Sunday, May 9, 2010

The mysterious Villa Carlotta

Having lived within a few blocks of this old pile for more than a decade now, I have developed a fascination with its decrepitude, its history and its unapologetically ungentrified charm.

I have both daytime and oneiric fantasies of living in one of its 50 once-glamorous apartments, which were previously home to such royalty as William Randolph Hearst (he reportedly built the place to be near his paramour, Mrs. Thomas Ince, who later built the Chateau Elysee, now the Scientology Celebrity Centre, across the street), Edward G. Robinson, and George Cukor.

Louella Parsons lived at Villa Carlotta and her Hollywood gossip column was penned from these premises. Celebrated Southern California architect Wallace Neff moved into a studio apartment here after his divorce and had an office across the street, in the building that now houses The Bourgeois Pig coffee shop and Birds.

My great friend Steve Silberman, a contributing editor at Wired magazine, visited L.A. recently and managed, through his usual serendipitous luck, to get a glimpse of the lobby and courtyard of this faded Franklin Avenue dowager.

His photos, below, were taken with an iPhone app that imitates the broad spectrum of HDRI photography.

For more on Steve and his multifarious pursuits—which include the Grateful Dead, Buddhism, psychedelia, neurology, and autism—see his website at


  1. Having lived & thrived at the wonderful Villa Carlotta for 14 great years 1981-94 (until just after the Northridge earthquake), I'm interested in your visits. Intelligent, amusing writings and great pictures.... more to come. Nin

  2. Marvelous. I too have been curious about this building.

  3. Hi, im from Mexico, i have the floor plans of this building...

    Garage and store building for Mrs, Thomas L. Ince
    ne. Corner of Franklin & Tamarind

    art. E. Harvey Architect
    531. Black Blog Los Angeles.... There is one photo...
    it is beautiful and old..

    1. Regarding the floor plans, is it possible to get a copy of those? If so, please provide an email address to reach you. Thanks

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