause she does disappear in an instance we were chased outta there one nite by a group of cars I think it was because we had a group of cars but either way it was still scary and unreal now I know it was just the lil people chasing me out :D
Posted by sarah  in  chino,ca  on  Fri Aug 16, 2013  at  10:05 PM
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