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Heartbreak House (1922-1952)

The last home to be torn down for the freeway was amongst the first to go up in Whitley Heights: 6787 Whitley Terrace, otherwise known as the Heartbreak House.

The owners, Edwin “Ted” and Ruth Anderson, were wealthy Chicagoans “tired of the flatness” of the Windy City when they built upon “the highest hill we could find” in 1922. Protective of their architectural wonder, the couple shunned all requests for photoshoots.

They could do little about lookie-loos who stopped their cars to snap pictures. However, once they started peeking in the windows, curtains went up.

In a fun twist, the Moorish manor can be spied in the background of a postcard for Valentino’s nearby home.

Inside and out, it was unique opulence: the stained glass surrounding the indoor pool depicted dancing girls and bubbles; an intricate dome that accented the side of the home had been imported from Italy; hand-painted murals decorated the walls of the garage—located beneath the center of the house.

Directly above it, a massive art glass window provided a clear view of Cahuenga Pass. In the evenings, the Andersons would watch automobiles enter Hollywood, a sight described as “golden dollars pouring from a cornucopia.” Instead of retiring to one of the four bedrooms, they’d sleep under a canopy on the roof.

“We are delighted with life as we find it here in Hollywood,” Mrs. Anderson raved in 1923.

Between the grandeur of 6787 Whitley Terrace and the sounds emanating from it, many mistook the home for a church. Mrs. Anderson was a gifted musician, and during orchestral concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, she’d open the windows in the living room and play along on her Robert Morgan pipe organ.

One Sunday in February 1923, Mr. Anderson caught a lady listening at the window and invited her inside for a front-row seat from the dining room. Soon after, a thank-you note arrived in the mail:

“One hour spent in Dreamland in the atmosphere of love, music, and sunshine, with God so near, has been worth more than a year of the dark life I have known.”

Mr. Anderson was a green thumb—and beyond 6787, the neighborhood was his canvas. As head of the forestry committee, “The Mayor of Whitley Heights” was dedicated to beautifying any vacant lots and oversaw the planting of 300 trees over 15 months in 1933-1934.

By the time talk of the Hollywood Freeway began in 1946, Mr. Anderson had passed away, but his widow was very involved in the neighborhood's battle, and volunteered their home as a meeting place for the Whitley Heights Civic Association amid ongoing discussions with the city.

True to its nickname, the 3,000-square foot Heartbreak House was auctioned in 1950 for $1,200—despite being worth $75,000—and purchased by a widow who dreamt of relocating it and and starting fresh with her 14-year-old son.

Instead, city authorities refused to grant her the necessary permit to move 6787 and, according to the Los Angeles Times in 1951, she “gave up and moved to an apartment in San Pedro.”


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