LA doesn’t need Halloween to indulge its love of witchy-poo style, as shown in its classic storybook architecture photographed by KCRW’s Jason Groman.
But the fall festival certainly brings out an excess of creative talent, demonstrated in the costumes at KCRW’s Masquerade Ball, and the buildings like the one shown left that Carren Jao snapped while on Chris Nichols’ Spook Tour last weekend.
But the fall festival certainly brings out an excess of creative talent, demonstrated in the costumes at KCRW’s Masquerade Ball, and the buildings like the treehouse shown left, designed and built by longtime Simpsons producer Rick Polizzi, that Carren Jao snapped while on Chris Nichols’ fabulous Spooks Tour.
In the film industry’s infancy in the 1900’s creative minds flocked to Southern California. It was the land of dreams, and ushered in freedom of expression. At the turn of the last century a whimsical style of architecture emerged.
Storybook or fairytale style often has much in common with the bungalow, English Cottage, Tudor Revival, or Norman/French Revival styles. But by the late 1920’s and ’30’s midcentury Modern and light and space were all the rage, so the Storybook style became s so yesterday.
Still, no other community embraced this style as much as fantasyland Los Angeles. Below are two memorable examples with a Halloween twist.
The Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments, also known as “The Hobbit Homes,” were a labor of love for Lawrence Joseph, a former Walt Disney Studios artist and Lockheed Aircraft designer. Joseph worked on his dream community until his death in 1991. An avid sailor, Joseph also added a nautical theme throughout the complex. I was lucky enough to get a first hand look into the main unit as it was getting prepared for a new tenant. It did not disappoint! Wood panels, built in cabinetry, a galley like kitchen, Lawrence Joseph was a true craftsman.
The Hobbit Houses also have a Hollywood tabloid past to them. In 1963 Joseph Amsler, one of the convicted kidnappers of Frank Sinatra Jr., was a tenant in one of the Hobbit apartments. There the FBI found much of the $240,000 in ransom money paid by Frank Sinatra after his son Frank Jr. was abducted. Lawrence & Martha were quite terrified, as one might imagine.
The Hobbit’s Houses are located at 3819 Dunn Drive in Culver City.
The Witch’s House / The Spadena House
“The Witch’s House” is one of the earliest storybook buildings. Built in 1921 by Oscar-nominated Hollywood art director Harry Oliver, the structure was originally used as offices and dressing rooms for the Culver City-based Willat Studio, which made silent films.
When “talkies” hit the silver screen, a fall in fortunes crushed the Willat Studio. The building was abandoned and became a source of curiosity for many passing by. The Spadena family bought it in 1934 and moved it to its present, more private, location in Beverly Hills (above).
There has only been one other owner, a woman who lived there a long time, decorated the interior in 1960’s fashion, and who eventually could not keep the house and grounds from falling into disrepair. But this woman had the spirit of the house within her, and she would greet trick-or-treaters on Halloween dressed as a witch. Some began calling the place “The Witch’s House” and the name stuck.
Big props to the third owner, Real Estate guru Michael Libow for his full restoration of this DnA strand of Southern California. Libow acquired the house and land for 1.3 million in 1998 and has kept this property in wonderful shape.
The Witch’s House is located at 516 Walden Drive, Beverly Hills, California.