Being the land of movies and make believe, it should come as no surprise that Los Angeles claims some of the weirdest and most wonderful architectural follies in the country. "Wolfs’ Lair," a fairy tale and fantasy-worthy castle perfectly and privately situated on a ridge high above Beachwood Canyon and Lake Hollywood, is a clear example of Los Angeles’ well-known and long-standing affinity for residential eccentricity.
Wolf’s Lair was built in 1928 by L. Milton Wolf, one of the three men who developed Hollywoodland, the historic 1920s subdivision that sits in the shadow of the iconic Hollywood sign. Originally built as a billboard advertisement for Hollywoodland and lit up by 4,000 20-watt light bulbs, the Hollywood sign is now an international symbol of the entertainment industry. The iconic sign also towers over Wolf’s Lair, currently owned by a music executive and television presenter Debbie Matenopoulos and available for purchase by a wildly rich Dungeons and Dragons dreamer at a listing price of $4,995,000.
Entrance to the walled and gated Wolf’s Lair is protected by tall ramparts and a whimsical guardhouse where, legend has it, the somewhat eccentric Mr. Wolf housed a pet gibbon monkey in one of the turrets. A private staircase leads to a secret room beneath the guardhouse that retains its original South Seas style décor with a tiki torches, a curving bar and a bamboo-wrapped piano. The secret space was supposedly used as both a speak-easy and a love nest by the very married Mr. Wolf who allegedly squirreled in and entertained budding starlets with promises of fame and fortune.
In addition to the five bedrooms and six bathrooms, the 5,500+ sq. ft. castle also includes formal living and dining rooms, and a library/media room, all with to-die-for views of Lake Hollywood, the downtown skyline, Griffith Park Observatory, the surrounding canyons and the Hollywood sign and, on a clear day, the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.
The fabled and historic Hollywood castle retains much of the original architectural detailing including carved and stenciled wood beam ceilings, hand-painted coffered ceilings, linen-fold paneling, sharply gabled windows and thick plaster walls. In addition to L. Milton Wolf, the castle has been home to voice-over actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and tobacco heir turned actor Patrick Reynolds and his then girlfriend, actress Shelley Duvall.
Perched atop the ramparts and disguised under the tall turrets and steeply sloping roofline is a totally unexpected and very contemporary two-bedroom guesthouse designed by maverick architect John Lautner. The spare and modernist space, warmed by a massive stone fireplace and stone columns, is wrapped in vast expanses of seamless glass windows that dismiss the distinction between indoors and outdoors.
A rock waterfall tumbles down the hillside and spills into the black-bottomed, heart-shaped swimming pool. An adjacent pool house and cabana provides additional guest quarters or recreation space, and a nearby pergola-shaded terrace provides a perfect sport for al fresco dining. Pathways twist and wind throughout the 3.3-acre ridge-top property revealing fountains, fish ponds, secret gardens, jaw dropping 360-degree views and hidden nooks and crannies. For more information on the legendary Wolf’s Lair, contact Ernie Carswell (424)202-3226 or Christopher Pickett (424)202-3230 at Teles Properties in Beverly Hills, Calif., or visit the home's Web site.
As it turns out, Wolf’s Lair is not the only castle in Tinseltown currently for sale. Across the canyon on a nearby hilltop sits Castillo del Lago, an impressive architectural amusement built in 1926 and formerly owned by everyone’s favorite material mommy, Madonna. Now owned by a renowned commercial director, the nine-story, nine-bedroom and six-bathroom property offers similar privacy, views and fairy tale fantasies but currently carries a much higher price tag of $9,995,000. PHOTO CREDITS: Wolf’s Lair photos: Lee Manning Castillo del Lago photo: Hilton & Hyland Hollywood sign photo from publicdomainphotos.com