article by Rose Ware
“Listen … the horses are stamping in the stalls – the sea breeze kisses the hilltops – while the birds weave melodies of happiness on the open trail… Your day begins in Hollywoodland, California” -excerpt from a Hollywoodland publicity brochure.
Of all the various neighborhoods and burroughs of Los Angeles, Hollywoodland is probably it’s most unique and architecturally intriguing.
The vision of developer S.H. Woodruff and L. A. Times publisher Harry Chandler to create a quiet hillside enclave of European style castles and estates perched high above Hollywood, was realized in 1926 as Hollywoodland, a perfect name for a place where reality is suspended, as in film. Hollywoodland is a dream-like town whose residents revere the imaginative and dramatic and the homes here are nothing if not theatrical. Of all the various neighborhoods and buroughs of Los Angeles, Hollywoodland is probably the most unique and architecturally intriguing. Architectural styles were restricted to French Normandy, Tudor English, Mediterranean and Spanish.
With possibly more turrets per square mile than even Lichenstein, Hollywoodland also boasts many walled and gated estates with mini moats. European stone masons were brought in to construct the stone walls, clock tower and connecting stairways with granite rock quarried from the nearby hills. With names like Castillo Del Lago and Wolf’s Lair you half expect to see royalty.
During the 1920s and ‘30s Hollywoodland became the home or hideaway of some of Hollywood’s most famous and infamous royalty. Really, the community was perfect for anyone attempting to guard their privacy through walled and gated mansions and a maze of winding streets. This was especially useful during prohibition.
One home on Woodhaven still has the fake bookshelves which conceal a secret storage space where no doubt a case of your favorite hooch could be stored. Some of these fairy tale like properties include the Rodgerton estate, where Humphrey Bogart lived for two years, a castle complete with bell towers on Mulholland.and Durand where Bugsy Siegal ran a speakeasy and gambling casino until it was shut down by the feds, and even a French Normandy estate on Beachwood with a 12 ft. high painted crest of a knight holding a sword and shield.
The scarcely inhabited Hollywoodland in 1926
Hollywoodland continues to be home to many celebrities and anyone else who enjoys the serenity of the hills, the lakeside views and trails and the varied architectural landscape of Modern and Mediterranean. In later years many post-modern designs were built. Some boldly on stilts and even a geodesic dome that was later dismantled due to excessive heat and water condensation that dripped on the furniture. It is quite fortunate that the neighborhood was developed in the ‘20s when there were no bulldozers or it might have resembled a housing tract in the Valley rather than the cozy scenic wooded canyon where wildlife still flourishes. A homeowner could build any size home he desired. What mattered was aesthetics not economics. As the brochure stated, “one does not need to have great wealth to enjoy the wonderful environment, scenic beauty and wholesome surroundings.” Peaceful and quiet, the neighborhood still lives up to the original brochure’s claim, but of course the glitz of Hollywood nightlife in never far away.