Scientology founder's Phoenix home restored

Associated Press/August 15, 2007

L. Ron Hubbard had a restlessness that led to a lifetime of traversing the globe. So it was scarcely three years that the eclectic writer and adventurer lived at his "House on Camelback."

That modest home in Phoenix, recently restored to how it looked in 1952, is regarded as a religious historic site _ the birthplace of Scientology.

"For it was here that he developed the first exteriorization process and advanced fully into the realm of the human spirit, and here that the religion of Scientology was born" is how the church describes the home, now open to private tours.

"There was meticulous work to restore it back to its original state," said Marlyse Brock, who oversees care of the house, leads tours and does public relations for the church. In June, the restoration work earned a Governor's Heritage Preservation Honor Award.

A 55-year-old photo of the house with Hubbard standing on the porch and Camelback Mountain in the background matches what the house looks like today, even with a 1947 Buick Super 8 parked outside. It was characterized as a "humble, little ranch-style house out in what was then the desert outside of town."

Hubbard, then 41, had brought his wife, Margaret, and two teenage children in March 1952 from Wichita, Kan. The 1,146-square-foot home was typical of Phoenix houses being constructed at the time.

Hubbard opened offices in downtown Phoenix, establishing the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International. He had published "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" in May 1950. It became a best-seller and put Hubbard in high demand as a speaker.

"Arizona played a pivotal role in the formative years of the Scientology religion," church literature explains. "It was in Phoenix that L. Ron Hubbard realized the scope of the subject he had embarked upon."

The church itself was formed in Los Angeles in February 1954. Soon after in Phoenix, Hubbard wrote the church's creed.

Churches of Scientology subsequently began in other American cities, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Hubbard believed Scientology was a practical religion developed out of scientific methods of research and the basic laws of human behavior. Critics, however, would label it pseudoscience and scoff of its legitimacy as a church.

The Church of Scientology has been restoring other homes related to Hubbard's career, including one in Washington, D.C., where he settled in the spring of 1955. Hubbard had a home in Johannesburg, South Africa, and later a ranch north of San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he died in January 1986 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 74.

In 2000, a corporate entity of the church bought the Phoenix home to restore it. It began two years of intensive research of the home and furnishings, involving "thousands of photos and documents," checking Phoenix city files and conducting interviews. A historic preservation specialist was hired to guide the work and find authentic elements for all the rooms.

Restoration of the home was completed in 2005. It has two bedrooms, a study, a combination living room and dining room, kitchen and two bathrooms. A large library and research center was constructed behind the home as part of the project, and a swimming pool, put in by a later owner, remains in place.

Hubbard was a prolific photographer, and photos taken at the home allowed for curtains and other furnishings to be made close to original designs. On one table sits an early Mathison electropsychometer, used to measure nervous reaction to questions and "psychic trauma," as interpreted by auditors.

During restoration, Spanish arches on the front porch of the home had to be removed. The fireplace was removed and the wall put back. And just as Hubbard had hung a rabbit's head with antlers (a "jackalope") in the living room, so one was added with the restoration.

Even a lounge chair shown outside the Hubbard home in the 1952 photo was custom-made. It is set out regularly in the same spot.

"We wanted to give it the exact feel and look that it was," Brock said.

Kitchen appliances are from the early 1950s, as is a Dictaphone, an early business tape recorder that Hubbard used in his study.

Brock said the Church of Scientology is known for its building restorations and has established major urban churches in once-rundown landmarks.

"This is part of the history of Phoenix and Arizona," Brock said.

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