2700 Hollyridge Drive: A Perfect Panorama in Beachwood Canyon

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Just south of Bronson Canyon and west of Griffith Park sits this gorgeous 2 bed/2bath, 1,431 square foot midcentury home built in 1955 and located in the prestigious Hollywood Hills. Situated just close enough to the city to be convenient, but surrounded by a boon of greenery and the occasional deer to help forget that Hollywood and the frenetic glamour that accompanies it is just a few miles away, this is the ideal home for those who value privacy and proximity.

A citrus grove in Beachwood Canyon at Gower and Beachwood Drive, circa 1893

A citrus grove in Beachwood Canyon at Gower and Beachwood Drive, circa 1893

The home is in the lovely Beachwood Canyon area, one of the most enviable locations in the city because it is just close enough to shopping and nightlife yet still maintains an air of easy bucolic living that many don’t associate with Los Angeles.

Long after the Tongva people settled in the “Place of the Hill” (Cahuenga, now known as Hollywood), citrus farmers and developers began populating the rich, verdant pastures of the canyons. Surprisingly, even in the 200 years since this spate of development, the canyon areas have retained much of their original glory.

An ad by H.H. Wilcox, Los Angeles Herald, September 12, 1888

An ad by H.H. Wilcox, Los Angeles Herald, September 12, 1888

Developers like H.H. Wilcox and Harry Chandler began developing the 500-acre subdivision of “Hollywoodland” in the early 1900s, luring prospective homeowners to the hills with claims about its lush flora, views, and…its lack of malaria? In the ad above, written by H.H. Wilcox, he writes:

“[Hollywood] possesses the finest soil in the world…it will grow successfully the most delicate flower or tender plant in midwinter, without irrigation. In fact, we never irrigate this foothill land…no malaria, but little fog, pure, unmolested ocean breeze…pure, soft water…”

Easter at Hollywood Bowl, San Bernardino County Sun, April 22, 1924

Easter at Hollywood Bowl, San Bernardino County Sun, April 22, 1924

1922 Hollywood Bowl postcard, Courtesy of Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University

1922 Hollywood Bowl postcard, Courtesy of Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University

As Hollywood and the canyons became more populated, entertainment venues like the Hollywood Bowl figured into the daily lives of the residents.

Today, a resident of 2700 Hollyridge Drive gets their own splendid, personal fireworks show from the Bowl, and depending on how the wind is blowing, the occasional concert too.

The Hollywood Bowl was founded in 1921 by William Reed and his son Ellis as a place for a newly launched theater troupe to perform. One of the Bowl’s first events was a sunrise service, which eventually became a rather regular and fabulous occurrence involving the LA Philharmonic, the Hollywood children’s chorus, and “thousands upon thousands of Easter and calla lilies.” What a sight that must have been!

The Oregon Daily Journal, April 30, 1916

The Oregon Daily Journal, April 30, 1916

As is evident from the architecture of Hollywood and canyon homes, European living was something to aspire to in the hills, and marketers knew this. Developers touted the idea of living in a Mediterranean and European-inspired community in their ads. A ginormous performance of Julius Caesar was even staged in a “natural amphitheater” designed to approximate a real Roman one…of course we know it now as the Hollywood Bowl. The play drew thousands to Beachwood Canyon and some really great photos of the performance can be found at the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection.

San Bernardino County Sun, September 20, 1932

San Bernardino County Sun, September 20, 1932

Of course, Hollywood dreams can be dashed just as easily as they can be built. In 1932, the story of Peg Entwistle, a despondent actress who jumped off of the “H” in the “Hollywoodland” sign because of a dwindling career, chilled the backbones of all.

Soon, Hollywood Land and its environs became heavily populated, and real estate prices soared. For a brief time, Hollywood was its own independent city before becoming incorporated into Los Angeles as the smaller city’s need for a larger water supply grew.

The San Bernardino County Sun, July 20, 1924

The San Bernardino County Sun, July 20, 1924

Since the hills were getting saturated, developers soon devised a new tactic to sell homes and began marketing the surrounding areas. They’d put out full page ads in the paper to this effect, like saying that “San Bernardino Heights” was a subdivision of the Hollywood Hills, or that Laguna Hills offered the same “charm, beauty, and glorious vistas” that could be found in the Hollywood Hills.

Los Angeles Herald, November 19, 1909

Los Angeles Herald, November 19, 1909

2700 Hollyridge Drive is located around what was known back then as Beachwood Park. This tract was owned by (and named after, obvi) Albert H. Beach and consisted of 47 lots near Gower and Franklin. Beachwood Drive, a curvy road through the gorgeous hillside that goes on for a little over two miles and ending right where the Sunset Ranch is today, intersected the tract. Beachwood has maintained its small-town feel throughout the years, with locals enjoying the cozy comfort food of the Beachwood Café and the Beachwood Market as neighborhood staples. And of course, the leisurely jaunt up Beachwood is also one of the best places to catch a good glimpse of the Hollywood sign. A host of celebs from Charlie Chaplin to Keanu Reeves to Madonna to have made Beachwood their home over the years.

2700 Hollyridge Drive is also a hiker’s dream home, with its proximity to many delightful trails like the Hollyridge Trail. That trail measures about 3 miles out and back that goes right to the Hollywood sign, starting at the Sunset Ranch. In 1955, when this home was built, the movie Day the World Ended, a sci-fi flick from director Roger Corman was released. That movie was just one of many (next year would bring The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Lone Ranger) filmed in the historic Bronson Canyon caves just north of the home at 2700 Hollyridge Drive. Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park, Hollywood Reservoir…there’s no end to the variety of outdoorsy options in the immediate vicinity. Or, for the truly adventurous, there’s always the secret stairs…

Courtesy of Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association

Courtesy of Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association

We had the pleasure of speaking with Georgene Vairo, an avid hiker, Loyola law professor and the most recent owner of 2700 Hollyridge. She lived in the home for over 20 years with her three golden retrievers and emphasized how wonderful Hollyridge Drive is for exercising and dogwalking.

One of the first things that surprised her when she moved into the home, though, was the wildlife. She said, “I did the Alaska AIDS Ride in 2000. On my way to the airport, right at the bottom of the house, I see a deer. I thought, “Wow, I’m going Alaska, this is an omen. I can’t imagine what I’ll see when I get to Alaska. That was the last four-legged animal I saw [nothing in Alaska].” She’s also seen red-tailed hawks and once saw “a wise owl in the tree outside of the master bedroom just looking at me. That was amazing for this New Yorker.”

But of course, like for many of these stunning marvels in the hills, the real draw beyond the home itself is what’s immediately outside—the spectacular, unparalleled views.

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And it is precisely these views that first drew Georgene to the property, though at first, as a die hard New Yorker, she wasn’t quite sure she was even going to stay in Los Angeles. Ah, but the city’s allure, as we all know, has an irrefutable pull…

As she tells it, she was initially renting a home in Silver Lake as a newly tenured law professor and became enamored with the Spanish and Mediterranean style homes in the neighborhood. “The first thing that struck me about the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood is how much it reminded me of Tuscany…lots of houses tucked into the hills. I loved the windy streets, I loved the old country feel to it. The streets themselves were still made of concrete, they hadn’t been asphalted over yet. It had a really, really authentic feel to it.”

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After receiving the broker’s info for one of the recently sold homes in the neighborhood that she loved, Georgene toured 2700 Hollyridge with that same broker. At first, she was a bit nonplussed by the exterior, which belies the true beauty within:

“I was like wow, this one is not like the other ones. The garage door was dented, there was a gate and steps on the street that went up on the street that went up to the house, they were painted swimming pool blue…and I was like wondering…why is she showing me this house?”

Georgene had faith in her broker, however, and continued the tour. She remembers,

“We walked up…and I look to my left, the master bedroom…then I walked into the living room…and I go oh my god. I have never seen anything like this. The view was crazy. All the way from Griffith Park to downtown…all the way across…to Harbor, San Pedro, PV, Catalina…to the ocean and Mulholland Drive. I decided right at that moment that I was going to make a full price offer. I had to get that house…I was just totally blown away.” – Georgene Vairo

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It’s easy to see why she was so blown away. Among the many renovations Georgene made to the property was the merging of the living, dining, and kitchen areas (about 3-4 years ago) in a perfect trifecta. Staging by Madison Modern Home here exquisitely highlights just the right balance of coziness and spaciousness. Note the abundant natural light that streams through the multiple transom windows and through the large Fleetwood doors that open onto the patio. Sigh…

Georgene also reconfigured the guest bedroom/bathroom, completely redid the electric, updated the plumbing, removed the carpet when she first moved in and replaced it very recently again with stunning maple floors.

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Georgene’s fave room (if she had to choose) is definitely the living room: “[The living room] is the place where you really experience the house. That’s the house. The renovations I did opened it up even more…it’s just this panorama.”

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Georgene’s Italian heritage means she especially values the joy that cooking and dinner parties can bring to a home, so having ample space to craft a hearty, delicious meal for friends and family was paramount. “I love open entertaining. I love having people over for dinner. It’s a great, great party spot. Where I’m going to hang out is this large space.”

The kitchen is certainly a chef’s kitchen, as evidenced by the wonderfully oversized kitchen island (one of her additions too), and the beloved Mayfair (now Gelson’s) is nearby to stock up the new state of the art fridge. Georgene’s local favorites for dining out include the popular and hip Beachwood Café, especially because, according to her, you will see “movies stars that even I might recognize.”

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The opportunity to dine al fresco, besides being another huge selling point of this property, is in line with the indoor/outdoor principles of midcentury modern architecture. It is unclear who the actual original architect for the home at 2700 Hollyridge Drive is, but the contractor, Charles Licha, has been around since 1948 with offices currently in Arcadia that bear his name.

Licha constructed the home for its first inhabitants, a rather well known harmonica-playing couple by the names of Mildred and Jimmy Mulcay. Prior to the Mulcays, the land on which 2700 Hollyridge sat on changed ownership several times since the early 1900s, but when the Mulcays received the deed in 1948, they were the first to build a home on it in 1955.

Mildred and Jimmy Mulcay, courtesy of seller Movieheaven68, ebay.

Mildred and Jimmy Mulcay, courtesy of seller Movieheaven68, ebay.

The Bradford Era, April 22, 1947

The Bradford Era, April 22, 1947

Besides the occasional accidental swallowing of the harmonica, Jimmy was also an actor who starred in several movies like Night Club Girl and Variety Girl with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Mildred also starred along with her husband and became known as one of the first—if not the first—women to play harmonica professionally. According to the Hermonicas website, she’d been in an all-girl band when she met her husband.

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The interiors boast just the right amount of space for a couple like the Mulcays, a small family, or a busy woman and her three retrievers.

The bedrooms and bathrooms are equally as vibrant and tasteful as the living areas. Cabinetry is made from high quality wood and the minimalist, nature-inspired design fit the home’s theme perfectly. The master bedroom opens onto its own patio for that morning cup of coffee or perfect sunrise yoga amidst a stellar city view.

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Back to the partying. Georgene emphasized how the indoor/outdoor nature of the home lends itself well to entertaining. Plenty of patios and landings, combined with hardy drought-tolerant landscaping and little nooks and crannies throughout make the backyard area an ideal SoCal wonderland.

The neighborhood, while offering abundant privacy, still manages to be very friendly and diverse in its demographics. Many, of course, are in some way connected to the entertainment industry “Axl Rose used to live in the house that I can see from the deck off of my master bedroom. The painter in Murphy Brown [Robert Pastorelli] lived right up the street from me. Ava DuVernay lived a couple houses up from me. There are a number of people from the industry, producers, that live in the area.”

But one of the most precious resources in the neighborhood was Georgene’s immediate neighbors, who have been living in the neighborhood since the 50s. “There are a number of long-term neighbors, and for a while, I was known as the Mayor of the Street…there hadn’t been a lot of social interaction until I moved in.”

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And this is definitely a home designed for socializing. With all the successful, interesting personalities that have resided in the home, it’s fun to think about the types of parties that have been held here in the past.

Mark Fabiani, courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune

Mark Fabiani, courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune

 

Another former tenant who likely had some fab party mojo was Mark D. Fabiani, who lived in the home prior to Georgene from 1987-1995.

The former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, Fabiani now works as a political strategist and is special counsel to Dean Spanos, the San Diego Chargers president. He was nicknamed a “Master of Disaster” for his superior crisis control abilities, and even co-wrote a book about it called Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control.

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But the true test of a SoCal home is whether or not it can lure and retain a New Yorker. And the verdict is in. As Georgene reminisced about sitting in the hot tub with her cup of coffee and looking out onto the expansive LA skyline in those first days at 2700 Hollyridge, she mentioned she made sure to do all of that while talking on the phone to her friends back in New York. We asked if they were jealous and she chuckled. (We’ll take that as a yes.)

“It was really, really fun. It was peaceful and exciting at the same time. You can see the lights from Dodger Stadium, hear the music from the Hollywood Bowl, see the fireworks…the Capitol Records building. In one fell swoop, you can see all of LA.” – Georgene Vairo

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