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Garbutt-Hathaway Estate Frank A. Garbutt, Builder c.1923

Garbutt-Hathaway Estate Frank A. Garbutt, Builder c.1923
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One of Silver Lake's largest estates at 11,743 square feet on a lot of 82,764 square feet. This huge residence has a storied history, culminating in the development of the Hathaway Estates, a planned subdivision within Silver Lake. The house was built in 1923 and has a commanding 360 Degree View atop one of Silver Lake's highest hills. The house is built entirely of reinforced concrete; there is not one stick of wood in its structure. Mr. Hathaway apparently had a great fear of fire, and did not want his house burning down! It was recently (September 2004) on the market for $3,250,000. The house is located at 1809 Apex Avenue in Silver Lake. It is currently owned by Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel, known for his success as an entrepreneur and passion for simple clothing. His leadership style has drawn extensive praise and criticism. He has earned recognition in the media for management decisions to pay a fair wage and refusing to outsource manufacturing. The Los Angeles Times named him as one of the Top 100 powerful people in Southern California and in 2009, he was nominated as a Time 100 finalist by Time magazine.

If any of our readers know about the development of Hathaway Estates, details about the original owner, architect or builder, please feel free to contact the editor of this column.

NOTES: I recently received an e-mail from Michele Martin informing me that 'the Estate belonged to a Charles Hathaway, a director/studio head from the silent screen era. His great granddaughter, Robin Clarke, was my best friend and neighbor when I lived at 2400 Micheltorena Street.'

Michele Martin
Greenwich Library

SLN Subscriber Ken Puchlik writes: 'From 1950 to 1965 I lived on Redesdale Ave. on the west side of the valley looking east at the Hathaway house on top of the hill. It was always vacant and never a light on. One night, the mansion was ablaze with light and everyone came out to wonder what was going on. It was simply the moon rising behind the home and the light was passing through the windows and out the other side. Obviously, it was devoid of furniture or curtains.

I also remember that there was another large building or home next to it; people said it was another mansion. It apparently was demolished during the construction of the 'tract' homes that I believe were a poor use of the viewscape. Having half the number of lots with higher end-well designed homes, taking better advantage of the pre-existing topography, would have been better use of the land. The developer should have used the axiom of 'less is more' and probably realized more investment return by developing premium lots on what was a rare piece of land. Paradise lost.

Mr. Hathaway had good reason to fear fire. In the early 50's a grass fire at the end of summer burnt up to the edge of the estate. Every local fire unit was on the scene. Dry summer grass was prevalent with all the vacant lots at the time. After that, the fire department started controlled burns of the lots every summer.

Before the hum of the freeways diminished the neighborhood's ambient sound, you could hear the trains switching in the yards off Fletcher Dr. late at night. The greatest chili dogs in the world were sold out of the old Signal Gas station at Effie and Silver Lake Blvd. Across the street, the 7/11 was a Union Oil Gas station with the friendliest guys who took good care of you at 20 cents a gallon of gas. And a kid could walk the 0.75 mile to catch the PE and go to the Ramona and see a 25 cent movie without any concern for safety, even at night.

Craig Collins writes 'When I moved here in 1982, the subdivision was just being built. The land had been bought by CalTrans for continuation of the Glendale Freeway, which was to connect with the Hollywood Freeway (near Vermont...where there's that very wide median), then on to Beverly Hills, which was to be the name of the freeway. As a result of that unfortunate choice of name and alignment, one of the very first successful opposition to a California freeway project was mounted, and the freeway ended at Glendale Boulevard. After many years, CalTrans began selling off the property, and you can pretty much trace the path by much of the newer construction, especially on the south side of Sunset.

I had heard about an effort to create a park on the Hathaway hill, but know nothing further about it. How spectacular that would have been!

Anyway, Peggy Stevenson was City Councilperson at the time, was a fervent supporter of the development community, and she evidently got quick approval of the housing project. After the development was completed, it mysteriously became a gated community. It's worth noting that Stevenson was defeated in a reelection bid by Michael Woo, who shepherded many of the pro-planning and more progressive changes in the city (such as getting a moratorium on the explosive development of mini-malls that was then in full swing). Upon her defeat, Stevenson systematically destroyed all the district constituent and project files in her office, forcing Woo to begin his office with nothing to aid projects and constituent concerns. That was the good old days in the LA City Council!

Well, that's what I know, subject to verification by others who may have a better historical perspective.

Veteran Silver Lake activist Maryann Kuk writes 'My recollection about Hathaway is that it had nothing to do with the #2 freeway. It was before I participated in any community stuff. The Hathaway estate (they are old money LA Athletic club, Riviera Country club, CA yacht club) sold it to a developer who wanted to build 100's of condos. SLRA got heavily involved opposing along with the immediate 'hood and the developer backed down to the 40+ or so [ugly, tract, crappy] houses. He promised to leave all of the mature tress, but the day after he got his permit he cut them all down. The Hathaway family had been collectors of specimens and I'm told it was beautiful.'

The Silver Lake News thanks our readers for their generous contributions of history and insights of Silver Lake!

Update: Without editing the content, I found some new "wrinkles" to our ongoing story, as reported in the popular real estate blog, "Take Sunset", March 28th, 2011:

"The Garbutt House actually has a very interesting history. It’s one of Silver Lake’s largest estates at 11,743 square feet of interior space, 3-stories tall with 20 rooms. It was built by Frank A. Garbutt, a movie pioneer, inventor, industrialist, and “one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th Century” according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1923, Garbutt acquired the 37-acre hilltop site overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica and Verdugo Mountains, and the downtown skyline. He built three houses on the site, which came to be known as the Garbutt-Hathaway Estate. (Garbutt’s son-in-law was Charles F. Hathaway, a shipbuilder and real estate developer.) The structures were built primarily of concrete, and were designed to withstand earthquakes, floods, and fire, which Garbutt was particularly afraid of. (There were also no fireplaces in the home.) He did allow some design touches, however. There were bronze window frames, hand carved teak and marble floors, and the first floor was entirely travertine.

Garbutt lived in the mansion until his death in 1947. In his spare time, he experimented with new inventions, built race cars, (his homemade car appears in the photograph above), invented a soapless detergent, and worked on a superior chewing gum.
Garbutt’s three children and their families lived on the estate after his death in 1947. The estate was eventually sold by his daughter in 1960. According to the LATs, The houses sat dormant for several years as owners battled with the city and preservationists over plans to raze the three houses and build condominiums or a large housing development on the site. In 1978, two of the houses were torn down to make room for a 100-home development, but the Garbutt House was spared. In 1987, the Garbutt House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s now part of the gated community Hathaway Hill Estates, and it most recently sold in 2004 for $3,250,000".

Date: 2009-11-17 05:26:11

Hathaway Estate Silver Lake Architecture Charles Hathaway Michael Locke Silver Lake Los Angeles Architecture Treasures of Los Angeles Architecture Dov Charney Michael Locke, Photographer Michael Locke, Realtor Michael Locke, Editor The Silver Lake News Peggy Stevenson archiref

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Beautiful house and beautiful pictures congratulations
Hello Carlo
carlocorv1 2011-12-29 17:10:27
Your wonderful photo was seen in

nightstar77 2011-12-30 00:37:23
Thank you for sharing this lovely shot.

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ElissaSCA 2011-12-30 15:10:48
Grazie per la condivisione/Gracias por compartirla/Thanks for sharing Case Vecchie - Old Houses Case Vecchie - Old Houses - View this group's most interesting photos on Flickriver
dramatic story 2012-01-02 08:23:41
Great photograph and history Michael. Thank you so much.

Thank you for sharing this lovely shot.

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raaen99 2012-01-02 13:52:54

FGA Award

Seen in: Fine Gold Post 1 and Award 5 others

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