Lake Sherwood

The history of Lake Sherwood dates back to 1904 when W. H. Matthiessen, needing water for his crops and cattle, built a dam to contain the water spilling in from four main streams draining a 16 mile catchment basin. He owned all of what is now Lake Sherwood, Westlake Village, and a substantial section of Hidden Valley.

The lake and land passed on to his son F.W. "Christy" Matthiessen. When Christy and his wife Elsie divorced in 1923, she received as part of the settlement the Lake Sherwood area, and although she remarried, she retained sole ownership of the property.

That same year, the area around Lake Sherwood was subdivided into 2500 lots. The idea was to offer a country club setting, lake privileges, bridle paths and a clubhouse for the affluent people of the early 20s. It was called Los Turas Estates. At the same time, the Lake Sherwood Water Company was formed and it controlled all the water rights to the Westlake area - with certain exceptions, which would become important later.

With the stock market crash came the need for cash, and Elsie and her husband decided to sell the Westlake area, north of the dam. One party who was interested was William Randolph Hearst, but he wanted to buy the water rights as well.

Elsie sent the water company stockholders a letter asking them to relinquish their rights to the water. But some of them were the lot owners, who had been waiting for some time for the recreational developments promised them a decade earlier. Now they discovered that not only were they not to have them, but were now being asked to surrender the lake property as well.

They sent her a letter demanding a guarantee that they would not lose any of their lake privileges. They got a letter which said as much.

So Hearst bought the property, and nothing more was heard of Lake Sherwood until 1957. At that time, a black man named James Hill bought a house and lot on Lower Lake Road that had a dock on the lake right in front of his house. Elsie Cantebury informed him that he could not use the lake. He ignored her demands, and she took the matter to court. One of the other residents provided Hill with a copy of the letter in which Elsie had assured everyone that he would have access to the lake, and with this letter, the judge ruled in favour of Hill.

In 1963, Elsie Cantebury allegedly contrived a plan to sell the water rights to the Dayton Realty Company for one and a half million dollars. Once again the issue of dock rights came forward, and once again the courts ruled in favour of the residents.

There have been other issues, such as the need for dredging the lake for health reasons. But many of these issues are viewed by the long time residents as ploys by development companies to wrest from them control of the Lake property.

As for the use made by the Motion Picture Studios, the family allowed the filming of the Douglas Fairbanks version of Robin Hood. This accounts for the name given to the lake and surrounding forest.

In the 1930s, Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan cavorted in the waters, and in the 1940s, Paul Stader dived from "Chicken Rock" in Tarzan Triumphs. He would dive from there again in 1956 for the Jungle Jim TV series.