Wednesday, January 22, 2014

February 6, 2004, The Telegraph, Bulldozers end the hippy dream by rooting out flower children, by Oliver Poole in Arlington,

February 6, 2004, The Telegraph, Bulldozers end the hippy dream by rooting out flower children, by Oliver Poole in Arlington,

An inhabitant of the Love Ranch
The commune's grey-haired members still consider themselves "flower children", and the Tranquil Garden outside their compound is intact, for now.

But the bulldozers are on their way. For the Love Ranch - one of the last true 1960s communes still operating in the United States - the dream of peace and love in one community is finally over.

Its founder, a former television salesman named Paul Erdman, brought the group to the banks of the curling Stillaguamish river, 60 miles north of Seattle, to create their own version of a spiritual Utopia.

At its peak there were more than 400 people in the Love Israel Community, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon or, to its own members, the family.

But now the power of Mammon has triumphed over their blend of apocalyptic Christian and New Age beliefs. A costly six-year battle with the local council over violations of building regulations has ended in bankruptcy, with debts of £2 million, and their plot is to be converted into a commercial campsite.

The teepees are being packed away and the 40 adherents trying to live out a social experiment that started during the Summer of Love, to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles, are preparing to scatter.

One member named Serious - the group abandoned their original names - was boxing up his belongings, his white locks pulled back in a ponytail. "We thought the world would change much faster," he said. "We never thought we'd have time to raise children and now many of us are grandparents."

They first arrived from Seattle, where Mr Erdman and his fellow believers had united in a group inspired by the hippy ideal, and formed a community on a 30-acre plot they bought.

They had already become notorious in the city, wearing colourful robes - or sometimes nothing at all, refusing to cut their hair and expressing their claim of eternal life by not giving birth dates when stopped for traffic offences.

Their new home amid moss-covered pine trees drew hundreds looking for a similar escape from a more traditional life. Parties were thrown and artists and musicians congregated at the site near the small town of Arlington, wooden cabins spreading throughout the surrounding hills until they sprawled over more than 300 acres. In the 1960s dozens of communes inspired by the heady idealism of the Summer of Love were set up on the West Coast alone.

But since then they have steadily fallen victim to financial troubles, lack of new recruits and the gradual realisation by their existing members that they could no longer stand the sight of each other.

At the Love Ranch, evidence of frantic packing is everywhere. Psychedelic pictures were being taken down for storage in family members' garages. Patience, a petite grandmother, was preparing to clear her fading photographs of her blonde-haired children from the fridge. On the wall beside a door in the squat, circular structure, marks had been drawn to measure their height as they had grown to adulthood.

"She is now living in the suburbs of Seattle with her husband," she said of one daughter, Ease. "She still visits, and is friends with the children she grew up with. Maybe I will go near there."

In a converted barn, the main building on the site, Mr Erdman - now 63 and known simply as Love - was sitting by a roaring fire pondering plans for the future. He was dressed in a casual, almost Gap-style, loose grey sweatshirt and slacks.

His tenure had not been without its upheavals. In 1983, the family was ripped apart in a maelstrom of accusations, with some accusing him of sexual opportunism and of using family money for drugs and extravagance.

Certainly he casually mentions having once taken Concorde from the Bahamas to Britain. But no one in the group spoke of Love with anything but deep admiration and he vehemently denies the accusations, dismissing them as anti-hippy smears, and is now determining how to secure the group's legacy.

"This is an evolution, not an ending. The world needs us as much as ever with its present troubles," he said.

"Many of us will get on the road again and spread our message. We have not given up as we still believe we have the answer."

October 4, 2013, The Seattle Times, Spirit of the Love Israel family lives on in condos, by Rebecca Teagarden,

Love Israel popped up and bumped out (a riot of dormers and porches crowned by a tower) until two small Queen Anne houses became one, 6,000 square feet. The old main house is a duplex these days.

THIS IS THE HOUSE that Love built.

No, really, he did.

“Babies were born in my bedroom,” says Susie Hecht, who even after 10 years in her duplex atop Queen Anne Hill remains amused and delighted to find herself living in the former Love Israel compound.

Now known as The Garden on Queen Anne, four of six condo-residences there were homes for the free-spirited followers of Paul Erdmann, the former television salesman fresh in from San Francisco’s Summer of Love, 1968. Erdmann became Love Israel. His followers, “the family,” were also Israels, their new first names representing virtues or biblical figures.

“The very first day I was looking I found this house,” says Susie. “I had an emotional reaction to it. Visceral. But I didn’t think I wanted to live in a condo.

“Five months later I was still looking at houses. I was so tired of vanilla, and I kept watching the place I called ‘the Love shack.’ I brought my husband to see it. He walked in and said, ‘I think they’re still pumping stuff in the air, because I can feel it, too.’ ”

Susie points out the highlights. “The hippies did this,” “the hippies did that” she says again and again throughout the Hechts’ 2,850-square-foot duplex. Three bedrooms, 2¾ baths, the house once was half of Love’s own 6,000-square-foot home (cobbled from two small houses).

“This is vintage Love family,” she says, running her fingers along the feathered glass panel in a pocket door just off the entrance.

“This was the sanctuary,” she says of the living room.

“The curved windows and the stained glass? Those are the ones the hippies made, koa from Hawaii. There are so many kinds of wood in this house we gave up trying to match anything.”

And, of course, there’s that birthing room upstairs. Now the master bedroom.

The Hechts’ style is sort of an urban-country-artsy blend. There’s a collection of rotary telephones in the kitchen. (Susie and Richard worked for AT&T.) Art includes photographs from their son and lots of stuff from the grandkids. Love, after all, is all in the interpretation, whether it’s an attempt at a utopian society for hundreds or being a proud grandmother of two.

The exterior of the Hechts’ home is sage green with large, friendly porches on both floors, green-striped awnings offering a Southern charm. Mature palms nearby do nothing to dispel the feeling. Out back is a commons, former site of many “family” gatherings.

Each year the Hechts tackle one major renovation project. The most recent welcomes visitors at the walkway: big hanging baskets and heavy, prominent pots from Daniel Lowery ofQueen Anne Gardens.

Over the years, an Israel or two has popped by to see the old place. Ease, who was born in the Hechts’ bedroom. Serious, Noah, Honesty. The Hechts traveled to the Israel ranch in Arlington once to meet who they could meet. Susie also keeps a file of publicity about her home and its former inhabitants.

The next owner after the whole Love Israel thing (the breakup, in the early 1980s, was bitter) was a healer. Susie has removed lots of crystals hidden in her home’s nooks and crannies.

“I wanted something with character,” is how she sums it all up. “I have the same feeling today as when I moved in.”

Six condo residences make up what is now known as The Garden on Queen Anne. Love's former home has been remodeled and updated, but the exterior remains much as it was.

Susie Hecht says her decorating style is eclectic. But some of the home’s original windows, handmade by Noah Israel, fit right in here and there throughout the home. “I just couldn’t bear to throw them out,” Susie says. Above the couch, a pair have been remade as mirrors. New windows are Renewal by Anderson.

The Hechts have lived in the old Love Israel compound for 10 years. It has been everything Susie Hecht hoped it would be: an adventure packaged with comfortable and convenient city living. The stone pillar is part of a wall built by the Israel family.

The large country kitchen has room for both a dining area and an office, located beneath a stained-glass window original to the home.

In what is now the Hechts’ bedroom was once the birthing space for the Israel babies and Love’s office.

Arched doorways in the dining room open views to a deck and a large central lawn, now shared by the residents of The Garden on Queen Anne, but once the scene of Israel family gatherings.

A bench seat at the entry makes it easy to remove boots and coats, and also provides storage.

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