On the corner of Walden Drive and Carmelita Avenue in Beverly Hills, California lies a very odd little home. The neighborhood is pretty upscale, yet smack dab in the middle is a house that many refer to as the “Witch’s House.” When I first heard about the Witch’s House I was immediately intrigued. I wondered if this was where broke Hollywood dreamers go to sacrifice chickens and sell their souls for fame and fortune? If so, give me a chicken and directions!
When I recently visited LA after a lengthy Route 66 road trip, I decided I had to see the place for myself. And, believe me, it did not disappoint. It’s located in a very quiet Beverly Hills neighborhood, just several blocks from the uber-posh Rodeo Drive.
Designed by Harry Oliver, a Hollywood art director who helped create sets and oversaw pretty much the creative design of over 30 films from 1919 til 1938, the house is considered a “storybook house,” named so for its impeccable focus on whimsical fairytale elements that you’d expect to find in magical forests, where witches use cauldrons for potions, and fairies and elves frolick atop red and white mushrooms…or something like that. The house is known as the “Witch’s House” because of its intentionally-dilapitated architecture. It’s since become a very popular landmark for area tours.
The storybook style is a nod toward Hollywood design technically called Provincial Revivalism and more commonly called Fairy Tale or Hansel and Gretel. While there is no specific definition of what makes a house Storybook style, the main factor may be a sense of playfulness and whimsy. Most seemed snapped out of a craggy old-world village with intentionally uneven roofs, lots of cobblestone, doors and windows which may look mismatched and odd-shaped. It took a foothold in California, particularly in Los Angeles, during the 1920s-1930s. – Wikipedia
It’s actual name is “the Spadena House” and the 3,500-sq. ft building was constructed in 1921 was an office and dressing room for a Culver City film studio. It moved to its current location in 1934 and became a private home. The first people who lived in the house were the Spadena family in the 1960s. Over the next few decades they would make significant changes to the interior and exterior. For instance, the moat around the house began to leak so the family filled it in, and by the time the house went back onto the market in 1997 it was in a state of considerable disrepair. It was on the market for a time because no one really wanted to live in it, but the cost of the house’s location meant that just tearing it down would be pretty pricey. So, a real estate agent, Michael Libow, seeing the value in the house, purchased it and began renovations on the property.
According to Los Angeles pop-culture historian, writer Alison Martino notes that growing up in L.A. during the 70s she’d go with friends to the Witch’s House on Halloween for trick or treating: “The owners at that time would dress up as ghosts and goblins and hand out taffy from a witch’s kettle. There was dry ice coming from the moat around the house and Disney’s Haunted Mansion soundtrack could be heard out the upstairs window. It was an event.”
According to CNN the home is now the most-requested non-celebrity house in L.A.:
“The whole concept is that the house should feel as if it emanated from the ground,” says Libow, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who bought the home nearly two decades ago and has been restoring its, well, decay ever since. Everything is carefully designed to create “a home that looks as if it’s 300 years old that really isn’t.” Take the rotting cedar shingles: Libow had them dyed to look like they’d been on the home for centuries. The wavy look of the roof makes it appear as if “the home could take off at any moment,” he says — witchcraft, you might say, achieved by stacking plywood underneath the shingles. – CNN
Definitely worth a stop if you’re in L.A. My 9-month old loved it.