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Frank Sinatra's Hollywood bungalow is safe—for now

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LADWP reserves the right to demolish it and other buildings soon

The Frank Sinatra Bungalow
Douglas Quill

A Spanish-style Hollywood bungalow that was a favorite retreat of Frank Sinatra in the 1960s has been given a stay of execution. But it remains under threat of demolition by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power unless preservationists can persuade the utility to save it.

That seems unlikely unless they can come up with a plan to move the building before May 1. LADWP said it is working with the Los Angeles Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage on such a plan even as it moves forward with a project to expand its operations.

The 1929 bungalow sits on land owned by LADWP at the southern edge of The Lot, a film production studio at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue. The utility company says the bungalow stands in the way of plans to expand one of its receiving stations.

“These structures need to be removed in order for LADWP to install this critical infrastructure,” Amanda Parsons, a department spokeswoman, told Curbed. “LADWP is working with the community on this matter, which includes discussing the feasibility of relocating the bungalow to another site.”

The Lot began life in 1919 as the Jesse Hampton Studios and became in succession the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio, United Artists, and the Samuel Goldwyn Studio. It remains a full-service studio for TV, film, and commercial production.

The Frank Sinatra Bungalow is one of three structures under threat, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, which sent a letter to the DWP earlier this month to argue for the buildings’ preservation:

Three historic buildings are planned for demolition, on land immediately south of the West Hollywood property line, acquired by the LADWP in 1950. They include sound mixing stages and a 1920s Spanish bungalow. The stages have significant associations with the making of film, and are named in honor of Gordon Sawyer and John Bonner, former sound director at Samuel Goldwyn Studio and director of special projects at Warner Hollywood Studios.

The Spanish Bungalow was reportedly built in 1929 and later became associated with singer and actor Frank Sinatra. Beginning in 1961, his company, Essex Productions, rented office space and studio facilities at Samuel Goldwyn Studios. He relocated to this location following a dispute and fallout with Desi Arnaz at Desilu Productions, now Paramount Pictures Studio. Sinatra apparently used Sound Stage 7 to record The Concert Sinatra in 1963, and its image appears on the cover. It is believed that during his time and tenure at The Lot, Sinatra used this bungalow as his personal retreat in between productions.

Sinatra shot four movies at the studio, including The Manchurian Candidate, during that time.

LADWP decided not to renew a lease on the Sinatra Bungalow and related buildings at the end of March.

“The DWP and the studio would work together to preserve, as much as feasible, the structures on the studio’s side of the property line,” Parsons said. “We are discussing the possibility and logistics of having interested parties relocate the bungalow to a new location.”

Preservationists remain hopeful. "DWP commissioners agreed to provide time for the preservation community to look into this further and meet with DWP staff to discuss," Adrian Scott Fine, the LA Conservancy's director of advocacy, told Curbed. He added: "There’s no outcome just yet, but we're happy DWP is taking this seriously and working with us and others that want to come up with alternatives to demolition."

The Sinatra Bungalow, highlighted, sits at the northern edge of LADWP property and the southern edge of The Lot.
via Google Maps

Filmmaker Douglas Quill, who has offices on The Lot, has taken it upon himself to advocate for the Sinatra Bungalow. He mounted an online petition (with 775 supporters so far) to save the bungalow and related buildings and spoke at this month's DWP commissioners' meeting. "We had a very successful day at the LADWP commissioners meeting," he told Curbed. "A reprieve has been granted by the DWP so LA Conservancy can explore preservation options."

Quill has enlisted the support of others who work on The Lot, including Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions and Funny or Die companies.

The Lot

1041 N. Formosa Ave., Los Angeles, CA