If you have ever wanted to live inside a storybook, you can. The book is called Snow White and it sits on the edge of a coffee table called Los Feliz in a house called Los Angeles with Walt Disney’s old studios right there in the next room.
The Snow White Cottages are a cluster of 8 Tudor and French Normandy style cottages on the 2900 block of Griffith Park Blvd. The storybook look and name may not be coincidental. According to Los Feliz urban legend, the cottages may have been used by Disney, the creator of the 1937 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Walt Disney’s studios were at that time located around the corner on Hyperion St., currently the site of the Gelson’s Market. Some say they were merely inspiration for Snow White, others say Disney’s animators lived there. We haven’t been able to find solid proof of either, but Sylvia Helfert, the third owner of the cottages, said she spoke to a former Disney employee who said she used one of the cottages as an office. There are also rumors from the Disney Studio research trail that Disney had created accommodations near the Hyperion studio for his loyal employees.
Things that we know for sure about the cottages are that they were designed and built in 1931 by architect Ben Sherwood. While the cragged thatched roofs, black timber framing and random patches of rusticated masonry fit the style of the Snow White movie, they are also typical of the so-called storybook style of architecture that was somewhat popular in Los Angeles during the 1920s and 1930s.
Sylvia Helfert bought the eight storybook cottages in 1976 for $140,000. Her friends thought she was crazy to pay so much for what was an “old rundown property,” but in later years of her life she was telling interested buyers that would randomly call her (they were not listed for sale) the asking price was 10-12 million dollars.
Helfert herself was a bit of a storybook character. She was described as an interesting woman that drove a big old Cadillac, wore high boots and behaved as a movie star. Oh, and she was 91 years old at about the time that description was given.
She said that after her death ownership would pass to her son who loved the cottages as much as she did. We don’t know who owns the cottages for sure now, but the rents went from around $1800 per month to $2700 a month after. The cottages are just plain cool, but at 700 square feet, that is a bit steep even for Los Angeles.
On a sadder note, cottage number 2906 once housed tortured indie musician Elliot Smith, who did much of his writing in the cottage before his suicide that many suspected to be murder. He had apparently moved out of the cottages prior to this. The “suicide” is said to have happened at his Lemoyne Street home in nearby Echo Park.
For obvious reasons, the cottages tend to be inhabited by artistic types. They were also used as a location in the 2001 David Lynch film Mulholland Drive.
If you are visiting Los Angeles and happen to stop in at Gelson’s Market or Trader Joe’s across the street for a bite to eat, be sure to plug Snow White Cottages into your navigation and drive a couple of blocks on over to take at the fairy tale homes.