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A Guide to the Best of Southern California : HIDDEN CALIFORNIA : Hollywood: Before the Movies

March 04, 1990|ROBIN TUCKER

EASTERNERS have been escaping to California for the winter since the turn of the century. Today they go to Palm Springs , but in the early 1900s they migrated to Pasadena and Hollywood and built grand houses to be occupied only a few months a year. The Gurdon Wattles family, for instance, hired the team of Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey to build their vacation home (they were also the architects of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Pasadena Playhouse). Construction of the home began in 1905, and it was completed two years later. Today the Mission-revival-style mansion is the last remaining estate representing that "snowbird" life style. A look at the mansion offers a fascinating chance to step back to a time when the then-conservative community was adamantly opposed to the fledgling movie industry's encroaching on their little piece of heaven.

Hollywood Heritage is restoring the house and adjacent gardens. Part of the grounds is a public park; another part of the land is devoted to community-garden plots (the Wattles family donated the land for victory gardens during World War II).

Viewings of the Wattles mansion restoration, 1824 N. Curson Ave., are offered by Hollywood Heritage by arrangement only; (213) 874-4005. The facility is also available for party and wedding rental.

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