3839 Clayton Avenue: Serene Traditional Living in Franklin Hills

8x10__IMG_8401_HDRSituated just north of Sunset Drive and West of the Silver Lake Reservoir is this lovely 1,748 sq. ft. home at 3839 Clayton Avenue listed for sale right now at $1.1 million. Built in 1942, the 3 bedroom/2 bathroom property is nestled on a quiet, winding street in the desirable Franklin Hills area of Los Feliz and boasts stunning views of the hills.8x10__IMG_8368_HDR

Franklin Hills sign, courtesy of Franklin Hills Residents’ Association

Franklin Hills sign, courtesy of Franklin Hills Residents’ Association

The Franklin Hills neighborhood, situated between Los Feliz and Silver Lake, occupies the area just south of Tracy Avenue, east of Talmadge, and west of Hyperion—offering the best of both the Los Feliz and Silver Lake worlds in an unbeatable, tranquil setting. A quick search on the neighborhood and you’ll find “hidden gem” used more than once to describe this fantastic enclave. According to local historian Don Seligman, Franklin Hills

Began to be developed around the same time [as Los Feliz] of the major growth period between 1920 and 1940, with a few earlier properties and some later. The Franklin Hills designation reflects civic pride in narrower Los Feliz tracts, just like Laughlin Park, the Oaks, the Los Feliz Estates, and Los Feliz Square, all of which are part of Los Feliz proper. The timing of these designations relates to the years of the specific tract development—Laughlin Park in 1913, the Oaks about 1930, Franklin Hills about 1930, and the Estates about 1965, and most recently, Los Feliz Square. (Seligman)

Though the prevailing theory (amongst outsiders, mostly) about Los Angeles urban planning is that the city is disjointed, car-obsessed, and simply unwalkable, communities like Franklin Hills prove this to be completely untrue. For starters, Franklin Hills residents formed an influential residential association that is separate from the Los Feliz Improvement Association—a testament to the tight sense of community that marks this particular section of Los Feliz.

8x10__IMG_8374_HDRA close-knit community, however, doesn’t mean you’ll be wanting for privacy. 3839 Clayton is replete with plenty of gorgeous hillside views and equally plentiful shaded, private patios.

8x10__IMG_8380_HDRThe wraparound patio is perfect for sunbathing, too. Franklin Hills combines convenience with comfort for just the right amount of interaction in the world. When you’re ready to step out again, there is plenty to do in the surrounding neighborhood.

The association regularly schedules community events, meets to work on keeping the community free of crime, trash, and graffiti, and is currently involved in ongoing discussions to add a new Franklin Hills sign at Talmadge and Tracy Streets. This would be the eighth such sign in the area and would, in effect, expand the borders of Franklin Hills to include a section of Los Feliz just north of Franklin. The possible annexing of this area vexes some Franklin Hills residents who are worried about property values plummeting, while proponents argue that the sign simply acknowledges the upkeep/maintenance many residents had already been doing in the proposed annexed area.

Such discussions of dissent are no doubt the hallmarks of impassioned, caring communities. Digging in to the history of the area, there’s little doubt as to why it’s worth fighting for the details.

A old map of the Los Feliz area dating back to 1903 shows that Los Feliz was once called Edgewater, Silver Lake was Ivanhoe, and Atwater Village was Tropico. Photo courtesy of Los Feliz Improvement Association

A old map of the Los Feliz area dating back to 1903 shows that Los Feliz was once called Edgewater, Silver Lake was Ivanhoe, and Atwater Village was Tropico. Photo courtesy of Los Feliz Improvement Association

View of Los Feliz hills development, circa 1920-1929 photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

View of Los Feliz hills development, circa 1920-1929 photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

Way before the hipsters, pour-over coffee, and vaccination debates found comfortable homes in Los Feliz, the area was originally occupied by Native Americans, who likely came to the area about 10,000 years ago. In the late 1700s, a Mexican corporal named Jose Vicente Feliz escorted Captain Juan Baptiste de Anza’s expedition into Los Angeles. As a reward, the Spanish government granted him about 6,600 acres of land which was known as Rancho Los Feliz. (Or Los Fee-lus if you’re a heathen.) The land grant was one of the first in California, though the property changed hands several times and didn’t stay in the Feliz family. It was rumored that Don Felix’ niece, a woman named Petronilla, cursed the land, saying that “The wrath of heaven and the vengeance of hell shall fall upon this place!” She was upset that Don Feliz had bequeathed the land to a neighbor rather than to her. A series of Rancho Los Feliz owners after Don Feliz seemed to encounter relatively bad luck, perhaps giving some merit to the notion that Rancho Los Feliz was cursed after all.

Diseno (design) de Rancho Los Felis dated 1843 courtesy of Huntington Digital Library

Diseno (design) de Rancho Los Felis dated 1843 courtesy of Huntington Digital Library

Adobe house owned by the Feliz family, circa 1910. The structure still stands today, though it’s been renovated and is now the Griffith Park Ranger Station. The Feliz Adobe was declared a cultural-historic monument in 1988. Photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

Adobe house owned by the Feliz family, circa 1910. The structure still stands today, though it’s been renovated and is now the Griffith Park Ranger Station. The Feliz Adobe was declared a cultural-historic monument in 1988. Photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

Developer Leon “Lucky” Baldwin (not to be confused with Elias “Lucky” Baldwin, the developer for whom the beloved Pasadena pub is named after) acquired Rancho Los Feliz after the Feliz family. He was unsuccessful in profiting off of the land, however, and sold the land to industrialist and mining magnate Griffith J. Griffiths. Baldwin’s luck unfortunately ultimately ran out sometime in late 1887, when he was robbed and murdered by bandits in Mexico.

Leon “Lucky” Baldwin’s death notice, Los Angeles Herald, Volume 27, Number 151, 3 September 1887

Leon “Lucky” Baldwin’s death notice, Los Angeles Herald, Volume 27, Number 151, 3 September 1887

However, true to the curse, Griffith himself didn’t fare much better than Baldwin—in 1903, he was accused of trying to kill his wife Constance in a drunken stupor and served a year in San Quentin prison. He later died in 1919, donating his remaining Los Feliz acreage to the City of Los Angeles, adding to the area we now know as Griffith Park.

San Francisco Call, Volume 94, Number 125, 3 October 1903

San Francisco Call, Volume 94, Number 125, 3 October 1903

The Franklin Hills area of Los Feliz, specifically, is renown for its connection to the entertainment industry. It is believed that Prospect Studios, a 23-acre studio lot which sits at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Talmadge Street (which is named after silent screen star Norma Talmadge), is one of–if not the oldest–studio in Hollywood. It was originally called the Vitagraph Studios, and the films of Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Laurel & Hardy and others were shot there. The studios were acquired by ABC in 1948 and became the ABC Television Center. Currently, General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy are both produced there.

On-set at the original Vitagraph Studios on Prospect Avenue, circa 1917. Photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

On-set at the original Vitagraph Studios on Prospect Avenue, circa 1917. Photo courtesy of USC California Historical Society Collection

No discussion about Franklin Hills is complete without mention of Walt Disney. Besides the fact that Prospect Studios, as part of ABC, became part of the Walt Disney Company in 1996, Walt Disney himself lived in the Franklin Hills area for a brief amount of time, moving in around 1926. He and his brother lived at 2495 and 2491 Lyric Avenue, respectively, until Walt and his wife Lillian moved into a second home nearby on Woking Way in the early 1930s. The homes were not far from the first Walt Disney Studios on Hyperion Avenue, where a Gelson’s Market now exists.

An advertisement featuring Walt Disney at his Woking Way estate, circa 1939

An advertisement featuring Walt Disney at his Woking Way estate, circa 1939

But perhaps just as iconic as the presence of Walt Disney in Franklin Hills is the presence of the famed Shakespeare Bridge, which many might say is truly the entrance into this particular section of Los Feliz. Located at Franklin Avenue and St. George, the bridge was built in 1926 by J.C. Wright and was declared a historic-cultural monument in 1974. Designed in a Gothic style that is certainly more typical of Shakespeare’s home country than of LA, the bridge was named after the famous playwright for unknown reasons.

Shakespeare Bridge, also known as the Los Feliz Bridge, circa 1928. Photo courtesy of waterandpower.org

Shakespeare Bridge, also known as the Los Feliz Bridge, circa 1928. Photo courtesy of waterandpower.org

Additionally, right near the Shakespeare Bridge on St. George and Franklin is the first public stairwell on a route of 14 stairwells in Franklin Hills. According to the Franklin Hills Resident Association, the stairwells were built in the 1920s as a shortcut to get to trolley lines. The Sierra Club has a nifty map that details a route that you can take to hit all 14 of them if you’re feeling up to the challenge. Much better than CrossFit, don’t you think?

8x10__IMG_8483The stairwells, built nearly contemporaneously with the property at 3839, are quite close to the property. In fact, there’s one not far from 3839 Clayton Avenue—it’s listed as the seventh stairwell on the map. And what a lovely entrance to stagger through after working out those quads! An open floor plan and sleek wood floors connecting the foyer to the living areas provide ample areas for lounging.

8x10__IMG_8592A classic, well-lit living room with expansive windows and gorgeous wooden floors juxtaposed with a marble-inset fireplace strike up just the right balance between luxury and lounge.

8x10__IMG_8563Adjacent to the living room is a spacious dining room. The open floor plan, crown moldings, and floor-length French doors opening out onto a patio make the home a perfect indoor/outdoor space for entertaining.

8x10__IMG_8495A bright, spacious kitchen with high ceilings and spotlight lighting provides everything that one needs for a gourmet meal. Wooden cabinetry combine with marble countertops for the ultimate in sleek sophistication.

8x10__IMG_8642_HDRAfter you’ve pressed your coffee, enjoy it outdoors with a newspaper perched high above Clayton Avenue on one of the multiple patios…

8x10__IMG_9228_HDR…and enjoy the view of downtown…

8x10__IMG_9240_HDR…or the view of the hills…it’s your choice. It’s all about perspective, or which patio you happen to be sitting on at the time.

8x10__IMG_8513One of the three bedrooms with French doors that open out onto a patio.

8x10__IMG_8521With bathrooms as luxurious as this, full of streaming natural light and resplendent marble—not to mention a Jacuzzi tub—one has multiple places to unwind in this serene Franklin Hills home.

8x10__IMG_8544We imagine that the property’s first owners—we think they are Southland real estate developer Frank R. Strong, and his wife Betty S. Strong–would be pleased with the upkeep and design of this traditional home.

The Strongs had property all over Southern California, and if it’s the same Betty and Frank Strong referenced in this old LA Times article, they kept interesting company. The article references the friendship between President Warren Harding and a real estate developer named Frank Strong, who we think was likely the first owner of the land belonging to the 3839 Clayton Avenue property.

image047Frank and his wife Betty were one of the nine households originally in Crescenta Canada Foothills according to the website unitelcf.wordpress.com. He and his wife lived on property owned by Governor Albert Wallace in a castle known as “Strong’s Castle,” then later as “Pink Castle.” Rumor has it that Betty, perhaps in retaliation for being left alone while her husband worked and traveled constantly, painted the castle pink. Modeled after a Scottish castle, the Pink Castle was also once home to Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, and was the site of Madonna’s wedding reception after her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

Funeral notice for Betty Strong. Pasadena Independent June 19, 1962

Funeral notice for Betty Strong. Pasadena Independent June 19, 1962

3839 Clayton Avenue’s more recent tenants have included prominent lawyers, judges, company presidents, and more. It caters to those who want just the right amount of home in a quintessentially beautiful LA neighborhood.

Catwoman fans will be happy to know that Julie Newmar once lived at 3896 Clayton Avenue

Catwoman fans will be happy to know that Julie Newmar once lived at 3896 Clayton Avenue

The Franklin Hills area is also currently home to celebs like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who just purchased a gorge vintage 1940s home designed by famed architect Paul Revere Williams for $3.25 million. Los Feliz in general is a popular enclave for actors, directors, and musicians; a quick look at the Wikipedia page for celebrities associated with Los Feliz reads like a Who’s Who of Cool.

Walt Disney lived here at 2495 Lyric Avenue.

Walt Disney lived here at 2495 Lyric Avenue.

Both Grease and Nightmare on Elm Street were partially filmed at John Marshall High School on Tracy Street, not far from 3839 Clayton Avenue.

Los Feliz, and specifically Franklin Hills, where 3839 Clayton is situated, defies every stereotype about Los Angeles’ urban accessibility. The communities are tight-knit yet friendly, the stairwells keep it walkable, and the numerous stores, bars, landmarks, and restaurants provide plenty for the urban adventurer to do on foot.8x10__IMG_9231_HDR

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