Our old (and I do mean old) friend Nellie Naysayer has been deceptively quiet lately with her bursitis and all, but after spying some recent postings about Hollywood’s famous Chateau Le Trianon Apartments having been built by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks she just had a conniption, getting so riled up she developed an instantaneous and most unpleasant case of the “vapors.” Even a calmative failed to bring down her dander and she’s still fussing and muttering about in a most disagreeable fashion.
One of the great architectural treasures of East Hollywood, the Le Trianon at 1750-1754 North Serrano Avenue has been a distinctive and beloved Hollywood landmark from the moment of its completion in 1929. The six-story, 28-unit building is one of the most impressive designs of the legendary apartment house designer Leland A. Bryant of Macdonald & Bryant and, considering his incredible oeuvre, that is saying a lot.
The Chateau Le Trianon is romantic in the extreme, a beautifully proportioned structure made all the more charming by a fantastic three-story maisonette apartment with three bedrooms and three baths extending out from the main structure and creating an “L” framing the building’s expansive front terrace.
It was perhaps inevitable that such a spectacular structure as Chateau Le Trianon would attract a great deal of curiosity over its origins and with curiosity comes speculation and with speculation comes legends. And, if enough people parrot those legends they magically become “facts.” This story has been around about as long as Nellie Naysayer herself and has even made its way into print more than once. However, not everyone bought this bill of goods. As early as 1985, Richard Alleman in his popular Movie Lover’s Guide to Hollywood cast the long shadow of doubt over the story going as far as asking Mary’s last husband Buddy Rogers about the legend and pulling the building permit himself.
The unromantic truth, I’m sorry to say, is that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks neither built nor resided at the Le Trianon. Others did though, from famous set decorator George James Hopkins to Vincent Spano, but not so for Pickford/Fairbanks. The dull facts (and they are dull) are that this fantastic building was built by a development company called Chateau Holding Company. It was the initial structure in a planned group of six buildings to be built throughout the city, a grand plan that was no doubt undone by the Great Depression. Although it should be noted that West Hollywood’s La Fontaine, also a Bryant design, bears similarity to Le Trianon, only done in brick, and may well have been a second effort by Chateau Holding.
And who was behind the Chateau Holding Company? Glamorous movie stars like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford? No, Ray and M.T. Leek and Nathan Goldberg. How much less glamorous can you get than Ray and M.T. Leek??? No wonder why that legend sprouted up!
And as a final thought, if Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford had really been behind Le Trianon, they surely would not have kept that a secret. In the late 1920’s, they backed several major projects including the Hollywood Roosevelt and their names were plastered all over those. Why? Because their names helped bring in the investors. Keeping them out of the picture would have been, well, dumb.
Geez Nellie, what a buzzkill!
Now, will this legend finally go away? Of course not!