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A Fiery End for Wayne Manor? Not So Fast

October 07, 2005|Monte Morin | Times Staff Writer

Holy mix-up, Batman!

Stately Wayne manor is still standing, despite an erroneous report by Pasadena city officials and neighbors that the sprawling mansion used in the Batman TV series had burned to the ground Wednesday night.

It turns out that the 1920s English baronial-style home gutted by flames was a few doors down tree-lined South San Rafael Avenue from the "real" manor occupied by Bruce Wayne, aka Batman.

Although the 21-bedroom manor that burned Wednesday had appeared frequently in film and television -- its credits include "Topper," "Rocky V" and "Murder, She Wrote" -- it was never featured in the Batman television series or more recent Batman films, according to city authorities.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 13, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Mansion fire -- An article in Friday's California section about a fire that destroyed a Pasadena mansion that had appeared in numerous films and television shows incorrectly spelled the first name of a former neighbor, Martyn Belmont, as Martin.

In a case of mistaken identity, the mansion that was destroyed had been referred to for decades as "Wayne manor" and "Batman's house."

Pasadena officials, who were flooded with calls Thursday, raced to correct the record. Residents who were mourning the building's loss were further discomfited to learn that what they believed was Batman's lair was an impostor.

"I can't believe it," said distraught neighbor Tom Stearns, 48. "It was a magnificent structure. Monstrous. The fact that everyone thought it was Wayne manor just added to the allure. It had cachet."

Stearns, a real estate investor, was one of a crowd of area residents who gathered outside the smoldering mansion's front gates Thursday to memorialize the building. Hanging a bouquet of a dozen red roses on the gate, Stearns said that he felt as if someone in his family had died. He said it was pitifully ironic that it took the building's destruction for everyone to learn that it was not really Wayne manor. "It's just so sad," he said.

To local architecture buffs, the building is better known as the handiwork of Paul Williams, the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects.

The house, at 160 S. San Rafael Avenue, suffered $15-million worth of damage, according to the Pasadena Fire Department. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

The owner, Michael Hammer, the grandson of the late industrialist Armand Hammer, was renovating the home, which was unoccupied at the time.

The confusion over Batman's home, according to one local real estate agent, has to do with the fact that the real backdrop mansion is set far back from the street at 380 S. San Rafael Ave. and cannot be seen by passersby.

Martin Belmont, who lived in a guest house on the real manor's property while the Batman television series was filmed there, said people assumed Hammer's house was the genuine article because it was visible from the street.

"They heard it was somewhere on the street," Belmont said. "They mistakenly believed the house they could see was stately Wayne manor."

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