When you have neighbors like Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, and Rudolph Valentino you cannot overuse the word Historic to classify a neighborhood. Before Beverly Hills, Whitley Heights housed some of Hollywood’s most famed actors, producers and moguls.
As Hollywood’ first National Historic District (1900) it was also Hollywood’s first Star colony. It was where much of Hollywood’s elite spent their exciting days and nights.
Perhaps because it was close to the Lasky De Mille Studio on Sunset & Selma or the United Studios on Melrose & Van Ness later to be known as Paramount where most of the silent movies were being filmed as the fledgling industry began. Or maybe because in later years it was only a brisk walk to The Brown Derby on Hollywood and Cherokee or Trader Vics near Las Palmas for Happy Hour.
It was much easier to sleep off that hangover and get to work in the morning if you didn’t have to commute all the way from Downtown or Wilshire. A larger quotient of stars and starlet residents may contribute to Whitley Heights having the most entertaining and scandalous history of all the hillside communities.
Several stars made headlines with their shocking rendezvous and partying, indulgent drinking and drug experimentation, brilliantly illustrated in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon One and Two. With definitely more Juliette balconies than in Granada, Spain this lovely burrough teems with Gothic, Italian, and Mediterranean homes of every sort and size. Estates are perched high on promontories fastened to the hillsides.
Fashioned after the great Gothic estates of Europe, these homes were mainly built by Charles Toberman and John De Lario who had made a name for himself in other hillside communities. They housed actress Jean Harlow on Whitley Terrace in a Rococo Mediterranean with commanding views of Hollywood. The honeymoon house of Rudolph Valentino and his designer wife Natashe Rambova was a Spanish Colonial on Wedgewood Place.
Today the Coppolas and Gettys grace the expansive halls, baronial sized living and dining rooms with two story fireplaces, winding balustrade staircases and cathedral beamed ceilings of these homes as the Valentinos and the Barrymores did in the 1920’s.