The legendery witch house, familiar to YA readers from Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series, is more charming and less frightening in real life. Quirky, yes. But sweet and intriguing. When we were in the LA area, we drove around Beverly Hills and easily found it off the main drag, not that far from Beverly Hills High School and Rodeo Drive. The house is located on an extremely well manicured street filled with beautiful suburban-style houses that have clearly been well maintained and constantly upgraded. There's something rather amusing that these buildings at first glance seem like typical (almost boring) suburban tract houses. But then this is Hollywood, land of veneer, so on second glance it's clear that the homes are polished, refabbed to look like the dream of suburbs but better. Every lawn is clipped perfectly.
The Witch House, in contrast, appears a little scraggly with its wild garden, craggy trees, stretching bushes. Yet, this landscaping is clearly as well planned as the detailed lawns, just in a different way. In the front, behind the fence is a pleasantly landscaped area that features a pond surrounded by bushes, grasses and plants climbing to the sky. The people who live here obviously adore their home, but like the messed up look, too.
Signs on the fence read "Keep Out" in typical hardware sign and then there's another one that's carved out of wood that also tells people to keep away, but it's artful, almost like an apology for the first sign.
According to several Hollywood blogs, the house was built in 1921 in Culver City where it served as offices and dressing rooms. It was moved to this location in 1926 and is a private residence. The house appears in Clueless. Alicia Silverstone walks by it after flunking her driving test. Architect Charles Moore as the "quintessential Hansel and Gretel house." Aaron Betsky, an architecture critic for the LA Times, has noted that it, "It represents the skills of an experienced form-giver to fantasy more than the scrupulous translation of concerns about function and site into built form that an architect might offer."
The house design reflects the popularity of storybook type houses in the 1920s. Their creators and owners must have yearned for a combination of European sophistication and mystery while still desiring modern updates. The village of Riverside, IL, always strikes me as having some homes in that style as well and there's a fairy tale type cottage in Normal, too.
Ever since I read Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat and her description of this unusual, legendery house, I have wanted to see it in person. I'm glad I did. The Weetzie Bat series is an intriguing contemporary literary fairy tale about modern LA, as I wrote about in “The Rebirth of the Postmodern Flâneur: Notes on the Postmodern Landscape of Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat" in Marvels & Tales.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to Amoeba Records as we couldn't quite figure out where that was. The rest of my group found it a day later and said it was amazing.