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Pearl Park: Whitley & Franklin

“The prettiest spot in Hollywood” was at the corner of Franklin and Whitley avenues: Pearl Park.

In 1916, Stephen Willis built the bungalow court named after his new bride, Hollywood socialite Pearl Herndon, who grew up a block south at 1738 Whitley Avenue.

The newlyweds settled in at 1838 Whitley, the largest of six duplexes in the Northern Italian-inspired residence park, designed by a local landscape engineer who experimented as architect. Along Whitley Avenue, the formal garden greeted passersby with cypress and palm trees, walkways, and a fountain centerpiece.

A mix of one and two stories, all 12 units came furnished for $65-85/month. In its early years, Pearl Park (also known as Pearl Court) lured prominent Easterners retreating to Hollywood during the winter months.

For Stephen Willis, Pearl Park quickly lost luster, due to its close proximity to his meddling mother-in-law. In 1918, he built a brand-new home in the Wilshire District to escape Mary Herndon.

Within weeks of moving in, Pearl was severely burned in a gas stove accident. Although her husband extinguished the flames, he didn’t act fast enough, according to Mary. With her daughter confined to a bed, she ramped up the “campaign of hate” that began when the couple married.

In 1920, she convinced Pearl to file for divorce, on the grounds her “austere” husband cruelly taunted her scars. Stephen countersued for $50,000, accusing Mary of turning Pearl again him. In the end, he agreed to pay his ex-wife $40/month in alimony and medical care.

Pearl Park was sold and renamed Whitley Gardens.

Pearl returned to 1738 Whitley, where she lived for the remainder of her life (in 1951, she married childhood sweetheart Franklin Muir). When she died Christmas Day 1958, her will listed several notable home furnishings, including a table and silver service set once owned by Abraham Lincoln, her great-uncle’s law partner in the Herndons’ native Springfield, Illinois.

In 1961, Pearl Park was demolished to make way for the Hollywood Ardmore, a luxury 13-story that promised modern amenities and carefree living.


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