On the former grounds of Gurdon Wattles’ 1907 Mission Revival style mansion (a registered Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and a relic of Hollywood’s pre-film industry agricultural roots), lies Hollywood’s only community garden. Designed by Myron Hunt (Rose Bowl, Montalban Theatre) and Elmer Grey (Beverly Hills Hotel) in what they called an “American adaptation of the Mexican type.” The house sits atop a series of terraced gardens on 90 acres in the foothills of Hollywood.
Wattles brought in prestigious Scottish landscape artist Alexander Urquhart to create the gardens, and moved into the house that the LA Times called “one of the most notable showplaces of the Pacific Coast” in the fall of 1908. He called it “Jualita,” and with Urquhart’s help he cultivated a Japanese garden, an Italian Rose garden, and several orchards.
Wattles died in 1932, though his wife and son stayed at Wattles Mansion through 1965. When the City of Los Angeles purchased the mansion in 1968, the lower grounds had fallen into disrepair.
As part of his Community Gardens initiative in 1975, Mayor Tom Bradley put out a call to community farmers, about “a dozen or so” of whom volunteered to clear out dead trees, as well as the vagrants who’d taken up residence in the Wattles’ former avocado grove, according to Reed Poverny (VP of the Wattles Farm Board of Directors, and a volunteer since 2003).
The purple border encompasses the mansion, the blue border the front lawn, and the pink border the garden.
After the land was cleared, volunteers built a greenhouse and tool shed and started farming Wattles Farm’s 4.2 acres. Today the garden has 172 plots, worked on by 300 members–all of whom live within five miles of the grounds. Membership is currently full, though Poverny says they’re close to catching up on their waiting list.
Runyon Park is accessible via a trail above the mansion. Park by the large iron gate and take an immediate left up the hill to find the trail.
To see what Wattles looks like today, check out this video.
WHAT: The Wattles Mansion And Gardens
WHEN: Sun up to sun down
WHERE: 1824 N Curson Avenue | Los Angeles, CA 90046
CONTACT INFO: (323) 874-4005
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