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The Saga of Paul de Longpre’s Hollywood Estate

Paul de Longpre’s garden estate was the first Hollywood tourist attraction—and a ticket came with admission into his artistic residence.

Paul de Longpre Hollywood home
Paul de Longpre (left) pictured outside his Hollywood home (California State Library)

The French painter landscaped every room with his trademark watercolor roses, orchids, lillies, daisies, sunflowers, and carnations.

On the first floor, which was open to the public, framed portraits lined the walls, rested on chairs, even leaned against table legs and windowsills. A number in the lower corner of each correlated to a price list handed to prospective buyers upon entering the art salon.

For those who couldn’t afford an original painting, prints were available for purchase. During de Longpre’s lifetime, it’s estimated one million chromolithographs of his one-of-a-kind creations were put on the market.

Upstairs is where the magic happened. The King of Flower Painters, who moved to Los Angeles in 1899, worked out of a second-story studio with a bird’s-eye view of his muse: three acres embellished with 800 varieties of roses, as well as thousands of poppies, morning glories, daisies, sweet peas, lantanas, and rare plants. Surrounding the property, de Longpre added an evergreen hedge, later perfused by climbing roses.

Paul de Longpre postcard
Paul de Longpre souvenir postcard

By 1905, his “Corner of Paradise” at Cahuenga and Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard) was the most popular stop on the Balloon Route Excursion, a trolley tour between downtown and the beach.

Ticket holders could freely stroll the world-famous gardens and stop by the Oriental kiosk—one of five distinctive pavilions on the property—to purchase de Longpre postcards and calendars to always remember the special day.

Hollywood tourists 1905
Balloon Route Excursion tourists c. 1905 (LADWP)

The gracious host had just one request for the thousands of people who visited each month: Don’t pick the flowers.

It went without saying the rule extended to his home, however, “souvenir cranks” helped themselves to furnishings and several paintings. He identified one art thief, but declined to involve the authorities. “It was a woman, and being a Frenchman, of course, I would not have a woman arrested,” he told a reporter, according to The Life & Art of Paul de Longpre.

1907 Hollywood garden party
1907 Shriner party at De Longpre's estate (USC)

As a result, de Longpre restricted public access to his home: By 1907, it was invite-only. The grounds continued to be Hollywood’s gathering place for social events, such as 1909’s Tunnel Day. Food and drink were served in de Longpre’s custom pavilions, including the rose-covered “Retreat” gazebo and circular “Summer House.”

Throughout much of 1910, the congenial artist battled illness and was confined to the property. Although his health seemed to be improving, in June 1911 a bout of laryngitis compromised recovery and the 56-year-old died at home surrounded by his wife Josephine and their three daughters Alice, Blanche, and Pauline.

De Longpre’s will left the $50,000 residence and its three acres of land to his family, who traveled back and forth between their native France and Hollywood. But as they struggled financially, Josephine was forced to make a heart-wrenching decision: She turned her husband’s beloved villa into a multi-family residence in 1913.

That same year, she also ripped out a portion of the garden to add a quad of rental cottages at 1711 N. Cahuenga (all were relocated in 1925—and three still exist in Los Feliz on Griffith Park Boulevard).

Simultaneously, at the south end of the lot along Hollywood Boulevard several shops were built to accommodate the rural town’s commercial evolution.

Hollywood and Cahuenga 1920
De Longpre home (red), cottages (yellow), and Hollywood Boulevard shops (green) circa 1920 (SCMFT)

Josephine and her daughters eventually returned to France, leaving behind not only the family residence, but also its furnishings … including hundreds of de Longpre’s paintings!

pink roses
"Pink Roses" by Paul de Longpre (Boston Public Library)

Gertrude Wallace, a widow herself, acquired the property and in 1919, she married Emil Haweis, a man who fancied himself an art collector. To spotlight de Longpre’s famous treasures, Haweis remodeled the painter’s salon to remove all partitions and hung up two dozen select pieces—but this gallery would not be open to the general public. For a few hours every Thursday afternoon, admirers could view the collection by scheduled appointment.

Like the de Longpres, Gertrude and Emil loved to entertain friends and family at 1741 Cahuenga, and especially show off the inherited art. In 1922, ahead of a publicized Christmas Eve party, Emil boasted to the Hollywood Citizen News that de Longpre’s paintings would always remain safe at the home where two decades earlier they had been conceived and executed.

But two years later, as developers closed in on the northwest corner of Cahuenga and Hollywood, he and Gertrude sold the prime real estate in 1924.

1741 Cahuenga auction
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 1924

That October, the couple opened the doors one last time to auction off everything inside, from bric-a-brac and a 486-piece dinner set to an astounding “900 original de Longpre pictures in oil, water, and crayon.”

And in 1927, Hollywood’s first tourist attraction was demolished only 26 years after it was built by architect-sculptor Louis Bourgeois (who went on to marry de Longpre’s eldest daughter Alice).

De Longpre home demolition
1927 demolition of the home (LAPL)

With the money Gertrude and Emil earned from selling off de Longpre’s estate, they constructed a 14-room brick home with roof garden at 4950 Franklin Avenue in Los Feliz. According to him, it was famous for having the longest bar in any private establishment and its interior decor, particularly “the only complete Egyptian room of its kind in America,” attracted 30,000 lookie-loos.

But only a year after moving in, Gertrude died in December 1925, leaving her husband—who claimed to be a physician—an estate worth $500,000 (approximately $8.8 million in 2023, with inflation). Emil also inherited several de Longpre paintings still in their possession, although not for long. In July 1926, he sued a dealer for allegedly misappropriating three works by the French artist he had put up for sale. Interestingly, the defendant’s co-conspirator had also loaned Emil $17,000 … on the security of half of his dead wife’s estate.

4950 Franklin Avenue
Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1927

Financial misfortunes seemed to catch up to the wealthy widower in 1927, when probate court ordered the auction of 4950 Franklin and all its elaborate furnishings. Among the notable items listed: exclusive paintings by Paul de Longpre.

But Emil still clung to his association with the renowned artist. In 1933—after the demise of his third marriage, to a woman 40 years his junior—he bragged that he “still owned” de Longpre’s famous estate, despite the fact it had been demolished six years earlier.

De Longpre and daughter Pauline
De Longpre and his youngest daughter Pauline (California State Library)

3 ความคิดเห็น

28 ธ.ค. 2566

I wish there was more about Orchid Ave.


14 ต.ค. 2566

This was FASCINATING! I want to go back in time.

Heading down DeLongpre will never be the same!

Thank you!

Kimberly Biehl

17 ต.ค. 2566

thank you! De Longpre's story might just be one of my favorites :)

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