|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 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