Welcome to Hollywood House, Home to Some of Tinseltown’s Most Iconic Stars
Written By: Susan Krupa The House Where Judy Garland, Liza Minelli & Sammy Davis Jr. Lived
Photographed By: Jessica Alexander
Turning off Sunset Boulevard and meandering up through the Hollywood Hills, you leave the city behind and enter an elegant area where the homes are beautiful — perched on steep inclines. As you climb higher, the roads become narrower until you reach your destination, a home at the end of Evanview Drive. An unassuming cream façade hides a house that has been host to more than one Hollywood legend.
This five bedroom, seven and a half bath home has 6, 100-square-feet of living space and is nestled on a 13, 000-square-foot lot. Built in 1944, it was first occupied by Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli. Later, the home was acquired by Sammy Davis Jr., who expanded the property to its present size. Throughout the home, traces of these famous inhabitants have been preserved and put on display so that their presence can be felt throughout.
Through the front door and down a few steps, the foyer opens into the great room, a large open space with maple floors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the hills. A balcony off the great room provides for sweeping vistas of the hills around and the city below. Throughout this space and the rest of the house, as much of the original ironwork, flooring and design has been preserved. The original owner, Judy Garland, would still feel very much at home here.
From the great room, a living room with a fireplace leads to steps up to the dining room. Both the living and dining rooms have substantial windows so that the view below is never out of sight. The kitchen can be accessed from either the dining or living rooms. It is slightly elevated, accessible by stair, as it was originally intended for use by servers and staff who would have been separated from the action. Today, a substantial rectangular cutout in the wall allows for more interaction between the rooms and also provides a view of the landscape from the kitchen. The kitchen itself has been remodeled with a creative oval stone backsplash, countertop stove and sizable refrigerator.
Leaving the main floor, and down a few steps, you will find yourself in an office space between floors that provides a transition from the upstairs great room to the downstairs space where Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli had their living quarters. Continuing down the stairs will take you to the downstairs living room, which has blackout curtains and a retractable screen that turns this space into a media room ideal for movie screenings.
Right off of this downstairs living room is a bedroom that was originally occupied by Liza Minnelli when she lived here with her parents. On the opposite wall are built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookcases. It would appear that the room ends here. However, the bookcase actually holds a hidden door that leads into the Judy Garland suite — the home’s original master bedroom, complete with a walk-in closet and dressing area. Today, an ornate golden bed frame stands in the room, and an old photo of the famous sparkling ruby slippers hangs on the wall. The dressing area is untouched from when Garland and Minnelli lived here and is complete with the original mirrors. Hidden in the back of the closet and dressing area is a panic room that was built with the original house. It’s unknown why Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli felt this was necessary, nor whether this area has ever been used for its intended purpose.
Walking back up the stairs and through the Great Room, another staircase leads up to a floor that wasn’t part of the original home. Up here you’ll find a home gym and spa-like bathroom, as well as the spacious master bedroom. Complete with a sitting area and fireplace, the bedroom also has an enormous attached bathroom with its own fireplace and a free-standing tub adjacent to a window overlooking the hills. A gentle breeze flows through the space making it a relaxing and cool place to be on a hot summer day.
When you leave the house and enter the backyard, you find yourself in an urban oasis designed by Sammy Davis Jr. himself. He expanded the home during his time as owner, adding the top floor of the house, and introducing a pool and pool house to the property. He felt very strongly about these additions and spoke of them in great detail in his autobiography “Yes, I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr.” Coming down the stairs from the main house, the black double doors of the pool house bear large, eye-catching silver handles in the shape of two overlaid ‘H’ letters standing for ‘Hollywood House.’
The structural integrity of the pool and pool house remains; they carry the same footprint as when Davis designed them. The pool is an unusual round yet rectangular shape because he insisted there not be any sharp edges or any square corners. Davis was known for being an extremely detailed and conscientious planner and, as such, there is no aspect of his architectural creation that was left to chance. He was very clear that his pool house was meant to be a chic space fit for a Hollywood superstar, a place for recording music and hosting late-night parties away from the main house where his children slept.
The main floor of the pool house hosts a bar and lounge area. The wall behind the bar is decorated with framed pictures of Sammy Davis Jr. at the house, parties at the pool, and even one of Frank Sinatra sitting at the bar. The overall look of the pool house is modern yet classically chic. Black and white photos on the wall sit well with the monochrome interior. In this space, you can easily imagine being at a fabulous party attended by the Rat Pack and the glamorous Hollywood set.
The pool house includes an upstairs bedroom and bathroom so that after a late-night party, Davis would not have to climb the stairs to go back to the main house. Additionally, as he anticipated having guests over frequently, he included separate men’s and women’s powder/changing rooms on the bottom floor, for when the daytime pool party turned into an evening soirée.
Being as involved in the music industry as he was, Davis let out the pool house for the purpose of recording music. In fact, The Band recorded their second album in here. Released in 1969, The Band’s self-titled album includes many of their most well-known songs, including “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” After unsuccessful attempts at recording in the studio, The Band was looking for a recording space that would give the album a grittier feel. Apparently they had a good experience while recording at the home, as they write about it in the album cover itself.
From the pool area and looking up, lush foliage surrounds the entire property with bamboo, banana leaf trees, fruit trees, and tropical plants along with the smell of fragrant jasmine in the air. The result is a feeling of being in a secluded paradise high above the streets of LA. This beautiful estate is more than just a house; it is a refuge high in the hills, alive with Hollywood history and glamor.
Native Knowledge: The Hollywood Hills are synonymous with beautiful homes, celebrity residents and sweeping vistas. However, living in the Hollywood Hills is a completely different experience. Each neighborhood or canyon is a community unto itself. Due to the acoustical properties of the geography, music and parties can be heard throughout. The result is the bustle of living in a city, with the familiarity of knowing your neighbors. The hills are full of energy and life; it’s a place where everyone has an interesting story to tell.