Beverly Hills has long been about creating your own version of fantasy. Makes sense, then, that there are a whole slew of houses here that vie for the “weird” title.
In the interest of bringing you the best, though, I’ll narrow that list down to two.
O’Neill House (partially pictured here) is firmly entrenched in the art nouveau fantasy of Antoni Gaudi, and of its visionary owner, who never lived to see it completed.
The Witch’s House (pictured below), is a fantasy from the silent film era — and was originally situated miles away before being moved here.
After all, in this world-famous neighborhood, you can have anything you want delivered.
The O’Neill House, at 507 North Rodeo Drive, is a celebration of the two men who inspired it. Don O’Neill was a successful art dealer specializing in art nouveau; in 1978, he and his wife Sandy began to renovate their guest house here as an homage to Don’s favorite architect, the fabulous, surreal Antoni Gaudi.
The guest house alone took five years to complete, and its sinewy lines and details nearly drove a small army of wood, concrete, and tile workers insane.
Don had always envisioned renovating the main house, too, but sadly died in 1985, just as the project got underway. Sandy vowed to finish it in his honor, though; in 1988, she finally did. She still lives here in this fanciful creation, keeping her husband’s inspired dream alive.
While the undulating main house remains one of the most unusual structures in town, the O’Neills’ elaborate guest house is just as exciting, but can’t be seen from the street. Turn into the alley between the front house and the church next door, then turn right to keep out of sight of the notoriously ticket-happy Beverly Hills police. There is no way to stop legally behind the church, but you can still get a great view by parking behind (and a little way up from) the guest house itself.
- To see more of my photos of the O’Neill House, click here.
A few short blocks away, The Witch’s House (also known as the Spadena House) at 516 North Walden Drive, is my pick for the best example of L.A.’s 1920s “storybook architecture.” The house was built in 1921 by art director Harry Oliver for a silent film movie house, Willat Studios (in the Westside LA neighborhood of Culver City), as its offices and dressing rooms.
When talkies soon muscled out the silents, Willat closed and this quirky cottage was all but abandoned, causing traffic jams’ worth of gawkers in Culver City. In 1934, the Witch’s House was picked up and moved here by the Spadena family to restore peace, quiet — and the right of way.
In 1998, the house was lovingly purchased by a local real estate agent named Michael Libow. These days, it’s surrounded by chain link fence, the fairy tale yard with its former moat is gutted, and construction workers trudge in and out — but for a great cause. Having teamed up with studio production designer Nelson Coates (another fan of the house), Libow endeavors to restore this piece of movie history to its former creepy/fantastic glory.
- To see photos of said former glory, click here.
- To see more of my photos of the Witch’s House as it looks in 2009, click here.