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"The Witch's House" is one of the earliest storybook buildings, and ranks among the most magnificent ever constructed. Built in 1921 by Oscar-nominated Hollywood art director Harry Oliver (film credits; fan site), the structure originally served as offices and dressing rooms for Culver City-based Willat Studio, which made silent films.
Moved to its present Beverly Hills location in 1926 or 1934 (accounts vary), it became the home of the Spadena family, and then the Green family. At some point it acquired the name "Witch's House" because (holds one account) a former resident used hand out candy on Halloweenwhile dressed as a witch.
The third and current private owner is a real estate agent who grew up in the home's Beverly Hills neighborhood and "always loved the structure." When the house came up for sale in 1997, he first tried to sell it, thenupon learning that all other bidders planned to tear it down and build something elsebought it himself the following year for a reported $1.3 million (the price of the lot; the home was free).
The proud new owner planned at first to make a few repairs and do a little remodeling. That changed when he met Hollywood art director Nelson Coates (film credits)who thought that much more was possible. With Coates acting as an advisor, a comprehensive restoration was undertaken to return this storybook landmark to its former dilapidated glory. Pre-restoration photos of the Witch's House (with full moat) can be found on pages 22-23 of Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the Twenties.
Further detailsand photoswill follow...
The Witch's House, probably in the early 1920s (when it served as offices and dressing rooms for Willat Studio in Culver City, California), but possibly later (after it was moved to Beverly Hills and became a private residence). (Photo courtesy of hollywoodphotographs.com)
The Witch's House in its former life (and location): headquarters for Willat Studio in Culver City. Note the sign to the left of the entrance bridge, which reads: "Willat Studio." This photo was most likely taken in 1921, as the construction (or camera) crane at right appears to be the same one seen in the dated photo below. (Photo courtesy of hollywoodphotographs.com)
This photo of the Witch's House is dated 1921 and presumably shows the cast and crew of the film named in the caption at bottom, which reads: "WILLAT STUDIO CULVER CITY 1921 "FACE OF THE WORLD" DIRECTOR: IRVIN WILLAT." Note the windmill and wooden water tank at left rear. (Photo courtesy of hollywoodphotographs.com)
The Witch's house in January, 2005, as seen from the southwest. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
A more distant view, also from the southwest. The wall at left turns right just beyond the edge of this photo, separating the rear of the lot from the service alley which runs behind it. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
This view shows the front of the house, which faces south. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
Gazing across the wooden bridge which spans the (now dry) moat separating front door from gate. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
Angle on front of house as seen from left of bridge. Note alligator statue standing guard over dry moat, just below shutter to left of central first-floor window. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
Looking northeast, with side view of bridge and (now dry) moat. Alligator statue can be seen to left of bridge (tail curves upward to left). (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
The rear court as seen from the northwest, looking past the home's west wing (seen at right in photo below) toward its east wing (seen at left in next photo). (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
The small, north-faceing court at the home's rear, with what appears (at center right) to be an outdoor fireplace or oven under construction. Note wood shingles stacked on roof to right and left. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
This door in the home's extended western wing wall leads into the (east) side yard. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)
This door leads through the house's eastern wing wall into a narrow walkway running along the home's east side and opening on the service alley to the rear. (Photo by John Robert Marlow)