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Weeks, Charles (1873-1964) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Weeks, Charles (1873-1964)


Historical Note:

Charles Weeks was a visionary in the world of poultry and communal farming. Born on an Indiana farm in 1873, Mr. Weeks grew up with a thorough understanding of farming and farm life. In 1904, Mr. Weeks moved to Los Altos, California with a plan to raise poultry on a ten-acre farm he had purchased there. Unfortunately, due to inadequate water supply, Mr. Weeks' Los Altos farm was doomed to failure. In 1909, Mr. Weeks moved to a five-acre farm on the outskirts of Palo Alto, California. It was here that he established new methods of raising poultry, concentrating birds into coops. Previous to this time, it was a commonly accepted farming practice to raise chickens in large, space consuming, chicken runs. The "Weeks Poultry Method" of raising poultry in compact houses became so successful that visitors from all over the world began arriving at Mr. Weeks' farm to study and learn his method. William E. Smythe, a socialist utopian, promoted his vision of independently-owned farming communities after visiting. Weeks in turn adopted these ideals and established his own version of a utopian farming community.

In 1916, Mr. Weeks established the "Weeks Poultry Colony," also known as Runnymead, on land near his Palo Alto farm. With a heavily promoted motto of "one acre and independence," Mr. Week’s experimental utopian community grew quickly, housing 400 families by 1922. Adding to the success of the colony was his monthly magazine publication called Intensive Little Farm which attracted new buyers to the area and kept the area thriving for years, peaking at over 1,000 citizens by the mid-1920s.

In 1923, Weeks moved out of Northern California and engaged himself in actively promoting a new colony in Owensmouth. He had been invited to the San Fernando Valley by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1920 to establish a series of one-acre farms in the area that would emulate the success of his Los Altos "poultry colony." The colony Mr. Weeks created eventually developed into a small farming community, which actively engaged in uplifting the spirit of its members, and aided in the social, intellectual and artistic enlightenment of the region.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression and the dramatic downturn of the Los Angeles economy drastically affected both the Owensmouth and Runnymead communities. By 1932, many of the farms faced bankruptcy and Mr. Weeks himself lost almost everything. With the failure of the poultry colonies, Mr. Weeks relocated to Florida, where he lived out the remainder of his life growing papayas, raising fishing worms and skin diving. Charles Weeks died in Florida in 1964 but the impact of his communal experiment can still be seen in some areas of both Palo Alto and Winnetka.






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