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 on 44th Street 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, 5501 N. 44th St., 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.
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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. In 1952, he delivered 230 lectures, followed by 274 in 1953.
“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 (see below).
Churches of Scientology subsequently began in other American cities, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Its literature speaks of “the famous ‘Phoenix lectures’” and of “thousands of Scientologists who traveled to Phoenix from around the world.”
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. He also lived on a 59-acre manor in West Sussex, England, 1959 to 1966, and called it the headquarters of Scientology for the United Kingdom. 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.
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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/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. Even an obscure model of a piano was purchased. 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. A north wall of the living room had been extended by a subsequent owner and a fireplace added. 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. The two former bedrooms and study feature extensive displays, photos and copies of Hubbard’s published works, including 600 tapes of his lectures. Room displays begin with his birth in 1911 in Tilden, Neb. There’s a photo of him as an Eagle Scout at age 13. That event allowed him to meet President Calvin Coolidge. Other photos include his travels in the Far East with his father, a U.S. navy commander.
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, noting that the home represents an authentic living environment from more than a half-century ago.
Hubbard treasured his years in Phoenix, she said. In one of his writings, he said, “Dawn is breaking behind the red stone of Camelback Mountain … Some of the recent developments are awe-inspiring, even to me — pure magic — but so is this dawn. I shall miss Arizona.”
Sidebar: The Creed of the Church of Scientology
The Creed of the Church of Scientology was written by L. Ron Hubbard shortly after the church was formed Feb. 18, 1954 in Los Angeles. Hubbard issued this creed from his office in Phoenix.
We of the Church believe:
That all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal rights;
That all men have inalienable rights to their own religious practices and their performance;
That all men have inalienable rights to their own lives;
That all men have inalienable rights to their sanity;
That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense;
That all men have inalienable rights to conceive, choose, assist or support their own organizations, churches and governments;
That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others;
That all men have inalienable rights to the creation of their own kind;
That the souls of men have the rights of men;
That the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills should not be alienated from religion or condoned in nonreligious fields;
And that no agency less than God has the power to suspend or set aside these rights, overtly or covertly.
And we of the Church believe:
That man is basically good;
That he is seeking to survive;
That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.
And we of the Church believe that the laws of God forbid man:
To destroy his own kind;
To destroy the sanity of another;
To destroy or enslave another’s soul;
To destroy or reduce the survival of one’s companions or one’s group.
And we of the Church believe that the spirit can be saved and that the spirit alone may save or heal the body.