Barbara and John Williamson opened Sandstone Retreat

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Barbara and John Williamson opened Sandstone Retreat


John and Barbara Williamson opened Sandstone Retreat, a nudist and free-love commune, off Saddle Peak Rd., in 1969.

The Williamson were middle-class professionals who felt constrained by the traditional view of marriage and monogamy. Not long after they were married in 1966, they began inviting open-minded friends to swingers’ parties at their Mulholland Dr. home in the Hollywood Hills.

By then the counterculture movement was in full swing, and the idea of communal living was becoming increasingly popular. With some of their swinger friends already living with them, the Williamsons began exploring the possibility of creating their own commune.

With money from selling their electronics business, the couple bought a 15-acre ranch and set about converting its large main house and two cottages into shared living and sleeping spaces alongside its Olympic-sized swimming pool and spacious grounds. Wanting only attractive people with similar socio-economic backgrounds as themselves, the Williamsons rented an office in Westwood to interview prospective couples who were then charged an annual membership fee. Members soon numbered over 500.

In the end, a battle with a local zoning group and falling property values pushed the Williamsons out, and the community closed in 1973.


circa 1970


Digital only


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“Barbara and John Williamson opened Sandstone Retreat,” Topanga Historical Society Digital Archive, accessed May 29, 2023,