Because of the recent increase in new Hollywood Heritage members, many of you may not be familiar with Wattles Mansion. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to our on-going restoration project at Wattles.
For the past seventeen years Hollywood Heritage has transformed an abandoned, neglected "diamond in the rough" into a local cultural landmark. Funding for the restoration and maintenance is accomplished by renting the facility for weddings, filming, and corporate events. Hollywood Heritages investment in cash and volunteer hours into the estate totals over $500,000.
In the late 1800s Gurdon Wattles, an Omaha banker and civic leader, visited Hollywood and decided to make this the location of a winter home, and eventually his retirement home. Lured by the pleasant climate, many other wealthy Eastern and Midwestern families built winter homes in Southern California at the turn of the century. "Wintering" in California soon became a very popular pastime.
In 1905 the Wattles family commissioned noted architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, whose portfolio also included the Hollywood Hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Huntington Estate and Library (which was based on the mansion and landscaping of Wattles), and Pasadenas Rose Bowl. The team of Hunt and Grey designed this modern Spanish Mission Revival residence with extensive rear grounds that featured a Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, American Garden, Italian Garden, and Palm Court, boasting a plant or tree from almost every country in the world.
A sprawling three-tiered front lawn and orchards of avocados and oranges were located at the front of the house, which was completed in 1907.
In the early days of the last century, the Wattles Mansion and its gardens, along with the estate of painter Paul De Longpre and the Sturtevant familys giant lily pads, generated nationwide interest in Hollywood, and soon became tourist attractions. An entire series of postcards were printed of these attractions, and the Wattles Mansion is the lone survivor. Thanks to the efforts of Hollywood Heritage and its many volunteers, both the grounds and the house are still intact.
Some of the many completed projects have included extensive replanting/restoration of both the formal garden and rose garden, replacement of faulty plumbing, upgrades to the house electrical system, a complete restoration of the roof and Spanish tiles, structural repairs and reinforcement, extensive interior plaster repairs and painting, replacement of the irrigation system, repair and painting of exterior stucco, clearing of dead brush, and the installation of a disabled access ramp and bathroom.
The most recently completed restoration project is the kitchen (1999) and the kitchen dining area (2000). This has involved removing extensive wood rot and termite damage in the wall and floor, replastering, repainting, rewiring, and resurfacing. The look evokes the 1920s, when the Wattles family moved to Hollywood on a permanent basis.
The Wattles Mansion has been listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark (#578) since 1993 and has been the home to our corporate offices since 1983.