Geoff: Different sources say different things. One source in wiki claims that Warner Bros. studio history goes back to 1905.
Most other sources say Warner Bros. began in the late 1920's, after the brothers bought First National Studios in 1928.
"Looking South towards the original location of the 133 foot tall water tower during the construction of First National Studios. June 5, 1926. Harry, Albert and Jack Warner would purchase First National Studios in October 1928."
I guess the water tower in that 1926 photo is the same water tower that you can see from the backlot today. It sure looks to be the same. But the caption says "the original location" of the water tower, so it apparently was moved at some point.
Not sure which area or areas were built first for the Warner backlot. I'm sure someone out there has done the research. There are also a number of websites which gather and present old and new photos of various studio backlots. And some of them bring forward screen captures from old series and movies.
I guess you saw my mention of that episode of The FBI from 1967 which previously used the courtyard ("Force of Nature"), and the 1966 Batman TV series and their use of the courthouse-looking facade seen in "Numbered" and "Goddess" for Commissioner Gordon's Police HQ. Batman also made use of the Warner backlot "streets of New York" in and around the train station area used in "The Bullet."
In the Batman "False Face" episode with Malachi Throne, they drove through a number of Warner backlot areas, including part of the Western section. :) So these uses pre-date Search by six years or so.
I haven't specifically checked many other older series and movies as I tend to reply on some of the vintage material that's been running on RTV and MeTV in recent years. :) But certainly with any Warner series (such as The FBI) or movie, chances are that they used either the Warner backlot and/or the old Columbia Ranch (now called Warner Ranch), which has the "Bewitched" neighborhood used in "Countdown to Panic" (which we've also discussed previously on this list).
"The Man From UNCLE," which was produced by MGM, would also be an interesting series to check regarding location shooting and such.
--- In probe_control, gf willmetts wrote:
> ...Looking at those photos, it just goes to
> show the expertise of the designers to get so much out of such small an area
> and how clever filming can be used to hide things. It would be interesting to
> see the city block that was used to film The Man From UNCLE as a comparison. Up
> in Canada, the Watchmen city street has been used in a variety of series since
> and unless you knew what you were looking at, you just see it as a set so it's
> still being done today.
> Anyway, Don, the lot wasn't created for
> Search, any idea which was first film or series it was used in?? It might give
> some idea as to seeing how it was changed over the period and I assume, it's
> still there.