Spadena House, named after the family which first lived there, is in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, California. Built in 1921, it has a close connection with the film industry and has appeared in a number of movies. It occupies 330 square metres.
It is an iconic fairytale house, described by architect Charles Willard Moore as the ‘quintessential Hansel and Gretel house.’ Designed by Hollywood art director Harry Oliver, it housed the offices and dressing rooms for film director Irvin Willat (1890 – 1917). It also doubled as a studio set.
But it was then in Culver City, almost 5 miles from Beverley Hills. The house’s miniscule windows, pointed roof, dilapidated shingling, wooden shutters and moat earned it the name ‘Witch’s House’.
Oliver’s work as a set designer and art director is well known, and is prominent in films such as Ben Hur (1926), Sparrows (1926), Seventh Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928), Scarface (1932), Viva Villa! (1934), Mark of the Vampire (1935) and The Good Earth (1937).
In 1934 the house was moved to the corner of Walden Drive and Carmelita Avenue, Beverley Hills. It was surrounded by an intentionally overgrown and unkempt gardener with a rickety looking fence and gate.
Passing bus drivers would tell their passengers to observe the ‘witch’s house’, and to watch out for Mrs. Lilian Lascelle, the witch, a lady of in fact a sweet and friendly temperament.
Spadena House was renovated in the 1960s and the moat started to leak so it was filled in.By 1997 when it returned to the market it was unfortunately in a state of disrepair.
The value of the land invited prospective buyers to tear down the house – the building plot was worth more than the house.
Real estate agent Michael Libow thereupon bought Spadena and began renovations to keep the house. He did, however, receive vicious letters from people thinking he meant to demolish the house. Spadena House still appears in movies, such as Clueless (1995). Thousands of tourists visit it every year.