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Home to Many of Hollywood’s Elite

By admin
At Jul 25, 2017

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression had hit the country hard. Even the most affluent families lost money as banks failed across the nation. In Los Angeles, Holmby Hills, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, the construction of extravagant estates continued and was perhaps the biggest anomaly in the country at the time. Land on prestigious Sunset Boulevard and Carolwood Drive was still being purchased by those looking to find a prominent place among the Hollywood elite, and no price was too high.

Making the headlines in 1932 was Charles and Florence Quinn. Florence was the wife of the late Arthur Letts Sr., founder of the Broadway department stores. Florence and Letts had already purchased a magnificent thirty-acre estate in Hollywood, but after his death and her subsequent re-marriage, Florence decided to sell and move to Sunset Boulevard with her new husband. Florence chose a parcel of land situated between the homes of her three children, who by this time were married and established on their own. The Quinn’s astounded their neighbors and all of Los Angles when it was leaked that their construction budget for their new home was estimated at $150,000. While this amount is not much in today’s standards, during the Depression, it was a phenomenal price.

The couple hired Robert Farquhar to design their 12,600-square-foot Italian Renaissance style home. Farquhar designed the home to include eight bedrooms and seven full bathrooms, along with a dining room, living area and a grand entryway. The home was fashioned with only the finest marble and rarest woods to give the Quinn’s an extraordinary finished product. Florence loved antiques and art and filled her home with both. During her time at what would later be named “Owlwood,” she decorated the rooms in her home with a variety of timeless pieces including an entire 18th century drawing room that she purchased from the famous Castle Hill in Devonshire, England. She also included rare pieces from the Ming Dynasty as well as English and French silver and fine china.

After Florence’s death, many prominent men and women were interested in the property. It was well known that the Quinn’s home was the largest in the area at that time and it was the definition of classic beauty and grandeur. In 1944, the home was sold to Joseph Drown, the founder of The Hotel Bel-Air, and then shortly after was sold once again to 20th Century Fox Co-Founder, Joe Schenck. It was during his time at Owlwood that Schenck discovered one of the greatest actresses known in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe. Monroe lived at the Owlwood estate in the pool house until she hit it big and was able to move out on her own. After Schenck, the home went through several more prestigious owners, including Superior Oil Founder William Keck, actor Tony Curtis and the beloved duo, Sonny and Cher. In 1976, Cher sold the property to Ralph and Chase Mishkin, where it finally got its name “Owlwood.” The home has stayed much the same, gaining additional acres over the years and was recently the second highest selling estate in Los Angles.

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An Architectural Masterpiece on Carolwood Drive

By admin
At May 09, 2017

There were plenty of available architects in the early 1920s, each with their own style and theory about what grandeur and elegance looked like. This was especially true for George Washington Smith, a lover of the simple yet magnificent look of Spanish Colonial Revival style homes. He was a rarity among other Los Angeles architects who chose more ornate styles such as English Tudor, Italian or Mediterranean for their clients. Smith began his architectural career by building a home for his own family. Located in Santa Barbara, the Smith home brought in many clients from the surrounding areas. He hadn’t ventured far past his hometown until 1925, when he designed and built the Kerns home on Carolwood Drive. It would be his first and last house built in Los Angeles.

Carolwood Drive is located in prestigious Holmby Hills and was the perfect location for Henry and Elsa Mary Kern, a retired couple who loved the serenity of the area. They bought a 2.2-acre lot and hired Smith immediately to begin designing their home. Up until this point, Smith had remained steadfast in his Spanish Colonial Revival designs, but Kern had a different idea for his new home. His request was a toned-down version of an Italian Renaissance, not the type of house that was Smith’s specialty. Smith continued to work with Kern, making multiple changes to his design at the owner’s request.

Once a final design had been approved, Smith began working on what would be his greatest accomplishment. Adding the small ornate details that Kern wanted to the simplistic, elegance of Smith’s design created an unusual but equally beautiful home. In 1927, the Kerns moved into their spacious 5-bedroom home situated on a knoll, surrounded by pristine landscape and a crystal-clear view. An impressive two-story entryway, dining room, living room, kitchen and servant’s quarters made up the downstairs with the upstairs containing a master suite with a sitting room, dressing room and bedroom fit for royalty.

The crowning glory of the Kern estate was thanks to A.E. Hanson, a landscape artist known for his skill of working with hills and ravines that were a part of the terrain in Holmby Hills. Hanson contacted Kern to offer his expertise, not waiting for Smith or Kern to contact him. Hanson kept with the clean, simple design in the backyard which led to the deep ravine. There he built a show-stopping feature: a beautiful fountain that fed into a waterfall, cascading down the ravine into a pool at the bottom. The stairs that led down the ravine to the pool were lined with clamshells for a unique display for visitors.

The Kerns estate is still in pristine condition today. The current owners purchased the estate in the 1990s and decided to restore the home to its original state. They also bought the neighboring estate and added another three acres to their two-acre estate, making it one of the largest estates in Holmby Hills.








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The Transformation of Holmby Hills

At Apr 10, 2017

Southern California is known for its affluent neighborhoods, especially the area around Los Angeles where you can find the Platinum Triangle. At the apex of the triangle is Holmby Hills, formed in 1925 between the more well-known neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. Residents love Holmby Hills because of its more private and secluded locations that provide quieter streets and easier living. The formation of Holmby Hills (which didn’t actually get its name until much later) began as an ambitious dream of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica Land and Water Company. The company purchased the land from John Wolfskill in 1887, paying over $400,000 for 4,438 acres.

Their plans were derailed from the start. The company had not planned ahead for providing essentials such as water, electricity and natural gas to the residents, nor did they have a solution for flooding, which was frequent during the rainy season. They believed that the increase of travelers to the area would ensure that their project succeeded, despite their poor planning. Unfortunately, they could not see into the future, and in 1888, the real estate market crashed.

The land company eventually had to sell the land and it was purchased by its former owner, John Wolfskill, who used the land to grow lima beans and barley. His ranch was largely undeveloped, making it the most desirable property in the area at the time. After Wolfskill died in 1913, his family made one of the biggest real estate deals for that era, selling the ranch for two million dollars in cash. In 1922, the land was sold once again to the Janss Investment Company, who began selling plots of land to working-class citizens and to commercial clients, such as restaurants and retail stores, in order to build up the neighborhood, which is now known as Little Holmby.

In 1925, the Janss Investment Company began selling estate lots on their property. The lots had plenty of flat land for homes and gardens, plus large ravines in the back for water runoff to prevent flooding. The Janss company wanted to maintain the beauty and extravagance of the land so purchases came with restrictions and conditions. Homes had to be worth more than $25,000, land was sold in one-to-four acre plots and the original plots of land could not be divided for fifty years after purchase. Telephone and electrical lines had to be buried underground to preserve the natural beauty.

Although the sale of real estate slowed down during the Great Depression and World War II, Holmby Hills was able to build up the community and sell out of most of the land plots. After World War II, Holmby Hills remained untouched by the new construction that was taking over Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. The residents were able to maintain the natural presence of their neighborhood, something they still enjoy today. Holmby Hills is a fantastic representation of what make Southern California one of the top places to live in the United States.

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The Magnificent Greenacres Estate: The Best of Old Hollywood

At Mar 07, 2017

To say that the homes and estates of old Hollywood are grandiose is an understatement. I am not sure you can accurately put into words the lavish, opulent splendor that was the norm of these priceless relics. In our blog, we have taken a look at many of the estates that graced the Platinum Triangle during the 1920s, but none compare to the Greenacres Estate, the home of the famous comedian Harold Lloyd.

Harold Lloyd joined Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton at the top of the list of silent film stars. The three were known as the “Comedy Triumvirate,” but Lloyd quickly surpassed his co-stars in both fame and money. Lloyd was not shy about his popularity and wealth, deciding that his Benedict Canyon estate would be the most impressive and expensive piece of property in Beverly Hills.

Lloyd purchased fifteen acres of barren land to be the backdrop to his magnificent home. He spent the first several years of his project preparing the land, including grading the land, planting flowers, shrubs and trees and installing a nine-hole golf course complete with two lakes, a connecting stream and a beautiful stone bridge. He hired landscape architect A.E. Hansen to draw up plans and help him to create his outdoor oasis.

During the planning phase for the gardens, Lloyd and Hansen quickly realized that they needed to move forward with house designs since the home would directly affect the layout of the gardens and landscape. Hansen suggested Sumner Spaulding, an open-minded architect who created homes that fit the owners’ vision instead of adhering to the common architectural styles of the era. In 1926, construction began on the Greenacres estate home. Differences in opinion between Lloyd and Spaulding caused a year long delay, but by mid-1927, construction had begun again.

The 36,000-square-foot home featured forty-four luxurious rooms including a music room, library and large service quarters for the more than thirty servants that were employed at Greenacres. The home also boasted a stunning spiraling oak staircase and an elevator that went up to the ten bedrooms on the second floor. The dining room was a particularly famous spot in the home as the city limits of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles ran straight down the middle of the room. Guests sitting on one side of the massive twenty-four seat dining table were in Beverly Hills and those on the other side were in Los Angeles.

What makes Lloyd’s Greenacres Estate even more unique is the fact that Lloyd lived in his home until his death. Unlike many stars, he never lost his wealth and never felt the need to sell his property. At the time of his death, Lloyd turned the home over to the public and it became a museum that displayed the history of Old Hollywood. It was his dream for Greenacres to remain intact and one of the most beloved places in Beverly Hills, but unfortunately, this was not the dream of his family. In July of 1975, his children sold the estate and the museum was closed.

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The Trials of the Old Hollywood Silent Stars

At Feb 02, 2017

Old Hollywood stars had lots of ups and downs during their time in show business. Some made their own financial mistakes and others had wives who gladly spent their fortunes for them. In the 1920’s, Buster Keaton, one of Hollywood’s top three silent film stars, found out just how easily money could be made and spent.

Keaton began performing at an extremely early age. His parents were also performers, traveling around the country providing entertainment with their medicine show, acrobatics, comedy routines and music. Keaton learned as much as he could about entertaining while he was growing up and it paid off in 1917, when at the tender age of 21, he was cast in a Schubert Brothers production. He travelled from Los Angeles to New York and soon met Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a man who would change the course of Keaton’s life.

Arbuckle was contracted with another New York agency, Talmadge Studios, and asked Keaton to appear in a new film. After filming just one scene with Arbuckle, Keaton was offered a job as costar and gag man alongside Arbuckle. During the early to mid-20s, Keaton was a huge success. He made over a dozen short and feature films. He was in the high point of his career and money was steadily flowing in.

In 1921, Keaton married Natalie Talmadge. Natalie and her sisters were actresses and her brother-in-law was the producer at Talmadge Studios. Natalie had a love for spending, buying new clothes weekly, upgrading homes regularly and doing whatever it took to stay in the elite spotlight that she felt she and her husband deserved. In 1924, Keaton bought a plot of land behind the Beverly Hills Hotel and began making plans to build an astonishing estate that cost him $300,000, an enormous sum at that time.

The home was placed on top a knoll on the 3-and-a-half-acre plot. Knowing that he would have many visitors, Keaton designed a two-story, 10,000 square foot home that provided twenty rooms for family and guests and an additional eight rooms for his servants. Natalie loved extravagance, and really, so did Keaton. Their home greatly displayed their mutual affection for the finer things. The front entryway itself was magnificent, with a wrought-iron and glass arched doorway and an Italian fountain gracing the vestibule once inside. The landscape was just as luxurious. Keaton had the Beverly Hills Nurseries to plant 42 giant palm trees along the driveway from Hartford Way to the home. Keaton also installed a Roman-bath swimming pool, a tennis court, an aviary and a playground for his boys.

After having two children, Natalie decided she would no longer perform her wifely duties with Keaton. Therefore, the upstairs was split into two wings. The east wing housed Keaton’s suite of rooms with a private entryway and the west wing was devoted to Natalie and included a separate room for her clothing, a mirrored dressing room and a lovely pink bathroom with gold-plated fixtures.

The cost of building the estate plus his wife’s outlandish spending did not end well for Keaton. Between his career quickly declining and the stock market crash, Keaton was left in a financial mess. Natalie refused to stop her excessive spending and instead divorced Keaton in 1932. She took everything, including their estate and their kids, and Keaton filed for bankruptcy. Just two months after her divorce, Natalie sold the home and grounds to a MGM dancer.

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Cove Way: Home of the Founder of Beverly Hills

At Jan 05, 2017

At the beginning of the 1900’s, oil was the foundation of wealth for most of the prominent men in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. It was after making their fortunes in oil, that they turned their attention to the next most profitable venture, real estate. Land that had been purchased for oil production, but ended up dry and barren, became the perfect location for new developments. This is exactly how Beverly Hills was formed in late October of 1906.


The “father” of Beverly Hills, oil tycoon Burton Green, had claimed land throughout Los Angeles and Kern Counties for his massive oil production and was ready to step into real estate. He was President of the Rodeo Land and Water Company, and he had a large parcel of land that had not produced the oil he had hoped for. This was the perfect combination for beginning an elite community. With the help of realtor, Percy Clark, landscape architect, Wilbur Cook, and architect, Myron Hunt, Green turned acres of dusty bean fields into the impressive community of Beverly Hills.


In 1912, after the construction of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, Green began construction on his own estate, an 11-acre lot located between Hartford Way, Cove Way and North Crescent Drive. Green hired architect, Martyn Haenke, to design his massive home. Haenke was known for creating homes that were imposing and comfortable, but not architecturally fashionable. Green’s home featured a 25-by-30-foot reception hall, a 24-by-45-foot living room and a 24-by-35-foot dining room, all on the first floor of the home! The first floor also including an expansive library, breakfast nook, butler’s pantry and kitchen. The second floor was just as remarkable as the first, with five bedrooms that included a dressing room and full bath in each, a nursery and a sleeping porch for hot, humid California nights.


Green and his wife, Lillian, loved the panoramic view of their estate, which stretched all the way to Santa Monica Bay, and spent a lot of time outdoors. Their estate showcased their wealth and love of nature with full-grown oaks (transplanted from the canyons that surrounded Beverly Hills), cocoa palms, flowering trees and shrubs and other native plants. They built beautiful garden pavilions, added a pristine lake and built a playground so their three children could play while their parents relaxed and soaked up the sun.


As Beverly Hills grew, Green stayed focused on helping the Rodeo Land and Water Company prosper. Although he gained much wealth and prosperity from the building of Beverly Hills, he still focused much of his attention on his oil business and did not attempt another real estate development in his lifetime. He lived to be 96 years old and lived in his home on Cove Way until his death. He watched as many other large estates were sold and divided into smaller, more contemporary lots, but he knew that his initial vision for Beverly Hills had come true. After his death in 1965, the home was bought and sold three times.

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Alpine Drive

At Dec 08, 2016

In the early years, Beverly Hills was a hot spot for wealthy retirees who wanted a reprieve from the colder, Midwestern states. Acquiring a coveted spot among Hollywood’s top stars, movie producers and oil tycoons ensured that they remained at the top of the social pyramid, maintaining the status they held in their previous circle of friends and acquaintances. For Oscar English, a Nebraska native who made his fortune in gypsum, not just any parcel of land would suffice.

Oscar and his wife, Alice, wanted their new home in Beverly Hills to be a remarkable landmark in an area that already contained many impressive estates. In 1926, the couple found their perfect location, on an eleven-acre plot between Foothill Road and Alpine Drive. The setting was just as they had hoped for, a beautiful piece of property bordering the spectacular Sunset Boulevard.

Ready to build a home that rivaled the grandness of their property, the couple hired architect Arthur Kelly to draw up plans for a luxurious English Tudor. Kelly, who specialized in this particular style of home, designed a two-story structure with rough-hewn stone walls, massive stone-clad chimneys and beautiful gables that lined the rooftops. The inside rivaled the exterior with floor-to-ceiling wooden panels and stained glass windows. The couple filled the home with new “antiques,” furniture that was produced in California but had the look and feel of an older piece.

English knew that his home would not necessarily be the biggest in the neighborhood, but he positioned his home so that it was easily seen from varying points. The home was set up on a knoll with an extensive front lawn that sloped down to Sunset Boulevard, creating a majestic scene for those passing by. In addition to the spectacular view of Oscar’s home, his brother, Arthur English, built his home on the same parcel of land. Arthur chose to build his home in the popular Spanish Colonial Revival style instead of following in Oscar’s footsteps. The two homes resided side-by-side, each magnificent in its own way.

Although their estate was everything they had wanted, Alice’s health issues led her into a depression that she could not recover from. She told Oscar of her desire to commit suicide. Oscar knew he could not live without his beloved, so he joined her in planning their deaths. In October, 1935, the couple took their lives by drinking poison together in their bedroom. After drinking the poison, the two tucked themselves into their separate twin beds and died shortly after. Their daughter, Lucille, and their son-in-law lived with them in the house, but after her parents’ death, Lucille could no longer stand to live in the house they had so loved.

Throughout the next couple of decades, the property was sold to varying buyers until the 1950s, when the property was split into six smaller lots to accommodate the growing area. While Arthur’s home burnt to the ground, Oscar’s home still stands, but on a much smaller two-and-a-half-acre lot. It is the only remaining evidence of a once remarkable landmark.

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Misty Mountain Estate

At Nov 01, 2016

With gorgeous views and untouched acreage, Angelo Drive became the perfect spot for Old Hollywood stars and starlets to show off their wealth and prestige. In the early 1900s, one of the first Angelo Drive estates was built for Frances Marion and Fred Thompson, a screenwriter and cowboy star, who named their piece of paradise The Enchanted Hill. The home was designed and built by Wallace Neff, the most accredited architect of his time. Constructing the opulent Enchanted Hills Estate established Neff as an extremely talented and creative designer who could give his clients an impressive home that mesmerized visitors and spectators but was also a comfortable escape for the family.


In 1924, Neff was hired to, once again, design and build a residence on Angelo Drive. Film director, Fred Niblo and his wife had purchased land just below The Enchanted Hills estate and wanted Neff to work his magic on their property. Niblo had once been a Broadway actor, where he met his first wife Josephine Cohan. The pair began traveling and performing on stages around the world. In 1916, while living in Australia, Josephine passed away leaving behind Niblo and their only son. Niblo decided it was time to stop traveling and turned his attention to filmmaking. He starred in two films while in Australia and fell in love with his co-star Enid Bennett.


Niblo and Bennett married and moved back to Southern California. They bought their 7-acres on Angelo Drive where Neff would build their Spanish Colonial Revival home. During the design phase, Neff chose to create the home in a semi-circle to take advantage of the 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean, downtown Los Angeles and two of the most prestigious communities in the area, Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills. The home itself was extravagant, containing twenty-two rooms that included six bedrooms and bathrooms, a large oval entranceway, a library, living area and dining room. The favorite room in the house for Neff was in his basement “man-cave.” The 54-foot long basement was decorated with memorabilia from his recent movies and was split into separate rooms which contained a billiards table, a wet bar, a projection room and a curio room where Bennett could display souvenirs from their travels.


The landscape surrounding the home was just as lavish with tennis courts, a swimming pool, a croquet lawn and a large playground for the children. The front of the home was decorated with beautiful gardens, and to the south was an expanse of immaculate lawn. The driveway was constructed in a circular pattern so guests could be driven to the front entryway, dropped off and the driver could pull away in one graceful motion. Neff and Bennett loved their home and kept it for many years. When they sold it, the new owners were just as fond of the home and chose to keep much of it the same. Even now, the owners of the Misty Mountain Estate appreciate the classic beauty, and it is one of the few homes from the Old Hollywood Era that is still much the same as it was when it was first built.

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The La Collina Estate

At Oct 04, 2016

While there are homes that can be considered outstanding, there is always that one home in a neighborhood that stands out above the rest. In the 1920’s, the rising development of the Platinum Triangle was producing a multitude of spectacular estates in Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel-Air, making competition tough for the elite homeowners who wanted to be the greatest among their well-known neighbors. In 1924, Benjamin Meyer, a banker, along with his entourage, which included architect Gordon Kaufmann and landscape architect Paul Thiene, made the competition even harder when they completed the La Collina Estate in Beverly Hills.
La Collina was one of the first homes in Beverly Hills to have been designed by a professional, highly-skilled architect that was not a friend or family member of the owner. Meyer and Kaufmann envisioned a unique design for Meyer’s house, wanting to navigate away from the traditional Spanish-style homes that had been erected in the 1910’s. Instead, they looked to create a home with character and quality craftsmanship. Meyer chose to use only materials produced in California or the Southland in his home. This makes the La Collina home one of the first in Beverly Hills to be completely indigenous to its California roots.
La Collina also holds the prize for being one of the first homes to hire an actual landscape architect to create coherence throughout the estate. Kaufmann and Thiene worked together to design an exquisite display of grandeur that began as soon as you drove up to the estate and worked its way throughout the rest of the property and into the home. The twelve-acre property was separated into distinct gardens, including a grove of olive trees, vegetable gardens and formal gardens that held massive amounts of blooming shrubs and flowers. Hidden among the trees was a magnificent surprise awaiting guests. A large, open-air swimming pool was perfect for the California weather, and in true La Collina fashion, it was accented by rose gardens at one end with a large pergola in the center.
The home itself was built in an L-shape so that Meyer and his wife could enjoy the spectacular view of their estate from every room. The first floor rooms, which included the spacious living room, dining room, library, kitchen and breakfast nook, looked out over the expanse of the gardens, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The upstairs contained four bedrooms with separate servant’s quarters for their staff. They also provided a separate sitting area and covered porch to provide comfort for their staff. The living room, dining room and library opened up onto lovely terraces which created a perfect indoor-outdoor living space.
After the death of Benjamin Meyer in 1937, his wife sold La Collina to an investment group. It has since been divided into smaller lots for the building of more homes and the driveway is now a residential street. The Meyer home still stands at the top of the street as a showpiece that gives viewers a look into a unique time in history, when three men with one vision created a home that stood out above the rest.

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Hillcrest Road

At Sep 01, 2016

During the early 1920s, Hillcrest Road, near Sunset Boulevard, was a secluded oasis for one of Old Hollywood’s top actors/writers/filmmakers. First owner, Hobart Bosworth, was the star of one of the first ever silent films made in California. He became enamored with the silent film industry as he battled tuberculosis, which had caused him to lose his deep, rich voice that made him famous on the stages in New York City. Bosworth and his second wife purchased the 4-acre property in 1923, and in just three short years, the couple had erected a magnificent Spanish-style home with the help of the architectural firm Bennet and Haskell.

The home was extraordinary and featured a forty-five-foot-long living room and twenty-five-foot-long master bedroom! Mrs. B. (as she liked to be called) had an eye for extravagance and her home showcased her impeccable taste and style. The grounds were divided into beautiful gardens, a tree-filled forest and one area was sectioned off for a stable to house Mr. Bosworth’s Arabian horse. Although the home was beautiful, the couple soon grew tired of the fast-growing neighborhood and wanted privacy away from the tourists and loud traffic. In 1933, they sold their home on Hillcrest Road and moved to a secluded mountain cabin in La Canada Hills.

The new owner was actor William Powell. Powell was an Academy-Award winning bachelor who, at the time of purchasing his home, had just made two extremely successful films with MGM. He was looking for the ultimate bachelor pad, and since one of his good friends lived next door, the Bosworth estate looked like the perfect place. The home was only 8 years old at the time of purchase, but Powell wanted the home to reflect his personal style. He immediately hired architect James Dolena, and together they completely transformed his home. It took two years to complete Powell’s dream home, which included adding an additional floor, removing the stucco from the exterior and adding columns to give the home a more Georgian look.

The U-shaped home overlooked two Olympic-sized tennis courts, putting green, croquet court and a sixty-foot-long swimming pool. Wanting to really impress his friends, Powell also built an additional building where he constructed a private movie theater that would seat 35 people. The seats were electronic and could be raised and lowered for viewer preference and also included an electronic screen that was lowered from the ceiling during viewing. When he wasn’t showing movies, Powell used the building as a place for friends to gather, dance and drink the night away.

The completion of Powell’s estate and grounds came at a time when he was once again falling in love with a young actress. He was leery of another marriage, and for an unknown reason, sold his newly built home after just one short year to a doctor. He moved into another home in Beverly Hills and eventually remarried. In the time after William Powell built his Hillcrest estate, the home has seen many owners including the original producer of the James Bond films, Albert Broccoli.



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