Easter Sunday in Sodom – Some Early Churches of Hollywood

In 1922, the Central Christian Advocate of Kansas City wrote with presumed and unquestioned authority that, “The reputation of Sodom and Gomorrah cannot be lower than Hollywood.” Of course they weren’t alone in this breathless pronouncement. Sinful Hollywood was being pilloried from every pulpit in the country. Granted, 1922 wasn’t a stellar year for Hollywood’s reputation with the film colony reeling from the twin blows of the Roscoe Arbuckle scandal the previous fall and the shocking murder of William Desmond Taylor that February, but was Hollywood really all that bad? Well, not at all according to the reminisces of those who lived and worked there during the period. In fact, in the words of more than one early star, Hollywood was downright dull! This was the worst possible charge ever hurled against Hollywood and it was Hollywood’s true dark secret. In some ways it still is!

What they think must have been going on in Hollywood…

…and a more likely scenario.

If you read through the narratives of visitors to Hollywood from back then all the way up today you will be amused by their wonder at having encountered so many places of worship throughout this supposed “Sin City.” The surprising fact is Hollywood has always had a bigger than average aggregate of ecclesiastical structures ranging from Christian to New Age and many of them were/are quite beautiful. Hollywood got its first church way back in 1876 when the German Methodist Church was built at what is today’s corner of Kingsley Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard. Over the decades, churches continued to be built until by 1922, Hollywood could claim some 22 houses of worship. Of course, today there are many more, but it still clings valiantly to its licenteous reputation.

On this Easter Sunday I thought it might be fun to take a look at a just a few of Hollywood’s early churches. I think you will agree they were so pretty even a Hollywood heathen might be drawn in to at least take a peek inside.


A Hollywood Boulevard view looking down Vine Street towards the rectory.

From 1903-1922, this is what you’d find at the corner of Hollywood and Vine! Located at the southeast corner of Prospect (Hollywood Boulevard) and Vine Street where the Taft Building now stands, the Hollywood First Methodist Episcopal Church, South and its adjoining parsonage at 1648 Vine Street had been designed by experienced and rather interesting church architect Henry F. Starbuck and was dedicated November 10, 1903. The first pastor was the Rev. E.A. Stellar.

The church as seen from the Vine Street side.

The view up Vine Street from the church belfry.


Dedicated just a few weeks after its neighbor, the First Methodist Episcopal South, St. Stephen’s was dedicated on November 29, 1903 by the Right Reverand Joseph Horsfall Johnson, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Located at the south side of Prospect at Ivar, the lot had been donated to the church by the “Mother of Hollywood,” Daieda Wilcox Beveridge. The pepper shaded St. Stephen’s was a particularly beautiful and picturesque church owing not in the least to the fact that it was designed by the brilliant Arthur B. Benton, in my opinion one of the greatest architects ever to practice in Southern California.

Looking westward down Prospect towards St. Stephen’s.


On Monday, July 4, 1904 the cornerstone of the new Blessed Sacrament Church, a station of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, was laid and blessed by the Right Reverand Bishop Conaty in a grand ceremony held on the church’s grounds at the southeast corner of Cherokee and Prospect (Hollywood Boulevard). The arrival of Bishop Conaty to Hollywood was reported to be the first official visit by a Catholic prelate to the Cahuenga Valley since the old Spanish Mission days.

Inside the Blessed Sacrament.

Dedicated (again by Bishop Conaty) on October 22, 1904, the new Blessed Sacrament Church and its adjancent rectory was a stunningly beautiful addition to the City of Hollywood. Declared by the Los Angeles Times as the “model of country church architecture,” the picturesque Blessed Sacrament was made all the more interesting in that it was designed by the famed Boston firm of Maginnis, Sullivan & Walsh, major church architects of the era. The firm designed the church in “Rural English style” faced in shingles and anchored by a Norman belfry 102 feet in height. The interior was finished in sliced-grain Oregon pine made to resemble mission oak. The entirety of this fine edifice came in at an extremely thrifty $9,000.

Blessed Sacrament Church and Rectory.

Hollywood’s beautiful new Blessed Sacrament had a sister church in Pico Heights, St. Thomas the Apostle, also designed by Maginnis, Sullivan & Walsh, which held its first services just a few months later, on Christmas Day of 1904. St. Thomas the Apostle was a far bigger and far different design than the Blessed Sacrament, being done in the Spanish Mission style and costing some $24,000, nearly three times its Hollywood counterpart.

The Blessed Sacrament’s first pastor, Reverand Daniel T. Murphy, was reportedly a very popular priest, well remembered by early Hollywoodians. Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, Hollywood’s pioneer historian, related an amusing story about dropping in on Father Murphy and finding him on the telephone. Dr. Palmer was stunned to hear Father Murphy say to the person on the other end of the line “Yes, yes I see – Well! you can go to hell then,” and hung up the phone. As Dr. Palmer tells it, “When asked for an explanation he said, ‘I spent two hours telling that man about purgatory and now he says he doesn’t understand.'”

A view looking north towards the Cahuenga Pass with Blessed Sacrament in the foreground.

The beautiful Blessed Sacrament was a victim of its own success. By 1920, the parishoners had grown to 4,000, far too much for the little church to handle. A new, far bigger Blessed Sacrament Church was constructed at 6675 Sunset Boulevard near Cassil Place in 1926 to the design of Thomas Franklin Power at a cost of over $500,000. Sadly, the charming old Blessed Sacrament was demolished, but its sister church, St. Thomas the Apostle, still stands at the corner of Mariposa Street and Pico Boulevard.

St. Thomas the Apostle at Pico and Mariposa as seen today.


Hollywood’s First Methodist Church at the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Avenue.

Located at the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Avenue, the $85,000 First Methodist Church of Hollywood began construction in August of 1911. The Mission-styled church was designed to hold 800 parishoners. The Times reported that on the Hollywood Boulevard side of the church, “special arrangement will be made for the class and social work of the young men and young women’s departments, and the pastor’s study and church parlors will be in this part of the structure.” Additionally, there was a Sunday School Building, “practically separate from the church.”

The Methodists ultimately outgrew their church and in March of 1930 they relocated to their magnificent new quarters at 6817 Franklin Avenue at the corner of Highland Avenue, which had been designed by prominent Los Angeles church architect Thomas P. Barber and built at a cost of $800,000. The Gothic-spired church has a seating capacity of 1,100 and is the centerpiece of a complex of structures including a recreation building and a thirty-five room school.


Hollywood’s burgeoning Jewish community was served by Temple Israel, which had been meeting since its founding in 1926 in the former home of silent screen star Sessue Hayakawa, Glengarry Castle, at Franklin and Argyle.  Members included such famous names as Hal Wallis, Al Jolson, David O. Selznick, Eddie Cantor, Lion Fuechtwanger and many others. In 1948, the Temple built a new synagogue further down Hollywood Boulevard @ 7300 Hollywood Boulevard, where it remains today. The new Temple Israel Hollywood was designed by noted architects Samuel Lunden and S. Charles Lee and has an incredible history, which can be found on their site here.

Temple Israel Hollywood under construction. 1948 (S.Charles Lee papers/UCLA)

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at Temple Israel Hollywood in 1965.

That’s just a few of some of the interesting church structures that populated Hollywood in the old days. There are so many others, but if I don’t quit now it will be next Easter.

Okay, enough saintliness. Now, back to sinning…HAPPY EASTER FROM PARADISE LEASED!

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This Week’s Mystery House Comes with a Little Bit of Tragedy…

(Wide World Photo)

For this week’s “House of Mystery,” we have another case of knowing the “who” but not the “where” and we are calling out to the brilliant Paradise Leased detectives to crack the case and solve the riddle of where this charming house is hiding.

The “who” in this case is Sheila Terry, a lovely young actress who worked in Hollywood in the 193o’s. Not exactly a household name today, Terry was brought to Hollywood under contract to Warner Bros.-First National in 1932 right about the time Bette Davis joined the studio. While one went up, up, up the other, well, did small roles in offerings like The Crooner with Lee Tracy; They Call it Sin and Week-End Marriage (all 1932); among others. Over the next few years, Terry rose from bit parts to leads in “B” offerings, but never made that nearly impossible leap into true stardom.

Ironically, Terry did get to enjoy being a major Hollywood star at least once, not on-screen, but on the stage when she played in Norman Krasna’s Hollywood comedy Louder, Please opposite Ken Murray at Los Angeles’ Belasco in 1933.  Although the production was popular fare it did not translate into any upswing in Terry’s cinema fortunes. Within a few years she was out of pictures altogether.

Sheila Terry has attained some screen immortality, not just for small parts in big pictures like I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and 20,000 Years  in Sing Sing, but in some B westerns of the period made opposite such kings of the genre as William Boyd, Buck Jones and John Wayne.

Sheila with John Wayne in 'Neath the Arizona Skies (1934), a Monogram programmer. (www.rottentomatoes.com)

Terry’s off-screen life has proven to be more interesting than her short film career. In 1934, her divorce from the wealthy and prominent Major Laurence E. Clark of Toronto, Canada caused a stir when it was revealed Clark had regularly berated her in front of friends insulting her in a variety of ways including such personal attacks as the size of her feet and hands (“large and ungainly”), calling her a “terrible dancer,” a “rotten singer,” and was “as graceful as an ox.” She had no taste in clothes, was of inferior social status (being an actress) and was “very uncompanionable.” After exactly two years of this, Terry had had enough and left for good on the evening of their second wedding anniversary of August 15, 1930. “Since then [Clark]has failed to support me and I have had to make my own living in the motion picture studios,” she told the court during her divorce proceedings.

In 1937, she married again, this time to another socially prominent figure, William A. Magee of San Francisco, but this marriage was over practically before it started and another divorce followed. Although she would be romantically linked to a number of others through the years including director Tay Garnett, Terry would never remarry. In the early 1940’s, she embarked on a whole new career as a press agent in New York. I would to love to be able to tell you her story has a happy ending, but I can’t. Over the next decade and a half, Terry’s fortunes slowly began to decline until by the beginning of 1957 she had reached the end of her rope. On the evening of Thursday, January 17th, police broke down the door of the modest little apartment, which served as both home and office for Terry, and found her on her bedroom floor propped up against her bed. Empty pill capsules were found beside the body. She was 47. A search of her belongings revealed she had no money and, when no one came to claim the body, the once beautiful and vivacious Sheila Terry, promising young Hollywood starlet, was buried on Hart Island, better known as Potter’s Field.

The house shown in the picture reflects the high water mark of Sheila Terry’s life. Dated January 1934, the photograph shows an almost fairy tale Cotswold cottage of great charm. Particularly interesting is the rustic bridge leading to it. One can see the rise of the hill directly behind. Where do you suppose this is? A handwritten notation on the back states “Home of Sheila Terry in Hollywood.” My first thought would be the west side of Nichols Canyon north of Hollywood Boulevard, but it could be Laurel Canyon, Beachwood Canyon or even Beverly Glen. Coldwater? Above Sunset? Topanga? Who knows? Hopefully, one of you do!

It is so hard to imagine that she could have gone from this enchanting place to ultimately wind up in Potter’s Field. Tragic, but the annals of Hollywood are filled with such tragedies.

Any thoughts as to where Sheila Terry’s home may be? I’ll leave it to your expert sleuthing! Meanwhile, I’m so depressed now I think I need a cocktail.

Posted in Mystery Houses | Tagged | 14 Comments

Rotogravure Sunday – Studebaker Edition

As a teenager Paul G. Hoffman (1891-1974) lived out every boy’s fantasy by becoming a daredevil racecar driver. The son of an inventor, Hoffman was fascinated by the mechanical and he was so taken by these wonderous machines he decided to make the automobile his life. At 20 he made it official, dropping out of college in his native Illinois and coming west to Los Angeles where he got a job as a grease monkey with the local Studebaker distributor. By the time he was 34, Hoffman was no longer draining crankcases – he was president of Paul G. Hoffman, Inc., Los Angeles and Orange County’s official Studebaker distributor and a millionaire at that. He would later rise even higher, becoming CEO and Chairman of Studebaker itself from 1935-1948 and again from 1953-1956.

Hoffman made the cover of Time in 1949.

With World War II, Hoffman began moving into government and civic service, taking leave from Studebaker in 1948 to oversee the Marshall Plan, appointed by President Truman as director of the Economic Cooperation Administration. Between 1951-1953 he was the president of the Ford Foundation and in 1966, at the age of 75, he was named first Administrator of the United Nations Development program, a position he was to hold until 1972. A few months before his death in 1974 at the age of 83, Hoffman was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald R. Ford.  As Mark Rhoads was to write for the Illinois State Society’s biography of Hoffman as a member of the State Hall of Fame, “Paul Hoffman’s greatest contribution in public service was not as an automobile executive but as a businessman for peace.” A worthy legacy indeed.

A 1920's view of Figueroa Street and Pico.

But there was no denying he was also a great automobile man and by 1920, he had guided the Los Angeles Studebaker franchise to such a success it was able to move into a magnificent new headquarters on what was then automobile row, Figueroa Street, just south of downtown. The headquarters of Paul G. Hoffman, Inc., located at 1250 South Figueroa Street, opened with gala fanfare in June of 1920 and was a landmark at Pico and Fig for the next thirty years until in 1950 it went the way of the Dodo.

And today (via Google Earth)

As part of their advertising campaign in the mid-1920’s, Paul G. Hoffman, Inc. ran a series of beautiful advertisements in Touring Topics showing the latest Studebaker models in front of attractive Southern California scenes. I thought you would enjoy seeing some of these as a little mini tour of a few choice Southern California sites via Studebaker and with a few additional comments from the Peanut Gallery (i.e. me).

Here's a Studebaker Special Six duplex-phaeton, which according to the original copy "is at home in either exclusive settings or open country." Here we see the Special Six in the former, right in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is just about to celebrate its 100th birthday. And the gentleman on the horse? Why, it's none other than Charles Brabin, noted film director and husband of Theda Bara.

Here's a fine Studebaker paused in front of the palatial Los Feliz mansion built by William Mead, president of the Municipal Housing Commission and subdivider of the Griffith Ranch holdings into the beautiful Hillhurst Park subdivision. By the time this photo was taken, the eight acre estate had passed to David Hamburger of department store fame. Designed by Hudson & Munsell in 1912 for the Mead's, the estate, although shorn of some of some of its acreage, still exists at 4533 Cockerham Drive and was recently for sale for just under $5 million.

Why here's a Studebaker Special Six duplex-phaeton paying a social call on the great cathedral of Notre Dame, or at least the Hollywood version, built on the Universal City Studios lot for Lon Chaney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). The Special Six sells for $1,775, a lot of money in those days.

The Studebaker was no stranger to Hollywoodland and here's a Special Six Berline in front of the quaint Spanish bungalow of famed Hearst columnist Kenneth C. Beaton (K.C.B.) and his wife. Designed by local architect A.B. Crist in 1924, the house at 2716 Woodhaven Drive is still there. But the Studebaker probably isn't.

A Special Six with a pretty girl in the passenger seat in the drive of a pretty Spanish home. "No other type of automobile has made such a thorough impression this year as the 1925 Studebaker duplex-phaeton, in which the old 'buggy top' has been replaced by a steel roof with invisible roller curtains. It can be converted from an open to a closed car in thirty seconds."

Big car in the big trees with a big price tag - $2,875 for the Studebaker Big Six Coupe. About $37,500.00 in today's dollars.

A Studebaker Standard Five Passenger Duplex Phaeton drops in on The Thief of Bagdad set perhaps to see Doug or Mary. The mammoth set was built on the Pickford/Fairbanks Studios lot at 1041 Formosa Avenue, a lot currently threatened with demolition.

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URGENT!!! Your Help is Needed NOW to Save the Historic Pickford/Fairbanks Studios!!!

As some of you may have heard, much of the historic old Pickford/Fairbanks/Goldwyn/United Artists/Warner Hollywood Studios (a/k/a The Lot) at Santa Monica Boulevards and Formosa Avenue is threatened with demolitionimmediate demolition of some structures unless something is done to stop it – and quickly. We are out of time. Action must be taken NOW or it will be too late.

It can be said without fear of hyperbole that the old studio at 1041 Formosa in West Hollywood, which dates back to the late 1910’s, is one of the most historic properties related to the history of Hollywood with a staggering list of legendary stars, producers, directors and films associated with it from its very beginnings through today not the least being Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Samuel Goldwyn, Billy Wilder, among others.

CIM Group, current owners of the property, have announced plans to demolish Mary Pickford’s wooden office building; Sam Goldwyn’s sound building where the great sound designer Gordon Sawyer worked for decades; the Writer’s Building; The Editorial Building, and Douglas Fairbanks’ own building.  As if this wasn’t enough, this plan also includes tearing down the historic offices lining Santa Monica Boulevard. If these plans go through – and they are going through now – there will be virtually nothing left of the studio where such classics as Robin Hood (1922); Wuthering Heights; Some Like it Hot; Guys and Dolls; West Side Story and countless others were shot.

If you aren’t outraged by this wanton destruction of something so precious to our history then you should be.  Once it’s gone it’s gone and there will be no time to reconsider. Since this news has come out there is a growing number of preservation-minded individuals (hopefully like you) who want to do what they can to stop this. A major grassroots effort is underway and you can go directly to the Save the Pickfair Studios! site here for much information and a list of things you can do And there is much you CAN do. Simple things that will help. Such as:

(1) Sign the petition. Takes just a moment.

(2) Contact CIM directly and tell them not to do this! (Be polite and professional, but let them know how you feel)

(3) Contact West Hollywood City Hall and tell them not to do this either! (Be polite and professional to them too, but make it clear this is no good for anybody. AND you vote.)

(4) GO TO THE PROTEST RALLY. It’s this Sunday April 1st at 1:00 and info is on it right here. Everyone is meeting at Santa Monica and Formosa. Bring Banners! Bring signs! Tell ALL of your friends! Show them all we mean business. MAKE A DIFFERENCE and, believe me, you sure will feel good afterwards. And if you see Allison Anders – go up and please THANK HER for the stupendous effort she’s been putting out and getting the word out on this critical preservation battle. And thank yourself too with maybe a drink at the Formosa afterwards! It’s a historic spot too!

PS: Allison has sent out a list of the growing number of notables joining the cause in solidarity. They include:

Actor Jason Schwartzman
Actor Eric Stoltz
Actor Gabriel Byrne
Actor Shawn Hatosy
Actress/Painter Brooke Adams
Actor Tony Shalhoub
Actress Mamie Van Doren
Actress/Film Director Rosanna Arquette
Film Director Guy Maddin
Film Director Joe Dante
Film Director Mary Harron
Film Director Kurt Voss
Film Director Allison Anders
Film Director Nancy Savoca
Film Director Monte Hellman
Film Director Edgar Wright
Film Producer Dominick Fairbanks, great grandson of Douglas Fairbanks
Co-President Roadside Attractions Howard Cohen
Executive Producer “The Artist” Antoine de Cazotte
Film Producer Shana Eddy
Film Producer Elizabeth Stanley
Screenwriter Etan Frankel
Screenwriter Vice President WGAW Howard Rodman
Screenwriters Joey Syracuse and Lisa Adario
Screenwriter Lucy Dahl
Film Critic Roger Ebert
Film Historian Kim Morgan
Film Critic David Ansen
Film Activist Christa Fuller (Mrs. Samuel Fuller) American Cinematheque Programmer Margot Gerber
Los Angeles Historians Kim Cooper and Richard Schave
Criterion Collection Producer Susan Arostoguy
Songwriter Allie Willis
Musician Maria McKee
Musician John Doe
Documentary Filmmaker /Mary Pickford Institute Hugh Neely
Documentary Filmmaker Elaina Archer
Fairbanks Heir Daphne Fairbanks
Fairbanks Heir Vera Fairbanks
Posted in General Announcements, Lost Hollywood, West Hollywood | Tagged , , | 10 Comments


Why am I not surprised? Nothing gets past the readers of PARADISE LEASED and I’m so excited not only to get the answer to our latest House of Mystery puzzle in record time, but also what more has come out of it.

As it turns out this gracious Georgian Colonial was indeed designed by one of the greats – none other than Mr. Paul R. Williams himself. He designed the home for Harry Joe Brown and Sally Eilers in 1937 and his fine hand is readily apparent at every angle. For the record it was built at a reported cost of $40,000. Money well spent!

This fine home was (and miracle of miracles) still remains at 625 Mountain Drive in Beverly Hills. It was home to the Browns from 1938 until their divorce in 1943 and later it became the longtime residence of the legendary Nunnally Johnson. I have him there from 1949-1960, but he may have been there longer.

Steven Keylon tracked down this photo of Nunnally and Doris Johnson enjoying their William Haines-designed interior at 625 Mountain. Thanks Steven!

We have so many to thank for the supersleuthing, but mostly to E.J. Fleming, the genius behind the amazing Movieland Directory and the equally amazing Steven Keylon who not only connected the house to PR Williams he found William Haines did the interiors for the Nunnally Johnson’s.  Steven does a spectacular blog on the historic Baldwin Hills Village that you should really check out.

And a special thanks to the great Mary Mallory who jumped on the case and dug up the Screenland article with confirmation of the PRW design. And to Duncan Maginnis of the tremendous Berkeley Square and St. James Park blogs for finding the home of Sally’s parents, Peter and Paula Eilers @ 223 South Hamilton Drive in Beverly Hills. Great job!

Are you ready for another mystery house? Stay Tuned! We’ll have one coming up again next week!

Posted in Beverly Hills, Mystery Houses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Our Latest “House of Mystery” is a Beauty

OK, put your detective hat on because it’s time for another House of Mystery!

This one is a real beauty, a great 1930’s Georgian Colonial that could be a Coate, Dolena or Williams. Here’s what I know of the house – It was the residence of the vivacious blonde Sally Eilers during at least part of her marriage to producer Harry Joe Brown, one of her four husbands. My research indicates the house was in Beverly Hills, but I haven’t found an address. Here’s the clues found on the back: It states that the photo is an RKO Radio Pictures photo taken by Ernest A. Bachrach and copyrighted 1939. There is a stamp on the back that says “Screenland June 1939,” which would indicate to me the issue of that magazine the photo appeared in. But, alas, I don’t have a copy of that issue. Adding to the mystery is that someone has written “Bette Davis Home” as well for reasons I am not clear. And someone else wrote “Sally Eilers?” As you see on the lower lefthand corner of the photo, the reference # is “SE – 146A,” which would indicate Eilers.

So where is it?!!! I’ll just bet one of you know!

Posted in Beverly Hills, Mystery Houses | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Then and Now – 1100 Bel-Air Road

1958 and 2012. (1958 photos by Harold Davis. 2012 photos via listing)

It was so exciting to learn yesterday from the ever-on-top-of-things Real Estalker that the great Mid-Century estate at 1100 Bel-Air Road has come up for sale not only because it was the longtime base of the legendary Art Linkletter, but also because it was designed by Philmer J. Ellerbroek, an architect whose work I really enjoy. There is a freshness and excitement in his designs that make them a cut above many other such homes of the same era and I always love seeing new works by this talented yet largely unsung designer. The majority of Ellerbroek’s work was done in the South Bay, but he did, as seen here, design houses all over the Southland from Bel-Air to San Bernardino and his work was always top-notch. And he did have some fans in Hollywood too including Ray Milland, Van Heflin and, as I find out, Art Linkletter too.

When I first discovered Ellerbroek I went on a quest to try to find whatever commissions he did and pulled together a post illustrating some of them, which you can find here.

1100 Bel-Air Road, which was originally built in 1956 for Joseph C. Schumacher, an executive of the American Potash and Chemical Company, and his family, became the base of Art Linkletter starting in 1971 and remained his residence over the next decades. It should also be of interest to know that the award-winning Robert Herrick Carter A.I.L.A. was the genius behind the lush landscaping of the 4.6 acre site, which over the decades has filled in and matured beautifully.

Here are some “Then” photos from 1958 and some “Now” photos from well…now, for your enjoyment. Too bad there aren’t any modern interior shots to compare with, but we can imagine, especially after a few of Darren and Sam’s martinis.

The “Activity Room” overlooked the pool.

And still does!

Interior design of the Schumacher Residence was entrusted to Catherine Armstrong A.I.D. and her associate, Alice Monahan of Catherine Armstrong, Inc. This is a view from the entrance hall into the Powder Room. The “Lotus” mural was executed by Robert Crowder Ltd.

A view into the Living Room showing the full-wall fireplace faced with shell stone

The home’s Activity Room. Hi-Fi and Television are secreted away in cabinets.

The Garden Court. Crane is (hopefully) fake.

The open Dining Room looks out on a sunny court.

The master bedroom.

This grand residence is for sale for $10,250,000 and is listed through Joyce Rey @ Coldwell Banker. Her listing can be found here. With 4.6 acres of prime Bel-Air land there is serious worry over the future of this house. Buy it and preserve it please!

Posted in Bel-Air, Paradise For Sale or Lease, Then & Now | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

A New Look at the Old Spaghetti Factory Building

Recently, I did a post on the demolition of the old Old Spaghetti Factory Building at 5939 Sunset Boulevard and in it I wanted to show what a beautiful building it originally was when it was built in 1924 as the elegant Hollywood showroom of the elegant Peerless automobile. Unfortunately, the only photos I could find at the time were some grainy old newspaper shots. But now, thanks to the amazing Richard Adkins of Hollywood Heritage (who dug into the vast and mysterious Hollywood Heritage archives) we now have this great set of vintage images from the opening days of the Peerless Showroom in 1924. Clearly a classy establishment unlike an auto dealership I’ve ever seen.  As Burgess Meredith’s character in Rocky would have declared, it was “a ting a beauty.”


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“Gently Murdered” – The Curious Demise of Kitty Boy, Wealthiest Cat in Long Beach

The recent news that Hank, a nine year-old Maine Coon Cat (52 in human years), has entered the race for United States Senator from Virginia is already causing the fur to fly in what is surely going to be a nasty scratchfest over who will replace outgoing Senator Jim Webb (D) in the upcoming election. Although Hank has been declared to be the purrfect catidate in some circles opponents have already launched attack ads against the independent feline politicat warning his election would be a cat-astrophe and labeling him a typical “fat cat,” the last thing we need more of in Washington. And he is being roundly derided for his reluctance to release either his tax returns or birth certificate. Hank, however, isn’t coughing up any hairballs over the criticism and hasn’t lost any of his regular 14 hours of daily sleep, a regimen that would still make him more effective and attentive than most members of Congress.

The controversy over Hank’s bold bid for national office is a reminder of the overly important and critical role cats believe they play in our lives and their obvious desire for ultimate world domination, something, at least in this household, they seem to have already achieved. However, in spite of their smug sense of entitlement, it is but a humble dog that has achieved, to date, the highest elective office ever attained by a family pet. In 1981, Bosco, a black Labrador and Rottweiler mix, was elected Mayor of the small community of Sunol, California, beating two humans for the coveted post. Over the next dozen years, Mayor Bosco served his community with great dignity, acting as grand marshal for the annual Halloween parade and officiating regularly at civic and social functions always neatly attired in his custom-made tuxedo. When the town nearly burned to the ground in a disastrous fire in December 1987, Mayor Bosco brought great comfort to the citizenry by lying on his favorite rug and “looking sad.”

Mayor Bosco on Duty. (Corbis)

The passing of “America’s First Dog Mayor” in 1994 was a great blow to Sunol, but even in death, Mayor Bosco continues to serve his beloved community. In 1999, a new restaurant/saloon called Bosco’s Bones and Brew was opened in Sunol that features a special animatronic recreation of the famous canine politician that has been engineered to pee beer. (Hank, take note. This trick could get you elected.)

Mayor Bosco is still serving the needs of the good citizens of Sunol. (lizthayer.blogspot.com)

Whether or not Hank becomes Senator Hank in November it is clear cats have and always will be an important part of our lives. In 1927, one local cat became so important – and wealthy – that his story became national news – and a scandal in the process. His name was “Kitty Boy,” a pussy cat of considerable charm that was, for several years,  the beloved companion of a wealthy and eccentric widow in Long Beach named Elizabeth Lynch. The pair was, by all accounts, devoted to one another with Kitty Boy providing much love and companionship to the otherwise lonely matron. When Mrs. Lynch passed away at the age of 66 on March 13, 1927 it was discovered that she had not only not forgotten Kitty Boy in her will she left the lucky feline the bulk of her estate, which included two valuable city lots and not one, but two houses, located adjacent to each other at 1769-1771 California Avenue (Martin Luther King) in Long Beach, right at the corner with Pacific Coast Highway. According to the will, Kitty Boy, the newest member of the 1%,  was empowered to engage a tenant who could live with him rent free in exchange for caring for his kitty whims and kitty needs. If Kitty Boy lived for fourteen more years then the caretaker would come into full possession of all the domain Kitty Boy surveyed. However, (cue ominous music) in the event Kitty Boy should die within the next nine years following his mistress’ death then the entire estate would go instead to the Long Beach Humane Society.

Mine! All Mine!!!

Not unexpectedly, the public announcement of the terms of Mrs. Lynch’s will set off a flood of applicants from around the country all vying for the opportunity to be Kitty Boy’s human slave. Judge Charles S. Crail, who was overseeing the unusual case, was deluged with calls, letters and telegrams, each more heart-rending than the next. A typical telegram, this one from Portland, Oregon, read in part: “Regarding the home of Elizabeth Lynch, I am raising four motherless children who have been given to me upon the death of their mothers. Two of the children’s mothers had tuberculosis so am anxious to take them to California, my husband having deserted me: cannot afford to do so. If I could have the home to live in would be so good to Kitty Boy and be sure of the home for my babies.” That the telegram was sent collect did nothing to sway Judge Crail into sympathising with the woman. In fact, he grumbled to the press that sending collect telegrams was a very poor idea. “My clerk had to go without lunch yesterday for having to pay for one of these wires,” he declared over the 70 cent charge. “He can’t stand that sort of thing for very long, and we need the clerk.” Judge Crail. Boss of the year.

Collect telegrams and hungry clerks, however, were to be the least cause of headaches for Judge Crail. Within days, a set of claimants appeared, each swearing they were the legal heirs to the estate of Elizabeth Lynch. Although she claimed no living relatives, a set of nephews and nieces, made themselves known including George B. Childers of McKenzie, Tennessee; Homer E. White of Union City, Tennessee; and Mrs. Emily Clara Scarott of St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally, Mrs. Ella Swickard of Long Beach, described as a “friend and neighbor” of Mrs. Lynch, declared herself to be the sole representative of the purported Lynch heirs and planned to petition the court to be appointed administrator of the estate. Attorneys for Mr. Childers announced their intentions to challenge the legality of Mrs. Swickard’s petition. The hissing had begun and a catfight was in the offing.

With all the legal wrangling heating up someone finally asked a question that had apparently not been asked up to this point – Where, in fact, was Kitty Boy, the object of all this attention? The Judge then ordered the cat to be found at once. And after a lengthy search a most shocking discovery was made – Kitty Boy had been murdered!

As it was discovered, even before he could even run up a big bill for cat toys, the hapless Kitty Boy had been secretly and unceremoniously bumped off, chloroformed by orders of the man entrusted with his care, a one Mr. J.G. Cannon of Long Beach. The news had been shocking in itself, but eyebrows arched higher when it revealed that Mr. Cannon’s profession was real-estate. Could Kitty Boy have been deep-sixed for commercial gain? The Humane Society of Long Beach, weighing in on the case, wanted to know and asked for an investigation. Cannon defended his actions declaring it was only out of necessity as, within days (minutes?) of his mistresses demise, Kitty Boy developed a case of “incurable mange” and had to be put down or, as the Prescott Evening Courier reported, “gently murdered.”

Although the explanation seemed to some a bit fishy, kindly Judge Crail (you know, the one who made his clerk pay for a collect telegram with his own lunch money) considered the matter dead, if you will, and did want to launch an inquest into the death of a cat, no matter how suspicious the circumstances. His only concern was now what to do with the late feline’s assets and whether or not they even were the cat’s legal property. The first hearing was so convoluted no decision could be made and a new one had to be scheduled for april 21st. This too was delayed as more evidence was gathered.

Finally, on May 13, 1927, two months to the day of the death of Mrs. Lynch, Judge Crail convened the case in his courtroom. By now the battle had coalesced between Frank Bryson, public administrator, working in concert with the purported Lynch heirs, and the Long Beach Humane Society, which now had a vested interest in the case as they would be the beneficiary of the estate should the court find in favor of Kitty Boy. Bryson attempted to convince the court the whole matter was a silly one as cats can’t inherit property, but the attorney for the Humane Society begged to differ introducing evidence that a dog had legally acquired property in a Kentucky case and there was a long precedence of English dogs and cats inheriting. After hearing this, Judge Crail stopped the pussy footing. “Well anyway, the cat’s dead,” the jurist declared, “which, while a grave misfortune for the cat, is a relief to the court as it obviates a great deal of argument on a hot day. There is no doubt as to the capacity of the Humane Society to inherit,” he continued. “The will is admitted and Mrs. Jackson (of the Humane Society) may have letters.”

Although already gone to Kitty Heaven, Kitty Boy had scored a big legal victory for his fellow animal legatees and helped set a precedent still followed today in cases where pets are granted real property through inheritance. Today there are millionaire cats and dogs enjoying the life of Riley thanks to trend setters like Kitty Boy. Or to co-opt a phrase from America’s most famous 1-percenter – “Pets are people too, my friend.”

Much obliged, Kitteh Boy.

Kitty Boy’s houses were later sold off and today, the houses owned by a cat, are now part of the playing field of long Beach Polytechnic High School. The proceeds, no doubt, went to the aid of many other cats and dogs in the Long Beach area.

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Villa Leon – A Seaside Dream Realized

(Vintage Photography: Padilla Company)

Commanding a high eminence above the breakers of the blue Pacific, the Villa Leon has been a Southern California landmark ever since its completion some eighty-five years ago, an edifice so stately and dramatic it is frequently confused for the nearby Getty Museum, which lies directly to its north. Named after its original builder, Austrian native Leon Kauffman, the Villa Leon was the result of a longstanding promise Kauffman had made to his wife Clemence that, if he ever had the money, he would build for her a dream castle by the sea. A fortune made in the wool processing business in California during the First World War allowed Kauffman to make good on his promise and, after purchasing an impressive six-lot parcel above the famous Castle and Haystack Rock formations, Kauffman began construction of his $1,000,000 dream house in 1926.

In his design of the Villa Leon, prominent Los Angeles architect Kenneth A. MacDonald, Jr., made the most of the site’s awe-inspiring vistas, orienting the home so that nearly all of its thirty-five rooms had a stunning view of the ocean, the surrounding mountains or a combination of both.  Stylistically, MacDonald dressed a classic Beaux Arts structure with warm Mediterranean accents, creating a pleasing combination that evoked comparisons to the grand villas that dotted the Italian coastline during the heyday of Rome’s Imperial majesty.

An elaborately embellished architrave leads from the living room to the 67-foot high marble-staired entry hall.

The intricately designed wrought-iron stair rail was executed by craftsman James C. Kubic who incorporated rams heads as a witty reference to the owner’s wool manufacturing business.

A 35-Foot High hand-stenciled ceiling was a feature of the Villa's enormous living room.

Numerous terraces and formal gardens, including an intricately laid out Chinese garden, added to the overall effect. The interior spaces of the Villa Leon were equally impressive and provided a fitting showcase for the fine collection of antique furniture, sculptures and paintings the Kauffmans acquired through the years on their frequent sojourns to Europe.

Sitting Room.

Dining Room.

The Kauffmans were to enjoy their fabulous seaside villa for but a few short years, with Clemence dying in 1933 followed by her husband just two years later. For nearly twenty years, the grand villa and its numerous art treasures sat unoccupied, save for a solitary caretaker who roamed the marble halls accompanied only by his pet dog.

A pair of elegantly carved and gilded antique beds purchased by the Kauffmans in Europe highlights the paneled master suite.

Daughter's Bedroom.

During this period, several attempts to sell the house were made, most notably in 1949 when the Aly Kahn considered it as a honeymoon home for himself and his new bride Rita Hayworth; however this, like the others, did not come to pass. When it was finally put up for auction in 1952, the Villa Leon, which cost a reputed million dollars to build, sold, exclusive of furnishings, for a mere $71,000.  Fortunately for the Villa Leon, its new owners, as well as those who followed, treasured it as much as Leon Kauffman had and, in spite of the loss of much of its terraced gardens through landslides in the ensuing years, the Villa Leon remains today one of the most distinctive landmarks for travelers making their way up and down the Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Malibu. When it was last put up for sale in the mid-2000s, the recently restored Villa Leon was listed for $14,500,000. The following photographs were “Internet finds” from its time for sale.

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