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The Cahuenga Chalet

This L-shaped stunner was the longtime residence of silent film star J. Warren Kerrigan, best remembered for Sampson (1914) and The Covered Wagon (1922).

In 1918, he designed the Swiss Chalet bungalow for himself and his mother Sarah at 2307 Cahuenga Boulevard, “right where the hills bob and dip and form pockets for fields of beautiful flowers to nestle in,” described Motion Picture Magazine in 1918.

It was one-story, as the elderly woman couldn’t climb stairs, with basement rooms for the chauffeur and maid, plus a garage beneath the living room.

French doors opened onto a chalet-style patio that spanned the front of the house, descending in terraces with blossoms of reds, pinks, and yellows.

The bedrooms were located off a wide hallway, each featuring a specially-designed dresser with custom built-ins and electric lighting system.

At the rear of the home, Kerrigan created a den for himself, raised three steps from floor level, with wide windows looking out at what would soon become Whitley Heights.

He loved the view so much, he urged Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to buy a plot of land and put up an Italian villa for him to gaze upon. Instead, they remodeled an 18-acre estate in Beverly Hills, dubbed Pickfair—however, another friend, Rudolph Valentino, did as Kerrigan suggested.

Following his 1947 death, the home survived the Hollywood Freeway path in the early 1950s, yet the surrounding area changed completely: It was now situated near the Odin Street overpass, speeding cars mere yards away.

The new owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Francis, spruced up the place, turning the long hallway into their bedroom and adding a sunroom. In the living room, they hung a portrait of Kerrigan from The Covered Wagon.

In a 1957 interview with the Los Angeles Citizen News, Mrs. Francis revealed she sensed Kerrigan’s spirit wasn’t pleased with the renovations.

“Sometimes … now you really shouldn’t print this,” she said with a nervous laugh. “Sometimes there is … well … a swishing noise. We make a joke of it. We say it’s Kerrigan’s ghost. We don’t really believe it. That would be foolish. But the noise—it’s very soft, like the rustling of leaves—starts in the other room and seems to go through our bedroom ... and it always stops at the wall—the one we boarded up. Perhaps it’s only an echo from the freeway.”

In 1974, fire damaged the Cahuenga chalet. A decade later, developers finished the job, tearing it down in 1988 and erecting a 10-unit concrete eyesore that makes it hard to imagine such beauty once existed here.


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