This self-guided walking tour explores West Hollywood’s most historic and culturally significant landmarks, and portrays the various forces that have helped to shape West Hollywood today. This tour is designed to introduce the rich historical and cultural fabric of its Harper Avenue Historic District.
The Harper District is a collection of unique apartment buildings featuring excellent examples of some of the architectural styles revived during the 1920s and 1930s. While apartment living gained unprecedented popularity in the area generally, developers built an extraordinary number of “high-class” apartments in West Hollywood during this period. These elegant buildings provide some of the first architectural responses to the automobile and became home to the growing movie industry and its illustrious stars. Many of whom were drawn to West Hollywood’s temperate climate and booming oil, aviation, tourist and motion picture industries. Today, these buildings stand as one of the most impressive collections of 1920’s and 30’s apartment buildings in Southern California.
This courtyard complex of seven maisonette apartments is of Spanish Revival style with extensive Moorish detailing. The use of Moorish design elements is attributed to the Patio’s original owner, a physician who had traveled widely in North Africa and Spain. The Moorish features include a copper-domed Tunisian tower, horseshoe-arched entrance tunnel, tiled fountains in the public and private patios, horseshoe and pointed-arch doorways and fireplaces. Each of the maisonette apartments has a specific name and details that differentiate one from the other.
Four Gables, designed by Leland A. Bryant, is a sixteen unit apartment building in the French Chateau style. The structure exhibits both gothic and tudor elements or “Tudorbethan.” Over the years, it was home to many involved in the entertainment industry. Architecturally, the building is Chateauesque in style. This imagery is conveyed through the use of several Medieval-derived elements: a small corner tower, or tourelle, located at the northeast corner of the building; gabled dormers that pierce the roofline; and masonry chimneys.
This Spanish style courtyard apartment building was built and designed by Arthur and Nina Zwebell. It is considered their first architectural and aesthetic triumph. The courtyard features a stone fountain, large outdoor fireplace and dense landscaping. Personalities who resided in the building include Katherine Hepburn and James Dean. It was also used as a location in the 1950 film “In a Lonely Place.”
In 1928, Michael and Isaac Mann commissioned Leland Bryant to design an apartment building at the corner of Harper and Fountain Avenues. Bryant combined Spanish Colonial Revival and Churrigueresque style was named after the 18th century Spanish architect, Jose Churriquera, who used lavish ornamentation in his designs. It was at this building that the infamous “triangle” between Marlene Dietrich and Josef and Riza Von Sternberg took place and led eventually to the divorce of the Von Sternbergs.
This Spanish Colonial Revival building, designed by Arthur Hawes, continues the courtyard housing tradition in the district. The structure consists of three wings that form a narrow courtyard. The centrally located court resembles a Spanish street scene. As the building sits atop a half sunken parking garage, the tiled walkway is landscaped exclusively with potted plants.
A year after completing plans for La Fontaine and Romanesque Villa, Leland Bryant designed another apartment building in the district called Casa Granada, commonly known as Harper House. The restrained Churrigueresque styling evoked a luxury and glamour sought by film industry professionals such as Joe E. Brown, Jeanette Loff, Norma Talmadge and Roland Gilbert. What sets this design apart from his others is the incorporation of a courtyard into the foot of the L-shaped building. The courtyard acts as an outdoor foyer for the apartment units that have individual entrances.
Elwood Houseman was the builder and Julia Morgan was believed to have been the architect of this two-story Monterey Revival courtyard apartment building. The Monterey Revival imagery of the building is conveyed through the use of a second story cantilevered balcony that projects across the principal facade. The balcony is covered by a shed roof with wood posts. The Monterey Revival was virtually the only revival style executed during the 1930’s that had any association with the early California architecture. The architectural prototype of the Monterey style was built by Thomas Larkin in 1840.
The Mediterranean Revival structure incorporates arched apertures with subtle quoining, ornamental ironwork, red-clay tiles on the roof and stairway and a band of decorative glazed tiles. It has a flat roof, with a gabled parapet covered with red-clay tiles. A double row of denticulated molding forms the cornice. Flat pilasters with Zigzag Moderne stepped brackets located at the fourth story, define the edges of the building.
As you finish the walking tour, take a minute to explore the many venues along Sunset Boulevard, as well as the galleries, cafes, showrooms, and boutiques along Santa Monica Boulevard to the south.