Monday, July 25, 2011

The Witch's House

File:Spadena Witch House.jpg
The Witch's House. Photo by Kafziel

Last night I visited the magical Witch's House in Beverly Hills, arguably the foremost icon of Storybook architecture in the United States.
 Also known as the Spadena House, it is located in a quiet residential neighborhood at 516 Walden Dr., Beverly Hills, at the corner of Walden and Carmelita, walking distance from The Beverly Hilton hotel and several nice parks. 
The quirky house is not normally open to the public, but last night the owner held a political fund-raising event on the property so I was afforded the rare treat of going beyond the front yard fence.  Even better,  a 5-year renovation to the house and property had just recently been completed so everything looked pristine. Well, as pristine as a house intentionally designed to look a little dilapadated can look! 

Built in 1921 by silent film art director Harry Oliver, the structure was originally built to house offices and dressing rooms for Willat Studios in Culver City, a city to the west. When financial losses due to the advent of "talkies" struck the silent film 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. 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.

The house now belongs to 47-year old real estate agent Michael Libow, who originally merely showed the house to potential buyers back in 1998. But time after time the interested parties indicated a complete tear-down would be in order to meet their needs. No one was inclined to preserve the house. So a determined Libow bought the house himself for 1.3 million dollars, and began planning renovations to provide more living space that would blend with the existing Storybook styling he was intent on preserving.

The curved wall to the sideyard contains a door with a spider web design. Note the Storybook element of the stones that are embedded in the wall.

Close-up of the wooden door and iron spider web

Quaint lighting fixtures fit the Storybook theme 

This bit of vine-like ironwork serves the same purpose as barbed wire

Mature trees shade the corner lot 

A patriotic witch adorns the curbside address marker

Several rustic signs held by gnarly manzanita branches warned against trespassing 

Two stone turtles graced one end of the pond

The Storybook styling extends to the chimney

View along the sidewalk of the side of the property
The front entrance gate

Storybook-style pillars look quite organic with branches applied

The mailbox

The bridge over the pond, which is actually a moat
Backyard. The rear windows all resemble the one seen here (click photo to enlarge)
Near the back gate, a portable toilet remains from the home's recent construction 
The garage and room additions as seen from the back alley
See more pictures of the house here,  and read about Libow's and several other Storyboook homeowner's experiences here. 

My next post will be about the gardens at the Witch's House


  1. Oh, this house is so beautiful! Absolutely magical!!

  2. I am so jealous!! That looks like a fantastic house!! Hurry and post the garden pictures!!!


  3. Great house! I've always been courious to see how it looks beyond the front yard fence. I'm happy to see that Michael Libow bought this incredible house and renovated it. I'm also very curious to see inside pictures. I think the interiour is fantastic too.

  4. Gorgeous! And so very enchanting!! Lucky you!!!

  5. Bless Michael Libow for buying and preserving this beautiful house! What a shame it would have been for someone to have torn it down.

  6. You find the neatest stuff! I would happily live in this house. I think it's awesome that the woman living there got into the trick-or-treat spirit. :)

  7. Oh how I wanted to see the inside!

  8. amazingly beautiful!!

  9. Love this house and thank goodness ot has been preserved. I live in the Inland Empire and there is a house of similar Storybook architecture on Arrowhead Ave. I call it the Dwarf House.Hope to see The Witch's House in person someday.

    1. Phyllis, I must confess I spent a half-hour trying to find yours on Googlemaps... and I think I finally did! 3229 N Arrowhead, with the sloped roof going over a carport? Diamond-pane windows and half-timbering, with brick around the door? That is a beauty! Thanks for the eyecandy.

  10. Love this to bits!


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