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Wolf’s Lair: Hollywood’s Famous Castle

One of the most famous homes in Hollywood (and arguably, all of Los Angeles), Wolf’s Lair is a storybook castle with quite a legendary tale.


Wolf's Lair 1928
Wolf's Lair gatehouse and residence (California State Library)

Designed by homeowner Leslie Milton “Bud” Wolf around 1924, the five-bedroom French chateau-style residence is characterized by turrets, Juliet balconies, stained glass and gable windows, stone rampart, grotto with waterfall, nature preserve, even a clandestine tiki bar.


Wolf's Lair eastern view
looking east from Wolf's Lair (California State Library)

Wolf's Lair south lawn
a woman walks on the south lawn

Wolf, a Hollywoodland developer, perched his family home on a peak overlooking the Hollywoodland sign, Hollywood Reservoir, Griffith Park Observatory, downtown Los Angeles, and on a clear day, Catalina Island forty miles away.


To maintain the 3.3-acre estate, he hired the Hollywoodland sign’s caretaker to be a full-time handyman at Wolf’s Lair.


Wolf's Lair panoramic
Wolf's Lair is located on one of the highest points in Hollywoodland

The main residence features coffered ceilings, winding staircases, and miniature turrets—one of which is where Wolf kept his pet gibbon, Missie (whose nails were painted pink when she was found wandering Los Feliz Boulevard in 1957).


A floor-to-ceiling window in the dining room looks out onto a verdant garden on the west end of the property. To the north, there’s a pool and cabana from which a footpath leads to a deer pond and patio to enjoy the wildlife.


all photos by Julius Shulman c. 1979 (J. Paul Getty Trust)


The estate’s main entrance on Durand Drive, originally a tower (pictured below), was remodeled into a medieval gatehouse with servants quarters in 1927.


Wolf's Lair construction
Wolf's Lair under construction

In 1954, Wolf commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Lautner to design a two-room addition (living room and kitchen) for the gatehouse. The architecture complements the French castle, however, the interior is mid-century excellence, with wood-beamed ceilings, green rough marble flooring, and stone fireplace.




The structure, which served as Wolf’s office, also housed an underground tiki bar, possibly built during Prohibition, outfitted with a bamboo piano and couch that turned into a bed with the touch of a button.


Supposedly this is where the married Wolf entertained mistresses while his wife slept in the castle—which connects to the gatehouse via a secret tunnel.


Wolf's Lair tiki bar
Wolf's Lair secret tiki speakeasy

Wolf lived in his lair for nearly fifty years: In 1972, the 78-year-old dropped dead at the dining room table. His daughter Jacqueline, unable to pay the castle’s taxes, sold her father’s home—which he supposedly haunted, according to the subsequent owner who removed the upstairs doors because they opened on their own at night. During a 1980 dinner party, the fireplace spontaneously burst into flames and a picture fell off the wall.


The following year, real estate broker Bob Crane purchased Wolf’s Lair… and received the table where Wolf died “pitched forward into his minestrone” as a housewarming gift.


Wolf's Lair dining room
the dining room in 1979 (Julius Shulman / J. Paul Getty Trust)

The castle’s spooky narrative earned it a feature as the mansion of evil scientist Dr. Gannon in 1978’s Return From Witch Mountain starring Bette Davis, Christopher Lee, and Kim Richards.


Other tenants at Wolf’s Lair include Shelley Duvall and her boyfriend Patrick Reynolds, as well as 77 Sunset Strip star Efrem Zimbalist Jr.


Escape From Witch Mountain Wolf's Lair
Kim Richards at Wolf's Lair

In 2010, electronic musician Moby purchased Wolf’s Lair for $3.925 million (half of the original asking price) from Lionsgate Entertainment executive Jay Faires and poured in another $2 million to restore the 1920s main residence and 1950s guesthouse to their original charm.


Moby, who frequently blogged about the renovation process, was especially taken by the Lautner guesthouse, which he turned into his office... just as Bud Wolf had decades earlier.



At the time, Moby told The New York Times he hoped to turn the tiki speakeasy into an invitation-only magic theater (he didn’t confirm if he did, however, it’s believed he unfortunately went through with gutting the interior).


After four years, the “King of Techno” sold off the eight-bedroom, six-bathroom compound for $12.4 million in 2014 to a mystery buyer.



As he explained on his website: “it was and is an amazing place. a bucolic and storied 4 acre hilltop retreat in the middle of a city of 15,000,000 people. so why did i sell? simplicity. i loved wolf’s lair. but it was just too elaborate for one simple little guy (aka: me). if i’d started a cult or a family(and trust me, i’ve tried to start both)it would have been the perfect home. basically i wanted something simpler than a mountaintop castle.”


Wolf's Lair Hollywood Sign
Wolf's Lair (tumblr)

Recent remodeling removed the carport Wolf built in 1952—and carport roof deck created by Moby six decades later—based on Google Earth views.


In May 2023, the current owners applied for a permit to construct a two-bedroom two-story detached accessory dwelling unit measuring 1,130 square feet.



All photographs by Noah Webb via XBarchitects.com



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