top of page

The French Village (1921-1951)

Below the Mediterranean mecca of Whitley Heights sat another European-inspired beauty: the French Village.

In 1919, brothers Walter and Pierpont Davis built up a cluster of unique cottages, located at the convergence of Highland Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard, modeled after the Normandy countryside—“far removed from the conventional, commercial type,” described the 1921 Building Review.

For three decades, the charming artist enclave nestled amongst sycamore trees, banana palms, California poppies, and hollyhocks was home to actors, musicians, singers, dancers, writers, and fashion designers.

The Monkey House, built for interior decorator Minnie Sweet Muchmore, was the definition of whimsy. Named for the carving of frolicking monkeys over the entrance, it featured multicolored roof shingles, checkered chimney, diamond-paned windows, flagstone pathway, and a rustic bridge stretching across a lily pond.

“One almost expects to see a witch on a broomstick flying out of that checker-board chimney,” remarked the 1921 Building Review.

Inside, a variety of arches tunneled through the bedrooms, boudoir, gold bathroom, living room, and dining room, its plaster walls decorated with ornate stencils of medallions and scrolls. Gold leafing on the bathroom’s domed ceiling complemented the cerulean blue tile.

Next door to the Monkey House, Wallace Beery rented the Sycamore House.

Long before famed MGM costumer Adrian crafted Dorothy’s ruby slippers for The Wizard of Oz, he lived in the Village—first at the French Pavilion (defined by a tapestry brickwork façade) before moving a few doors down to the Tower House, where his interior decor was “strange but lovely.”

The French Pavilion

Being located at the “Gateway to Hollywood” had its drawbacks. As the intersection swelled with more motorists, the French Village had to adjust.

A 1925 widening of Cahuenga Pass claimed two bungalows, although the loss did inspire the Davis Brothers (who also built the nearby Roman Gardens on Highland) to hatch an adaptive plan: three live-work studios along the bustling avenue, which they named House of Jonah & the Whale, House of the Virgin Mary, and the Henry IV House.

Over the next dozen years, an underpass plowed below the intersection to relieve traffic congestion, a Texaco gas station popped up on the property—and some residences were converted to a hotel.

However, it was the Hollywood Freeway that officially declared “c’est fini” for the French Village. On Jan. 20, 1951, residents celebrated its rich history with a farewell party to reminisce—like the time a 3,000-pound iron ball used to crush rocks at an excavation project rolled down the Cahuenga Pass and plowed into the Village’s frontage.

Ahead of freeway construction, several of the structures were relocated, although the four that moved to El Sereno didn’t last very long and were demolished.

Today, at least two relics remain: What is believed to be the Gargoyle House, now a charming home for local bon vivants in Tujunga, and a cottage hidden away behind an apartment building in Atwater Village ... that story to come soon.

The Gargoyle House


bottom of page