Owl’s Eye View of the Bohemian Grove, Sonoma County, CA.
An Owl’s View of the controversial Bohemian Grove Campgrounds in Sonoma County.
In this wonderful depiction of the large campgrounds at Bohemian Grove in Sonoma County, we are treated not to a traditional bird’s eye view but rather to an owl’s eye view of the subject. The reason for this should become clear shortly. Our viewpoint, established by the owl in the lower right corner, provides a comprehensive overview of the campsite and its many amenities. A text box containing an alphabetized key to the grounds’ main features is in the upper left corner, just under the stylized title bar. The sites listed in the legend are linked to numbered and lettered graticules along the fringes of the map, allowing viewers to find whatever they are looking for quickly and easily.
The view was drawn by local cartoonist Phil Frank, who has also compiled several other pictorial maps related to San Francisco and its surroundings. The cartoonist’s touch gives the entire composition an almost innocent playfulness, which in many ways is in stark contrast to the actual events held here (more on this in the context section below). In addition to the alphabetized key, the view is filled with labels drawn into the composition as signs or banners. Frank’s view features abundant and accurate details that allow those familiar with the place to recognize it and those not familiar with it to envision it.
Context is Everything
Bohemian Grove is a somewhat anachronistic place for the 21st century, but its origins date back almost 150 years. It consists of a 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) campground in Monte Rio, California. The area is privately owned by the San Francisco–based gentlemen’s club known as the Bohemian Club, and access to its facilities is restricted to members and invited guests only (the grounds are guarded year-round by ex-military security personnel). Each year in mid-July, Bohemian Grove hosts a two-week affair, which some of the most prominent men in the world attend. Guests include future and former presidents, entertainers, professors, astronauts, business leaders, cabinet officers, and CIA directors. The club does not accept female members, and only four women have been made honorary members during the club’s existence. It will consequently come as no surprise that over the last decades, the club and campgrounds have been embroiled in continuous legal battles over their gender-based membership policy. Even so, the policy stands to this day.
The owl, whose view we are witnessing on this map, is an important symbol for the members of Bohemian Grove. Since the club’s founding in 1872, Bohemian Grove’s mascot has been an owl: the symbol of wisdom. The centrality of this symbol is cemented by a 30-foot statue of an owl at the head of the small lake in the center of the campground. This was constructed in the 1920s based on the design of sculptor Haig Patigian, who was also a two-time president of the Bohemian Club. The artificial lake is also bordered by the Owl Shrine, which each summer is the venue for daily ‘Lakeside Talks,’ in which leading figures discuss domestic and global policy issues in an informal manner.