Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hollywood at Home: Pickfair.

This is my contribution to KC of Classic Movies, Mary Pickford Blogathon which will run from June 1st through June 3rd.

I've been wanting to write about Pickfair for a while now so when I found out about KC's Blogathon, paying tribute to Mary Pickford, my topic was all set. Given that Pickfair was the original Beverly Hills mansion in which all the stars of the day not only wanted to get an invite to but it was this lavish estate that they tried to duplicate in their own homes during and after the 1920s, It's an important estate, one that shaped the landscape of once was dusty dirt roads and orange groves. Your home doesn't get the title of The White House of the West Coast without being grand and over the top, even by Hollywood standards. So if you're ready, let's see how Pickfair came to be and how it looks today.

The king and queen of Hollywood pose for a portrait in the parlor of their beloved, Pickfair.

The most recognized photo of Pickfair that made it's way to postcards and all of the fan magazines of the day. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in their pond with Pickfair as the backdrop.

In the early 1900's, DeMille, Mack Sennett, Jesse Lasky and a few other directors left their Astoria, New York studios for the warmer climate, vast areas of land that California provided to build larger studios and backlots. As the stars of the day followed in droves, there was one small problem. A lack of housing!

Beverly Drive south of Sunset in 1916.

What we now consider Beverly Hills didn't exist before 1906. Sure there were mansions being erected on large parcels of land up in the hills overlooking what would become these neighborhoods but they belonged to the wealthy like the Harry Winchester Robinson's, the Burton Green's, Donlevy's and then the Greystone family to name just a few. 'Movie folk' were looked down upon by the upper crust, reduced to living in boarding houses  or in small tract homes on the outskirts of town, when they could find a willing renter. 

An aerial view of the extravagant Beverly Hills Hotel in 1920.

The main entrance of the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1920 which was accessible via automobile, horseback and by trolley.

A street view of the Beverly Hills Hotel as it appeared in 1912.

It wasn't until 1912 when the Beverly Hills Hotel was completed that the film industry found a place that they felt welcome, were able to dress up and mingle once the kleig lights went black for the night.

When the Beverly Hills Hotel was completed it sat on a large parcel of land at the base of Benedict Canyon, quite a drive via automobile or a trolley ride from the studios but it was worth the trek. With an elaborate menu, flowing green lawns where the stars gathered to play croquette or gather by the opulent swimming pool. Of course the main appeal was the richly decorated private bungalows, hidden by citrus, eucalypti trees, they were perfect for late night rendezvous.  

Beverly Hills got it's name from the Massachusetts town, Beverly Farms in 1906.

Beverly Drive in 1928.

As we move along to the end of the 1910's with studio head, Cecille B. DeMille realizing that the west coast would be his permanent residence he knew it was time to spend some money on a home fit for someone of his stature. Jesse Lasky, Theda Bara and Harold Lloyd would follow suit. By this time, the elite of Los Angeles were starting to except the film industry, invite them into their large mansions for social gatherings.  Of course they were renting large mansions up in Benedict Canyon, behind the Beverly Hills Hotel since the basin below was still undeveloped land or bean farms, ranches and oil fields for the most part with immigrant workers living in shacks on that land.

While little Mary Pickford, now separated from her first husband Owen Moore was renting a roomy bungalow with her mother near Sunset, DeMille and his wife Constance were enjoying a more lavish lifestyle in their newly rented Spanish style estate in Laughlin Park.

As southern California land developers realized that the film community wasn't going anywhere, they started buying up the bean farms and acres of land below Benedict Canyon, known as Beverly Hills by the mid 1920's.  With movie stars making large salaries and paying very little in taxes they were ready to put down roots in as comfortable digs as possible. Even the very frugal Charlie Chaplin left his small room at the Beverly Hills Athletic Club, renting a large home next to Cecille B. DeMille. Of course he was encouraged by his new bride, Mildred Harris. This would be Chaplin's first of several residences around Los Angeles as his marriage and divorce count grew. (I'll be featuring both DeMille and Chaplin's homes at a later date.)

A now bustling Beverly Drive in 1928.

As the bean fields made way for paved streets and small tract homes, larger parcels of land were being bought up as soon as water and electricity was available. With Mack Sennett, Theda Bara, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, the Gish and the Talmadge sisters settling in, another Hollywood couple was getting acquainted but where would they live?

In 1911, a Los Angeles attorney, Lee Phillips built himself a large hunting lodge high above Sunset, overlooking Benedict Canyon on what would later become Summit Drive. Of course the lodge was in a desolate location, with narrow dirt roads, no electricity, no running water and plenty of wildlife. The perfect isolated weekend retreat. 

Mr. Phillips decided it was time to sell his rustic retreat in 1919 so he thrust it up on the market. The first couple to view the lodge was director, Raoul Walsh and his actress wife, Miriam Cooper. It didn't take long at all for Miriam to realize the place was just too rustic, isolated for her taste.  The next person to take the dusty roads up to the lodge with the Realtor was the silent actor, Douglas Fairbanks. Having just recently made his way to the west coast after finding success on Broadway, he was looking for a secluded property.  He took to the lodge and it's undeveloped 14 acres immediately and by March of 1919 he was the proud owner, paying a mere $35,000 for the house and it's land.  

An early aerial view of what would become known as Pickfair, isolated, sitting all alone on 14 acres at the foot of Benedict Canyon.

Having separated from his first wife, Anna Beth Sully in 1918, Douglas Fairbanks was a hot commodity among his leading ladies off and on the set. Handsome, athletic and well spoken he was never short of company but that didn't last for long as he had fallen head over hills for the silent actress Mary Pickford while they were touring together to sell Liberty Bonds.  The only problem was Mary was still legally married to Owen Moore so they had to do a lot of sneaking around until Pickford was granted a divorce and of course Doug from his wife Anna Beth. 

While the couple was waiting on their divorces to be finalized, Doug kept busy with getting the hunting lodge in shape and by shape I mean building another large wing, adding a second story, ripping out walls, adding imported tile, paneling, new windows and of course electricity, running water and landscaping. He even hired studio set designer, Max Parker to draw up architectural plans, oversee the renovations with his brother, Robert Fairbanks supervising when he was kept busy at the studio. While Pickfair was taking shape, Doug was renting the very large Spaulding mansion down the hill while Mary and her mother lived in large gated mansion in Beverly Hills. 

Pickfair as it took shape in the early 1920's.

An early Pickfair postcard

By the end of 1919 when Douglas Fairbanks was ready to move in to his former hunting lodge it looked more like a Tudor mansion with it's two large wings that overlooked the beautiful canyons below. The lowest level consisted of a large entry hall, screening room, formal dining room, breakfast room, drawing room, kitchen, glassed in patio and servant's quarters. The upper level housed the large private bedroom suite and five guest bedrooms. The third floor showcased a large bowling alley and Doug's billiard room.  Of course no celebrity mansion would be complete without a cement pond. The Pickfair pool with it's own sandy beach would measure a grand 55 by 100 ft.  Of course Fairbanks didn't stop there! He added small ponds around the property where he and his guests could canoe. 

The formal dining room.

The main entryway.

The formal drawing room.

As March of 1920 rolled around, Doug and Mary were finally able to wed and settle in as a married couple in their grand estate. To make Mary feel comfortable, Doug immediately gifted the home to her and Pickfair was born. Within no time they were entertaining like royalty as their movie friends made the trek up the winding dirt roads every weekend for picnics, pool parties, polo matches on the vast lawn or horseback riding adventures into Benedict Canyon high above. Life seemed perfect for Hollywood's most popular couple. 

Doug and Mary show off their beautiful home in the early 1920's.

Mary Pickford (center) enjoys one of her pool parties at Pickfair. She's being served tea by director, John S. Robertson (right) with famed film photographer, Charles Rosher pouring tea to her left.

While Doug was possessive of his wife, they got along rather well for the first three years as they held court high above Beverly Hills, now expanding with equally large and opulent estates occupied by their peers. Of course Doug had his rules. Mary wasn't allowed to dance with other men, smoke, curse or drink more than one or two cocktails at social gatherings then she had to account for her whereabouts at all times when not by his side. She was to maintain that America's Sweetheart image on and off the set and things would be just fine.


The elaborate dinner parties would continue throughout the 20's with the who's who of Hollywood accepting an invitation on a regular basis. Of course Charlie Chaplin was always around then John Barrymore with Lillian Gish, Anita Loos, Frances Marion or Gloria Swanson appearing on the guest list regularly. These weekday dinners were always held in the formal dining room with the guests being expected to dress in suit and tie, evening dresses. Following a formal dinner of the finest cuisine, embossed place cards, and silk linens, the guests would then be shown upstairs to the screening room to watch a movie. You could bring a change of clothes, more casual attire if you were invited up for the weekend, of course.

Doug, wasn't welcoming, so gracious to every guest as it turns out. Rudolph Valentino road down via horseback from his own vast estate, Falcon Lair one sunny day, appearing on the Pickfair front lawn. The same lawn that Doug and Mary practically used as their outdoor living room during nice weather. Doug felt this impromptu visit was just a bit too invasive, and Rudy got a very cold reception as he scurried on home. 

The formal living room where Doug and Mary received their frequent guests in grand fashion.

Movie stars were the first guests to Pickfair but they weren't the the only guests of importance. The last King of Spain, Alfonzo XIII was the first of many titled guests to visit the mansion over the years. The Fairbanks's would also entertain the Lord and Countess of Lanesborough, the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, the King and Queen of Siam, the Duke and Duchess of Alba, the Duke of York, the Crown Prince of Japan, and the Crown Princess Frederica of Prussia

Mary's private suite with it's mix of pink and pale green, silk draperies, matching wall to wall carpeting and French inspired furnishings. 

Mary and Doug enjoy their pool.

One of the many publicity portraits Doug and Mary would take throughout the years to show just how happy they were at Pickfair. 

As the 1920's came to a close, Mary and Doug were busier than ever with their newly acquired United Artists then their continuous work in front of the cameras. While Doug was always happy to have guests around, Mary was growing tired of it as she was exhausted and just needing a break, some privacy. You can have the largest estate on the west coast but when your husband always has company, dinner guests arriving 5-6 nights a week, it can get old pretty fast, even when you're as hospitable as little Mary Pickford, the doting wife.  

Lillian Gish wrote in her biography that she got a call from Mary Pickford while at her home in New York, sometime in 1930. When she asked what Mary was doing in New York, Mary replied with "Oh, I just couldn't take it any longer, the house, the servants, the company. I'm here in a little hotel room, just for the quiet."

Pickfair and it's gorgeous pool, perfectly manicured lawn as it appeared in the 1920's.

Of course Mary returned home to Pickfair, to her beloved Doug and her motion pictures for a little while anyway.  But after visiting New York and it's upscale shops she decided it was time to do a bit of remodeling at Pickfair. No longer content with Doug's heavily paneled walls and open beamed ceilings, Mary sat out to give their estate yet another face-lift. This latest remodel would span another two years and lift Mary's spirits for awhile. 

The newly remodeled dining room during the 1930's.

Mary in her newly remodeled living room during the 1930's.

As busy as Mary had been during the past 25 years making movies, she realized it was time to hang up her pinafores and her ringlet curls for a quieter life. With the advent of talking pictures and their success and her increasing age, she would retire from motion pictures, opting for a quieter life at Pickfair and hoping that Doug was ready to do the same. They had taken a few long trips abroad throughout their marriage and Mary hoped that Doug would be content to do that on a more frequent basis. With the success of their films and now United Artists they were certainly financially able to do so. 

Doug didn't have the same ideas as Mary as he was off making films and cohorting with his mistress Sylvia Hawkes Ashley. When word got back to Mary she retreated to Pickfair alone except now she was openly drinking and heavily, to mask her pain. To make matters worse, she had lost her mother and her brother Jack who had always been her rock. And now she was close to losing her husband to another woman.

Harold and wife, Mildred Lloyd are among the attendees of a dinner party at Pickfair during 1932.

The casual dining room at Pickfair, showcasing one of the bay windows that Mary had installed in the 1930's.


Mary get's ready to entertain on her glassed in patio during the late 1930's.

Not long after finding out about Doug's affair, Mary would file for divorce in 1933 although it would take another 3 years before it was finalized. She would remain at Pickfair alone while Doug remained in London with Sylvia, who was still married to Lord Ashley.  Of course Mary didn't spend every night alone in her over sized but newly decorated, white elephant. It wasn't long before Clark Gable started calling on her night after night before getting the hint that she wasn't interested. 

Once the couple's divorce was final, Mary would get Pickfair while Doug was content with taking their Santa Monica beach house.  A year before, during their long separation, Mary had fallen in love with the dashing actor, Charles Buddy Rogers, whom she would marry in 1937. The first order of business for Charlie was moving out of Pickfair and to a smaller home in Bel Air. (I'll be writing about this estate as well as Doug and Mary's Santa Monica beach house at a later date.)

Pickfair after Doug's renovations in 1920.

Pickfair as it appeared during the 1930's after Mary's renovations. (I actually prefer the earlier renovations, style better with the awnings. Very English countryside to me!)

Although, Charles Rogers and Mary Pickford Rogers would live in his Bel Air home in later years they decided to hold on to Pickfair and it would belong to Mary until her death in 1979. Of course, like any home left unattended, it did fall in to disrepair through the years, no longer being the backdrop for the fabulous parties or weekly dinners of the Hollywood elite. Guests stopped accepting Mary's invites up to her once elegant home and eventually she stopped asking.

Mary would also sell off the surrounding 14 acres to Pickfair throughout the years, to put more money aside for herself and Charles. With Benedict Canyon being such a prime real estate location, she made quite a bit of money which she used to purchase the expensive jewelry, fabulous evening gowns and furs that she had always loved so much.

As Pickfair appeared in the 1930's in postcards after Mary's remodel from the grounds, exteriors to every room within to erase all traces of Doug.

Upon Mary's death in 1979, Pickfair sat empty for several years before being purchased by Los Angeles Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, who took on the task of restoring it to it's former glory. The first private pool in Los Angeles was repaired and filled with water as the front entry where F.Scott Fitzgerald and Amelia Earhart once walked, was getting re-framed and painted. 

If only that was how things ended with Pickfair. Newly renovated, the estate was sold to the actress, Pia Zadora and her husband, businessman, Meshulam Riklis in 1988. They announced shortly after this that they would be remodeling the home but by 1990 it came out that the main house had to be demolished due to disrepair, a termite infestation.  Whatever the reasoning, a very large, Venetian style pilazzo was erected where Pickfair once sat.  With that being said, the gardens, the original swimming pool and the three wrought iron gates remain as they were until Mary's death. As you will see below, the new home is very luxurious and I think Mary would actually like it. While it's quite large, I feel it fits the scale of what anyone would build considering how magnificent Pickfair once was. Now if only an actual 'actress' lived there! 

And I'm not saying that I'm happy to see that Pickfair no longer exists because like many who adore Hollywood's Palaces of the Golden Age, it's very sad.

Upon her divorce in 1993, Pia remained in the estate until it was sold in 2006 for $17.6 million.  The new owner is businessman, Corry Hong.

The Pickfair estate as it appears today. The original pool can be seen to center, left.

The estate during the time Mary resided there part time with Charles Buddy Rogers. Vast manicured lawns and winding roads through the canyon. The estate was still secluded at that time.

Another aerial view of the property, no longer an isolated estate.

The original Pickfair gates (back entrance) at 1143 Summit Drive, Beverly Hills.

Pickfair as it appeared in the 1920's and you can see the cherubs holding court on each side of the long drive as they remain today with the added security gates.

The main Pickfair gates remain intact as they appeared during the time Doug and Mary resided on the property.

The main facade, entry to the new estate.

A closeup aerial view of the original Pickfair pool as it appears today. Where Mary and Doug had many pool parties.

A side view of the estate which would have been the front entrance of Pickfair (original gates) that would have faced Benedict Canyon north.

Another view of the original front gates at 1143 Summit Drive. 


I hope you enjoyed this look back at Picfair and please don't forget to check out the other contributions to the Mary Pickford Blogathon, hosted by KC. (link provided at the top). That's where I'm headed right now.

*If you do get the chance to drive by the estate, please keep in mind that it's a private residence.

**Recently I was made aware of an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories where Pia Zadora was featured discussing reasons for tearing down Pickfair so I thought I would address it after so many have contacted me.  Pia is entitled to say whatever she wants to and change her story every week as far as I care.

I've done exhaustive research in writing this post and I've read bio's on Doug Fairbanks Sr and Jr. as well as several books on Mary Pickford and even Charles Buddy Rogers.  Not once have I ever heard about Pickfair being haunted.  I did not watch this show that Pia appeared on but I can say that Doug had moved out of Pickfair by the end of the 20s and was living mostly abroad with Sylvia Ashley so I'm not sure who she's referring to as his mistress that died at Pickfair then later haunted her.

Mary and Buddy Rogers resided at Pickfair off and on until her death and I do believe that if they were haunted they would have lived at their other properties full time. Nobody wants an exe's dead mistress running around interrupting their sleep. (At least I would hope so!)  Also, in all of Pickford's bios she never mentioned that Doug brought women back to their estate nor was he the type to do so. Or maybe if there was a ghost haunting Pia and her family it was Joan Crawford. She never was accepted by Doug and Mary as their daughter in law so she could have been roaming around the halls trying to scare the heck out of anyone around that giant estate where she was never welcomed and looked down upon.  (Just kidding but that would be funny!)

I do know that it is well documented that Pickfair went into disrepair after years of neglect and once Jerry Buss purchased the property he spent a fortune in restoring it back to it's former glory.  Do I think Pia Zadora needs publicity and a bit of cash? She's obviously not hurting for cash after selling the estate so I couldn't tell you why she's coming forward with this information now. She's welcome to contact me any time and provide further details about her 'hauntings', what she saw there that caused her to bulldoze such a landmark of Hollywood's golden era to the ground. Of course I can't pay her so there is that.

I'm not here to call anyone a liar and if you want to tear down a house it's none of my business as to the reasoning but I just wanted to address the matter since I've had so many reach out asking for details about a dead girl at Pickfair. In all seriousness, I'm sure Pia is a lovely lady and I hope her children weren't traumatized by ghosts.

Thanks for stopping by!
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55 comments:

  1. Page - what a great post! I love the story of Pickfair and Mary & Doug so much (I am still mad at him for breaking it off with Mary - although Buddy was mighty cute). Mary said that it was a happy house that never heard a cross word. They were happy there for a time and it was, indeed, a golden age. Did I tell you it was a terrific post?

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    1. Thanks so much Flick Chick! I'm glad you enjoyed this look back at Pickfair. I agree that Doug and Mary were adorable together and it's sad that he left her the way he did.
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  2. This was a great post! I enjoy taking a look back at old Hollywood and hearing the stories behind it. Such great pictures you've provided as well. =-)

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    1. Ginny,
      I'm a big fan of the grand Hollywood estates too. If you haven't read my post on Rudolph Valentino's Falcon Lair you might enjoy it. I'll also be doing frequent posts featuring other great estates in my Hollywood at Home series so stay tuned. : )
      Thanks so much for your kind comments.
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  3. Page,

    Fascinating history here Page. I knew nothing about Pickfar, other than Mary and Doug owned it, so this was enticing to say the least. The biggest surprise, and biggest letdown, was that Pia Zardora became the future owner! Anyway, some truly great pictures and background info.

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    1. John,
      I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I've been having a lot of fun doing my Hollywood at Home series so stay tuned for more fab estates. I'm sure I'll be featuring a few of our favorite directors at some point as well.

      It really is bad luck that Zadora took residence but at least they didn't go with a modern estate or tear the pool apart. I guess that's something! ha ha
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  4. Fantastic post. I didn't realize how much I still had to learn about Pickfair. The shots of early Beverly Hills with all those rolling hills are so interesting. It makes me wonder what changes the next one hundred years will bring. Thanks so much for contributing Page. I'm glad the subject fit into your own ongoing blogging plans. It must have taken a lot of work to scan all those photos, and I really appreciate having the opportunity to see them!

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    1. KC,
      I was late getting started reading the other reviews, which I plan to finish today but the articles I did get to were very good. what a fantastic Blogathon, one I was thrilled to be a part of.

      Sometimes we need to get inspired, given a bit of a push to write about topics so I am glad I finally sat down and wrote about Pickfair, and that you enjoyed it, the photos.

      Thanks for the nice comments! And when I think about how things will change in another 100 years, I get a bit sad that we won't be around to see it.
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  5. I just caught a glimpse of Pickfair once watching on YouTube the Honorary Oscar given to Mary. You did an amazing post, highlighting also the process of building Hollywood.
    I'm not a party-girl, but I'd love to be in one of the reunions at Pickfair!
    Stop by my blog, I've got a review of 1926's Sparrows there.
    Kisses!

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    1. Le,
      I'll have to look for the youtube video with Pickfair. That sounds so interesting.
      Thanks for stopping by. Loved your "Sparrows" review.
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  6. Another fascinating tour through Hollywood history, Page. The pics are fabulous, and the story of Mary and Doug's life both interesting and very sad. (By the way, in the first picture especially, Doug looks like he had been hitting the tanning bed WAY too much -- LOL!) I know time marches on and all that, but what a loss to have to tear the place down. And, like John, I find it equally sad that it was taken over by Pia Zadora, of all people. Yeck. I look forward to these posts a lot, Page. They are wonderful.

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    1. Becky,
      We think alike! I thought Doug looked a bit dark from all that 'fun in the sun'.
      I've missed your comments, and of course your articles over at your place so I was thrilled to see you had stopped by.

      I've enjoyed doing the research for the Hollywood at Home series so it's nice to know that others enjoy this topic. What girl wouldn't love a bit of extravagance though. Ha Ha

      Thanks for your very kind, supportive comments, Becks!
      Love ya,
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  7. Awesome post! Loved stepping back in time, looking at your lovely pictures of Mary Pickford's, early Beverly Hills home. My favorite picture is of Mary getting ready to entertain on her patio during the late 1930's. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

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    1. Dawn,
      I'm glad you enjoyed this post and I can't wait to showcase other Hollywood homes. I may do one on their fabulous beach getaways this summer.

      Thanks for the support, blog love! I need to get over to your place and catch up now that these two Blogathons are behind me.
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  8. Page, I don't have much to add, but I loved this post, especially all the early shots of Beverly Hills. I hope you can do a post on Harold Lloyd's estate Greenacres.

    One of my favorite recent movie books is "Errol Flynn Slept Here" about his house called, I think, Mulholland Farm. I love reading about these old houses.

    Late to the game, as usual, as I'm making my through the posts on the Mary Pickford blogathon. The local library has "Suds" one of her films, and I went to take it out yesterday and it was checked out. I wonder if someone in my area is reading these posts as well.

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    1. Hi Kevin,
      I will be writing about Greenacres this summer as well as three of Errol's homes. I recently had a look at them via Google Earth, as they look now and I was in awe of Errol's residence that was most likely Mulholland Farms. It's huge and gorgeous!

      The only part of Greenacres you're able to see from the street are the gates and beautiful greenery since it sits so far off the street on a large parcel of land. From the aerial views the house and the huge pool look to remain intact. I've got such a long list of homes, beach compounds I want to write about that I don't know where to start! : )

      Thanks so much for the kind comments. I'm glad you and others enjoy these old estates and the history of Hollywood etc as much as I do.
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  9. ERROL?!! Did I see someone mention THE GREAT FLYNN?!! I want advance notice of that post!!!

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    1. Girrlll! If you're ever in a coma I'm going to show up at your bedside and play Errol's voice on a loop.

      Did I mention that Shirley will be back this week? Counting down until Ivan shows up to say something cute about that! You kids are a hilarious mess.

      I promise that any and all posts I do on Errol, I'll run by you first.
      Welcome Back! : )
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  10. Page - a fascinating look back at Hollywood and Beverly Hills history. Your "Hollywood at Home" series is fabulous and I can't wait for more. It's interesting to view the "Then and Now," though sad too that so many of the great houses have been torn down. But I know you'll dig up some that are still intact. Keep up the great work.

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    1. Christian,
      Getting to visit these wonderful California landmarks sure is fun and knowing others are enjoying them makes it even sweeter.

      I promise to showcase one that is actually still standing so stay tuned.
      Thanks for your kind, supportive comments.

      Have a great weekend!
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  11. AMAZING POST! As if your post on Valentino's house wasn't good enough, I loved this more! It's a shame that grand houses like this chock full of history are gone!

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    1. Kristen,
      Thanks so much for the nice comments. I've got so many homes I want to write about so stay tuned for that.

      It is sad to think that the mansions that truly shaped the beginning of the Hollywood grand estate didn't survive.
      Hope you're having a great weekend.
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  12. Wow, Page, I think you've outdone yourself! This was a wonderful and worthy post, fitting for its topic and covered more comprehensively than anything I've ever read on the subject. BRAVO!

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    1. Thanks do much Martin. That means a lot coming from you with your vast knowledge of old Hollywood, your wonderful writing on the topic.

      I've really been enjoying this series so I'm thrilled that it's gotten such a positive response. I can't wait to dive in to the next home so stay tuned.

      Glad you stopped by.
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  13. It's a pity that Pickfair's no longer around, but we can at least be grateful for this comprehensive history with lots of photos. Seriously, you've got the makings of a great book with this series. I'm curious to know how old Hollywood managed to attend parties at Pickfair and Hearst Castle yet wake up at the crack of dawn to shoot pictures.

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    1. Thanks so much Joseph!
      It's funny that you bring up Hearst Castle since I've been fascinated with the place, all of the celebs congregating there for so long. I was fortunate to visit a few years ago. What an incredible estate.

      I'll be writing about Hearst Castle this summer given Davies presence then the celebs mentioned above, so stay tuned for that.

      Having fun with this series so I'm very pleased that you and others are enjoying it as well.
      Thanks for stopping by!
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  14. I happened upon your blog after seeing a show called 'Celebrity Ghost Stories' on cable tonight. Pia Zadora was featured and she has now come out to say that Pickfair was leveled not because of termites, but because it was HAUNTED! She claims there was a mistress of Douglas's that died there and that she was seen by and terrified her and her children. Hence the decision to tear it down. Have you heard about this dead mistress? I truly don't know if this could be true...why wouldn't the Lakers owner have known of this place being haunted? Interesting, anyway.

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know about this. Very interesting but I don't believe a word of it. It sounds like she's wanting/needing publicity or the heat off of her for tearing down that fabulous part of Hollywood history.

      She wanted to erect her monstrosity in it's place. The nouveau riche have a lack of taste which is apparent. I've never read anything about ghosts there and I've read up on the home and Pickford and Fairbanks extensively. Now having said that and as I mentioned below. Falcon Lair was known to be haunted but I don't think that's the reason it was bulldozed. I think it was in disrepair after years of being left empty and neglected.

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing this info. Pia is nutty! Ha Ha
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  15. It seems that when her husband was away, Pia and the children were haunted by this 20s flapper who would laugh at her in the middle of the night. (Both the living AND the dead were laughing at Pia). The termite story, she now says was a ruse. She is now going with the ghost story. If anything, it got her some TV coverage.

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    1. I was just going to comment on the previous one. I am just now hearing about this new story. I agree with you about the ghost thing getting her TV time. I don't believe it at all. I've read so much on Pickfair and Pickford, Fairbanks and not once have I ever heard of any ghost sitings or hauntings. Of course on my Hollywood at Home post regarding Falcon Lair and Rudolph Valentino's home. There were a few that rented the home that said there were ghosts and paranormal activity. It was also bull dozed recently.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment about this and visiting this post.

      I hope you'll return.
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    2. where is the guest wing? Jason

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  16. Hi Milwaukee Wisconsin here, just saw the story on the ??? Haunting of PickFair?? poo have news for you.. if that is the case..the ghost is still there. as that is where she died and stayed to party.. we have a 1906 Federal here, it is great the Cook of the orginal family is still with us and is in the kitchen.. she never says much but guides the cooking .. with a German hand.. its the ghost of the 1960's that is out spoken.. This house has never been properly cared for.. told her she died and needed to leave or find a chair..nope they never leave.. Pia had that Mansion torn down.. there will be hell to pay sooner or later.. yep...

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  17. Can anyone tell me who made the pickfair gates? There are amazing

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    1. Anon,
      I apologize for the delay in getting back to you as I've been out of town.
      I don't know who made the gates at Pickfair. I assume you mean the original brick side gates with the cherubs etc. The black iron gates were put up by Pia after Pickfair was torn down but the side cherubs and brick walls remain. I'll see what I can find out.
      Thanks for stopping by.
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  18. Hi Page
    I was under the impression that the iron gates were also from the original Pickfair. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    I have come across a family letter stating that my great grandfather was a subcontractor with the building of Pickfair and his company was called H-B Ornamental Iron Works and they specialized in gates, fences, lamps and grill works. I was wonder if you knew if there was any marking or stamps by the builder on the original gates to confirm the letter I read?
    Thanks
    David

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    1. David,
      That is splendid info and thanks for sharing that. I would bet that the letters you have are enough documentation to show that the iron work was done by H-B.

      Keep in mind that the heavy iron gates weren't erected originally and gates weren't commissioned until Marion did her 30s remodel. However all of the brick side fences, the cherubs etc were erected early on at Pickfair.

      I will look through the info that I have to see if I can find out when said gates were erected and by whom but I would imagine that your documentation gives more details than what I recall reading on Pickfair and it's construction.

      If you have some way of emailing or writing to Jerry Bus, he had a lot of paperwork on Pickfair and he did an extensive amount of restoration to the estate before it was sold then torn down. Of course the gates still stand. Hopefully you'll get the answer you're looking for.

      If I do find any additional information I'll be sure to let you know here on this post.
      All the best!
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  19. Thank-you so much--I really enjoyed this!

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  20. Very informative. I enjoyed the photos and written commentary linked with the pictures. I love researching/ searching for all "Old Hollywood" homes.
    Thank You - I'll "visit often."

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    1. Hi where is this guest wing they say still exists??? Anyone know?? Jason

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    2. Hello,
      There isn't an original guest wing but a foyer as you enter the home. Some of the original structure was left but not much.
      Thanks for stopping by.
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  21. Thank you for a wonderful half an hour! I really enjoyed seeing the old photos. I love your commentary! The world is so crazy now! I love going back in time (and the internet makes it easy)! Looking at LA in the old days is fascinating. Again, many thanks.

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  22. It breaks my heart that this piece of American history was sold off and, like so many botched face lifts in Hollywood, is just a memory of its former glorious self. The number of international dignitaries, artists, adventurers....Einstein, Emelia Earhart....that walked through those front doors, rivals only the White House. Was there ever an effort by the Hollywood Community to save and restore this iconic landmark?

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    1. Sadly, there was not an effort to save the estate as far as I know. I think Pia and her ilk bought it then decided to gut it, tear it to the ground without anyone being the wiser.

      She turned it into a stone cold mansion that not one person could give two shits about to be honest! She was a wrecking ball that went in and crushed the last semblance of old Hollywood and what it stood for.

      Thank you for commenting and bringing up just how I feel about Pia and her desire to ruin old Hollywood.
      Please do continue commenting.
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  23. A fantastic article. The pictures are awesome. Will be visiting your blog often. I am so glad they kept original pool.

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    1. Hi, Joe
      Yes, so very charitable to keep the pool. ha ha
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to comment.
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  24. I would just like to say to all my fellow Entrepreneurs…just remember that persistence is the key to success.


    swimming pool demolition los angeles

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  25. What a great post, I actually found it very thought provoking, thanks

    property management Fullerton

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  26. Page, for lack of a better term, "Awesome, Awesome, Awesome"! Thank you so much for the fabulous photos and well written descriptions. How I love old Hollywood! And you brought it all to me in my home! Looking forward to whatever you care to share.
    Thank you thank you thank you

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    1. My pleasure! And thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. There are several Hollywood at Home posts you'll find in the archives, and stay tuned for more.
      Hope you'll come back again.
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  27. Thank you for your excellent post with these great pics. I visited Pickfair 1979, all by myself when I was about 18, when it still resembled the original Pickfair (way after Mary's renovations). Just drove up to the gates mind you, not invited inside or anything. But anyway, Pia Zadora is now claiming "ghosts" because all of Hollywood can't stand the no talent bitch. I'm sorry but she is a stupid pathetic woman. I mean this was PICKFAIR, the home of the King and Queen and where it all began. God knows she had the money, or could have even raised money to move it somewhere as a museum but no, she just tore it down. My father was an actor of the old days, Adam Williams. He worked with Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Eva Marie Saint, Deborah Kerr and many others. He told me nobody could stand Pia, especially after she tore down Pickfair. That is why she is now coming up with this supposed ghost story. Also, another interesting bit. In the late 70's when I was a teen I was in Northridge in the S.F. Valley at a corner with a friend waiting for the light to turn green to walk across. All of the sudden a long black limo approaches and who is actually driving it but Pia Zadora. Why was she driving it and why was she in Northridge? I have no idea. But she glanced at my friend who had long curly hair but I must admit looked a tad unkempt at the time, as she was turning right, and rolled her eyes and gave him a disrespectful look. She was such an obvious spoiled bitch. Today this day I simply cannot stand her ESPECIALLY for tearing down Pickfair. There is no excuse.

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    1. Hi,
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Pickfair.
      Yes, we can all agree that we're not very happy with Pia and her husband for tearing down such a historical home. It should have been considered a Historical Landmark, allowing the city to step in and insure it was renovated and not bulldozed.

      All the best!
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  28. Buddy Rogers mentioned in an article that "Mary had offered Pickfair to the City of Beverly Hills, several universities, and a couple of charities, but they couldn't give the place away". They all wanted an "endowment" but Buddy said "they didn't have that kind of money". I bet they did!

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  29. I was reading an article and Buddy said "Mary offered Pickfair to the City of Beverly Hills, several universities, and charitable organizations, but they couldn't give the place away". The trouble was they all wanted money for upkeep, and according to Buddy "we don't have that kind of money". Bet they did!

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  30. This was an enjoyable read. My grandmother (and great-grandmother until her death in 1929) owned a catering company from the 1920s - 1960s. On many occasions in my teen and young adult years, I tried to get my grandmother to share stories about her clients but being the professional that she was, she didn't share the elaborate stories that I sought. Other than one power couple for whom she refused to work, those she disliked were described as "not much" and those she liked as "very nice." But, when it came to Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, her face would light up as she would remember parties she catered for them. She said that both of them were genuinely nice people.

    We have a few mementos (letters, thank you notes, and such) of her years in business, I'm afraid that the bulk of it may have been lost during her move from LA in the late 1980s, when a small hard-sided blue suitcase fell from the back of the moving truck onto the freeway. To this day, that loss haunts me. Being able to read about Pickfair, its owners, and their parties, gives me just a little piece of my grandmother's history. Thank you.

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