If you live in Silver Lake or just take walks around the Reservoir, you’ve probably noticed the huge gray house overlooking the Reservoir. It doesn’t exactly blend in with the rest of the architecture and it’s kind of… ominous looking. On my runs and walks, I’ve often wondered about this house. The other day Rob mentioned that it was the Garbutt House, owned by Dov Charney, the infamous founder of American Apparel. Who, in case you don’t know, is having kind of a rough week, month, year, life.
The Garbutt House actually has a very interesting history. It’s one of Silver Lake’s largest estates at 11,743 square feet of interior space, 3-stories tall with 20 rooms. It was built by Frank A. Garbutt, a movie pioneer, inventor, industrialist, and “one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th Century” according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1923, Garbutt acquired the 37-acre hilltop site overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica and Verdugo Mountains, and the downtown skyline. He built three houses on the site, which came to be known as the Garbutt-Hathaway Estate. (Garbutt’s son-in-law was Charles F. Hathaway, a shipbuilder and real estate developer.) The structures were built primarily of concrete, and were designed to withstand earthquakes, floods, and fire, which Garbutt was particularly afraid of. (There were also no fireplaces in the home.) He did allow some design touches, however. There were bronze window frames, hand carved teak and marble floors, and the first floor was entirely travertine.
Garbutt lived in the mansion until his death in 1947. In his spare time, he experimented with new inventions, built race cars, (his homemade car appears in the photograph above), invented a soapless detergent, and worked on a superior chewing gum.
Garbutt’s three children and their families lived on the estate after his death in 1947. The estate was eventually sold by his daughter in 1960. According to the LATs, The houses sat dormant for several years as owners battled with the city and preservationists over plans to raze the three houses and build condominiums or a large housing development on the site. In 1978, two of the houses were torn down to make room for a 100-home development, but the Garbutt House was spared. In 1987, the Garbutt House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s now part of the gated community Hathaway Hill Estates, and it most recently sold in 2004 for $3,250,000.