It remained to be seen whether audiences would warm to the story line of a pioneer family eking out a living from the land when the TV show Little House on the Prairie first debuted as a pilot film in early 1974.
The film’s success secured the show’s future, and the show ran with high ratings from 1974 to 1982. The cast of characters and the charming, if sometimes graphic, depictions of what life must have been like for the settlers grew on viewers over time.
The show was shot at the Big Sky Movie Ranch near Newhall, California, a popular location for Hollywood producers. Many shows and movies, including Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Flicka, The Thorn Birds, Dallas, Quantum Leap, and Rawhide, have been filmed there over the years.
Little House on the Prairie relied on historically accurate buildings and outdoor vignettes for the show, so a sound stage would not suffice for many of the scenes.Parts of the show’s set, most notably the town of Walnut Grove, were destroyed in a staged explosion for the series finale in the third and final Little House film, The Last Farewell.
Because of the nature of Hollywood filming, many sets and costumes from various iconic productions were destroyed or reused, which is not uncommon in the industry. Still, if you enjoyed the show, it’s a shame that none of the buildings remain standing today. What was left of the set was destroyed in fires in 2003 and 2019.Take a look at what the Big Sky Ranch looks like today in comparison to scenes from the show shot in the same locations.