Sunday, July 21, 2024


The Pickfair mansion has been one of the most famous in the USA. It was even called the Western White House. Los Angeles Future tells more about its story.


Owned by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford, the mansion was the most famous estate in Beverly Hills and was called Pickfair. Fans and townspeople perceive the couple as the king and queen of Hollywood in the 1920s. Thus, it is worth telling a little more about the owners.

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. became famous as an actor, director, producer and screenwriter. The audience loved him for his roles in comedies. He rose to fame as a movie star in the late 1910s. He gained international recognition in such films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, The Black Pirate and many others. His real name was Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman.

Mary Pickford was America’s Sweetheart. The real name of the native of Canada is Gladys Louise Smith. At the age of five, she began to act. She starred in the main role at the age of seventeen (1909). Mary Pickford played in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Sparrows and many other films. She became a star in the film industry, initially earning $1,000 a week (mid-1910s) and later $1 million per year.

In 1916, the actors began meeting secretly while married. They divorced a little later. In 1920, they became husband and wife. Fans were delighted, sincerely cheering for a pair of favorite movie stars.

Legendary mansion

The couple decided to live in the Fairbanks house in Beverly Hills. The husband gave this mansion to his wife as a wedding gift. The mass media combined their last names. Thus, the estate was called Pickfair.

Few people know that Douglas bought this property on April 22, 1919 for $35,000. At that time, it was a six-room hunting lodge. It was built in 1911 by Lee A. Phillips. The man held the position of head of a life insurance company.

According to many media articles, this was a typical home of a wealthy local family in the early 20th century. Here are some characteristic features:

  • the style of the estate was prosaic
  • the furniture embodied a successful combination of French neoclassicism and Jacobean style items
  • the house had a gentlemanly style inside that suited Douglas perfectly.

Something made the mansion stand out. It was the entrance to the Benedict Canyon and the Pacific Ocean nearby. The area of ​​the site reached 14 acres.

Transformations of the Pickfair mansion

Despite the fame of the owners, the Pickfair estate became famous also thanks to constant transformations. This applies to reconstructions, additions for the expansion and modernization of the residence. After buying the estate, the owner immediately began a large-scale reconstruction, which cost $175 000, which was 5 times more expensive than the original cost of the house. The local edition of the Los Angeles Times noted that this was a unique place with a view of the sea (date of publication – July 6, 1919).

What did the new owner change? Why did the reconstruction cost so much? The answer is as follows.

  1. The new owner destroyed the original interior and plan because he added two floors and an entire wing. Thus, it turned into a large three-story L-shaped mansion.
  2. It was described as one half English Tudor and one half Swiss chalet. Each part was characterized by certain features. Thus, steep roof slopes, stone walls, half-timbered structures were characteristic of the English Tudor, which as a result gave the mansion an atmosphere of grandeur and antiquity. The Swiss chalet was characterized by wooden eaves and balconies, thanks to which the atmosphere of coziness and picturesqueness was felt in the estate.
  3. The estate was located right at the top of the hill, surrounded by planted lawns and trees.
  4. It is known that Max Parker, the art director of many movies of the owner of the estate, worked as the architect.

Magnificent receptions

The couple filled their home with priceless collections obtained during years of traveling the world. It was a great honor to receive an invitation to visit the mansion. The couple often hosted Chaplin, screenwriter Frances Marion and Lillian Gish. The invited guests were also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Bernard Shaw, Amelia Earhart and other famous personalities. The couple, which was a highly respected part of society, was visited by members of the royal family.

  1. King Alfonso XIII of Spain with the Queen. The couple were friends. They even visited each other while traveling to Spain and the USA.
  2. Lord and Lady Mountbatten, with whom the famous couple communicated in England.
  3. Duke of York (future King George VI).
  4. King and Queen of Siam (modern Thailand).
  5. Crown Prince and Princess of Japan.
  6. The couple was close friends with the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor. They built a separate house for them on their territory.

Receptions at home were also due to necessity. The stars could not leave the house or the film studio without falling into a crowd of fans. They wanted to have a personal space, which became their mansion.

In addition, communication with famous people helped movie stars to consolidate their status even more in the world of show business and high society.

Another renovation

Mary retired in 1933. She was 40 years old. Her film career started early, at the age of 5, and ended just as early. She commented on it as follows:

‘I knew the time had come’

In 1932, for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, the couple undertook a complete renovation. Professionals were hired for this:

  • the architect was Wallace Neff, who engaged in the renovation and expansion of the mansion. It retained the Regency style with an elegant white facade and red tiled roof
  • Elsie de Wolfe became an interior decorator. She used an 18th century French motif
  • landscape architect A. E. Hanson was in charge of the gardens.

The name of the estate and the sign of the entrance to it were on the wrought iron gate.

Mansion sale

In the middle of 1933, Mary put the mansion up for sale for $500,000. Since 1919, the value of the estate has increased 14 times! Despite the fact that the mansion was really luxurious and famous, no one bought it.

The prerequisite was the divorce of a famous couple. Mary filed for divorce in December 1933 due to her husband’s infidelity with chorister Sylvia Ashley. After that, the couple tried to establish a relationship but without success. In January 1936, Dougals married his mistress. Three years later, he died of a heart attack. Mary found love in the arms of Buddy Rogers a year after her divorce.

After this, Mary again tried to sell the mansion. She and her husband wanted a more modest house in Bel Air. For the second time, no one bought the legendary mansion.

Decline and demolition

After a second unsuccessful attempt to sell the property, Mary Pickford spent the next 15 years gradually selling the property. The change in the territory and the building itself, which had not been maintained for many years, was impressive. Thus, a year before the death of the movie star, the territory of the mansion was overgrown and polluted with garbage. Inside the house, the situation was even worse. The walls and floor were damaged with water.

The third sales attempt took place in March 1980. The price started at $10 million. Since the acquisition of the Pickfair mansion, the area has decreased from 14 to 2 acres. There were no buyers, so they had to halve the price.

The next host was Jerry Bass, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. He began to restore and take care of the estate and grounds. In 1988, it was purchased by actress Pia Zadora and Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis. They planned to reconstruct the estate but demolished almost its entire territory in 1990. Only the guest wing and part of the living room remained. Everything else was destroyed by the couple, wanting to build a much larger palace in the Venetian style.

This is how the story of the legendary Pickfair mansion in Beverly Hills ended.

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