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A Tale of Two Castles

A man’s home is his castle. But for Dr. A.G. Castles, his home was quite literally a castle: The eccentric art collector built a pair of royal residences across the street from each other on Argyle Avenue, his 30-acre kingdom.

Glengarry Castle
Glengarry Castle on Argyle Avenue (USC)

The first, Glengarry, was completed in 1909 and earned recognition as one of the noteworthy mansions of the Hollywood foothills. Its competition, Holly Chateau (now Magic Castle), was designed by the same architectural duo of Dennis & Farwell.

Glengarry was fit for a king and his queen: Past the imported Carrara marble lions guarding the deep-set front door, the great hall was filled with suits of armor from the Middle Ages, tapestries depicting battle scenes, and antique bronze torches (lit with hidden electric bulbs).

To the left, a sitting room with French windows opening onto a patio, dining room, kitchen, and servants quarters. To the right, a large French Renaissance drawing room finished in white and gold. Up the staircase (and past a stained glass portrait of Emperor Maximilian), the five bedrooms each had its own bathroom and “American disappearing bed” fitted with a bookcase front. In the tower was a billiard room.

Looking north from Franklin Avenue at Glengarry Castle

But as Dr. Castles (born Schloesser, meaning “castles” in German) explained to the Los Angeles Times, Glengarry—located at the northeast corner of Argyle and Franklin—was merely “the forerunner of a larger and more magnificent structure” also designed by Dennis & Farwell to be built across the street.

Completed in 1912, Castle Sans Souci (Castle Carefree) was a fortress, set high above Argyle and surrounded by an antique brick wall. Enchantment began at the approach: an elaborate carriage entrance revealing a winding path through terraced gardens created by Queen Victoria’s landscape artist. A 100-foot tower jutted up from the crenelated roof line.

The showpiece of the 23-room home was its Gothic reception hall with a 25-foot ceiling, stone fireplace, knights in shining armor, and art glass windows illustrating “the days of chivalry.” At the south end of the adjoining Louis XV-style gallery was an organ loft.

Each drawing room had its own theme, decorated with the dozens of oil paintings collected by Dr. and Mrs. Castles during their travels abroad. In Hollywood, they purchased four pieces at the Cahuenga home studio of French artist Paul de Longpre.

Sans Souci’s north wing was for dining, both indoor and out. The second-floor chambers each had a bath, dressing room, and sleeping porch.

Castle Sans Souci postcard
Castle Sans Souci was a popular tourist attraction (LAPL/California State Library)

Palatial in size, Sans Souci could hold 200 people and regularly hosted world-famous singers and musicians to entertain locals and European royals alike. Twice a month until the 1918 influenza pandemic, Dr. and Mrs. Castles threw military dances and war relief events for the Red Cross.

In 1914, it had a starring role as “Uncle’s Castle” in Mack Sennett’s Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) with Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler.

Meanwhile back across the street, Glengarry had new rulers: Japanese silent film star Sessue Hayakawa, his actress-wife Tsuru Aoki, and their dog Dynamite, who were all waited on by a team of seven servants.

Tsuru Aoki, Dynamite, and Sessue Hayakawa in the January 1922 issue of Photoplay

In 1928, amid a population boom, Dr. Castles realized Sans Souci’s three acres was prime real estate—and he tore it down to put up a seven-story apartment building: Castle Argyle Arms, “an address of distinction.” Just two miles south, architect Leonard L. Jones also built its twin sister, Hermoyne Apartments on Rossmore.

Castle Argyle on Argyle Avenue

Hermoyne Apartments, Rossmore Avenue

Castle Argyle, as it was renamed, was home to Hollywood royalty like Clark Gable and Anna May Wong. In 1973, it became a home for “mature adults,” and for the last 40 years, a low-income senior living facility.

By the time Dr. Castles demolished Sans Souci, Hayakawa had left Hollywood for good and Glengarry became a house of worship: Temple Israel Synagogue (pictured below) and later, Spiritualist Science Church.

Like Castle Argyle, Glengarry narrowly survived the 101 freeway’s path. But it was no fairytale ending. The surrounding area became just too modern for the medieval castle, and in 1956 it was demolished for a gas station, which was replaced in 1976 with a strip mall.

Hollywood Freeway
The 101 at Argyle, 1953 (LAPL)


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