2153 Kress Street in Laurel Canyon
1939—a truly golden year in Hollywood film history. Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington all made their premieres this year.
It was also the same year that this gorgeous, private bungalow retreat at 2153 Kress Street was built. Set high within the historic Laurel Canyon environs, this 2625 sq. ft. home is located on a ¾ acre lot complete with a bevy of mature trees surrounding it. With 4 bedrooms and 4 baths, this single-story stunner is set on its own private street–the perfect, peaceful oasis for creative individuals. 2153 Kress rests on property that once belonged to the famed Weatherwax family, known for training some of Hollywood’s top dogs. That’s not a euphemism, either…we’re talking Lassie and Toto, folks!
Animal-training is steeped into the history of the property which was once owned by a man named Walter Weatherwax. Born in Kansas, Weatherwax married a woman named Anna Wallis and moved to Los Angeles around 1913, where he eventually lived in a home on North Cahuenga. He also built a small home on the Kress property that was addressed as 265 Kress Street. At his Cahuenga home, Weatherwax trained horses and dogs—even a bear which he kept in a backyard cage. Walter had a role in the silent film “The Covered Wagon,” and his children would continue on into the world of entertainment. Son Frank worked as a studio carpenter, and son Judd as a movie prop master.
But it was Walter’s son Rudd that would widen the reach of the Weatherwax name within the world of dog training. Rudd trained all of the original collies used in the popular TV show Lassie. Fun fact: though she was a female in the show, Lassie was always played by male dogs.
In 1929, Imogen Weatherwax, Rudd’s wife, died in a horrific accident while riding the High Boy roller coaster on the Santa Monica pier. There was speculation that Imogene jumped off the ride, but ultimately the death was ruled an accident.
The Weatherwax family continues to maintain a tradition of animal training. Bob, Rudd’s son, continues to train dogs and has worked on the Back to the Future series, Married With Children, Lassie’s Best Friends Are Forever, and many others. Ken Weatherwax, Rudd’s nephew, played the original Pugsley Addams on The Adams Family TV show.19 acres of wild land surround the property. The Weatherwax family slowly parceled out their Kress Street land and moved their dog-training business to the San Fernando Valley. Walter Weatherwax kept a home at nearby 2131 Kress Street until about 1938.A carpenter named Walter French and his wife Lulu May French purchased the land from the Weatherwax family in 1939 as an investment property. The Frenches actually lived in a separate home at what was then 2123 Stanley Hills Drive. They paid around $2,000 to build the home—a low price for a house of this size—even during the Great Depression.The home exudes the easy comfort of a California bungalow while still maintaining a sense of luxury, a great recipe for blissful Southern California living. Sunlight streams through the wooden beam ceilings and a gorgeous stone fireplace adds an extra homey touch to the living space.A sunny, eat-in kitchen continues the friendly vibe. Wooden cabinets and vaulted beam ceilings make the space airy and open; a curved entryway to the dining area adds elegance.Pendant lighting adds an extra special touch to the simple-living comfort of the home without obstructing the sight lines. Red Spanish tiles integrate notes of California into the spacious, cabin-like feel of the design. Simple, clean, and cozy.A recessed area in the kitchen offers a convenient place to plan your next delicious meal, surf the internet, or study—all while being strategically located right near the food.The dining area is enclosed by large bay windows offering a lovely, verdant view of the back yard. What is more peaceful than enjoying a morning mug of tea while musing over the beauty of nature?The adjacent family room continues the home’s open floor plan, yet a second fireplace (flanked by that amazing stonework) keeps the room cozy. The addition of the family room and fireplace was completed in 1973, by then-owners Lee Snyder and his wife Geraldine. The Snyders were the longest owners of the property; in 1976 they sold the home to Jay and Jane Rubenstein.A bright, sunny guest bathroom with casement windows that open up to more verdant gorgeousness.French doors graciously open up onto the backyard. This is the perfect room for a guest or a child.A second bedroom with lovely built-in bookshelves, large windows, and window seat with plenty of storage underneath. What a great place to snuggle up with a book, especially on a rainy day.Skylights bathe the master bedroom in natural light and sliding glass doors with earthy wooden frames continue the home’s indoor/outdoor feel.Interior wood detailing and rafters are common features of California Bungalow homes. The California sun hits the wood nicely, brightening up any room.A decadent, dreamy master bath with a Jacuzzi and soft lighting awaits its lucky owner. A gorgeous etched glass window allows just the right amount of light indoors. True bliss.An outdoor brick patio amidst the lush foliage of the backyard offers a great space for gatherings or for enjoying a casual Sunday breakfast. The space lends itself well to entertaining; in true Laurel Canyon style, there’s certain to be a history of music and merrymaking at 2153 Kress. In fact, one of the home’s previous owners was Bruce Gowers—the talented British producer and prolific director widely known for his work on large productions like award shows and music events. But the crown jewel of his impressive career—and there are many, including several videos for Michael Jackson—is most definitely his groundbreaking direction of the chart-topping single from Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody.Gowers lived at the home from 1983-1986; over a decade later, in 1998, another creative moved in. Writer and producer Mark Driscoll and his wife Robin gained the title that year. His credits include Ellen, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, 90210, Kirstie, and According to Jim. The home exudes just the right ambiance for the muse to take over…No paradise—especially a creative’s paradise— is complete without a backyard hammock. It’s not hard to imagine one of the home’s past residents dreaming up a scene or crafting dialogue while gazing at the stars here…A backyard jungle gym turns this quiet, natural paradise into endless fun for the little ones.The spacious lot offers opportunities for every pursuit—even of the poultry-raising variety. This working chicken coop was once home to the Magic chickens that performed at the world-renown Magic Castle in Hollywood. Does it get any more LA?This beautiful kidney-shaped pool was originally constructed in 1950 and later remodeled in 1992. Originally, a hobby/workshop area was constructed nearby, as was a utility shed.The surrounding abundant foliage, iron gating, and intricate stone tiling make this a truly private and luxurious respite.A perfectly matched garage sits nearby, nestled in the forest. Gorgeous wooden doors and pine green trim maintains the nature-inspired theme of the home, even outdoors. Originally a 720 sq. ft. carport in 1957, made with a concrete foundation, open sides, and a shed-like composition roof.The driveway of the home leads to a longer, winding driveway down the private street.Kress Street was actually named after Joseph H. Kress, the original owner of the 3.84 acres that made up the Kress neighborhood. The area was originally called “Bungalow Land” for, well, the obvious reason that the area was home to quite a few bungalow homes.
Laurel Canyon began to garner attention sometime in the early 1900s. Until then, the area was used primarily as a water source for neighboring valleys. Many flocked to the area for its natural beauty, climbing up the canyon along what is now known as Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Celebrities liked the area because of its proximity to the film studios and the Sunset Strip.
According to author Michael Walker, who wrote Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, a “log-cabin style roadhouse was built at 2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard.” Dubbed the Laurel Canyon Tavern, it was purchased by rodeo star Tom Mix and later inhabited by Frank Zappa, before it burned down on Halloween, 1981.
Developer Charles Spencer Mann helped to bring residents to the area by creating a trackless trolley that traveled to Bungalow Land and Wonderland Park. The trollies were the first ever of its kind in the United States. Who says that LA isn’t a transportation-innovative city?
The hard work of Mann paid off—Laurel Canyon is now home to many of the city’s most gorgeous homes and well-to-do tastemakers. Mann’s vision may have truly come to fruition, but thankfully there are still pockets of pristine paradise in the Canyon.Homes like 2153 Kress, for example, where you can pull up your Adirondack chair just about anywhere and take in the Canyon view. Any seat’s the best one in this house.