Some believe that the architecture of the home that a person grows up in has a profound influence on their developing mind. So while the open-plan modernist houses of mid-century suburbia provided ample space for computing pioneers to imagine new worlds, it’s not surprising that a kid who had to bed down in Lloyd Wright’s stark Mayan-inspired Sowden House might hatch some dark ideas about the father who paid the mortgage.
Sowden House is a Los Angeles landmark and a fascinating example of a traditional Spanish casa infused with material innovations and the theatrical needs of Hollywood’s social set. But as you’ll see in this explorable 3-D scan from our ongoing series, it’s pretty creepy.
Young George Hodel, whose tenancy has given Sowden House a lasting notoriety, briefly lived with his parents in a very different, but no less remarkable, dwelling. Just across the Los Angeles River and up the artsy Arroyo, on the edge of South Pasadena, stands The Hodel Residence and Tea House, a designated Los Angeles landmark (HCM #802) designed by genre-hopping Russian architect Alexander Zelenko in 1921.
Thanks to Esotouric pal Thessaly “The Ukulady” Lerner (she composed our podcast theme song!), who had the pleasure of renting the landmark, we’re pleased to share rare views of the Hodel Residence at 6412 Monterey Road. With its storybook details and theatrical spaces, Zelenko’s design makes a lasting impression.
We like to imagine the young George Hodel, a musical prodigy, entertaining his parents and their cultured friends from the balcony above the hearth. How different everything might have been, had he raised his own family in this fairy tale dwelling, and not across town in the shadowy house of mystery!
And yet, there was the strangest little reminder of Steve Hodel’s abiding belief that his father is The Black Dahlia’s murderer: Thessaly directed us to park, not on Monterey Road, but above the house… on SHORT WAY. Coincidence, or something more sinister?
We hope you enjoy your visit to one of the most eclectic residential landmarks in Los Angeles. Click the first photo to explore. And to hear a little more about George Hodel, join us on the Real Black Dahlia crime bus tour. The next date is on April 20.
NEW: “Black Dahlia Days: Sleuthing out Beth Short’s Southern California” webinar is available to watch on-demand.
I wrote the original Historic Cultural Monument nomination on the Hodel House. There were original paintings on the wall and ceiling of the living room that were done by the Alexander Zelenko. That was one of the major character defining features of the designation. I saw not sign of them in the photos. That is a serious loss to the resource. If painted over they may possibly be restorable. I do have photos of the paintings.
Thanks for that information, Charlie. We’d love to see your photos of the paintings, and to know if they can be restored. Will you be alerting the Cultural Heritage Commission to the loss?
Considering that Steve Hodel incorrectly lists Zelenko as a Russian minister of culture, do you really want to be bolstering his other unsupported claims here? As you’ve noted the house was designed in 1921, yet Steve Hodel claims the picture from his book was taken when Rachmaninoff and Zelenko visited this house to hear George Jr play as a child. Rachmaninoff only visited California twice when George Jr was a minor, once when he was 2 years old, and again in 1917. It’s unlikely the famed composer came to see a 2 year old play, and in 1917 the house where this meeting is supposed to have taken place had not been built yet. It is impossible for the picture Steve Hodel published in his book to have taken place in the manner he presents.
We don’t cite any of Steve Hodel’s claims in this post, which is based on our first hand experience visiting a remarkable residential structure which happily has been declared a protected cultural landmark, and period newspaper reporting about the young musician who lived on the property. The Hodel family has an interesting history in Los Angeles outside of the Black Dahlia case, though it does tend to get overlooked.
Wow. So… esoteric. I’m going to do a video about this guy because I’m simply fascinated with the story… I live down Franklin from the Sowden House, but never knew of this one… Creepy cool.
This was my child hood home, I grew up here before we were forced to leave in 2001ish. I loved living here and miss this house. My dad built the deck you see above and the cement patio on the lower section. The stone work in the front was also his work.
What a wonderful place to grow up, and I’m so sorry you had to leave. Thanks for identifying your father as the hand behind the later additions. Do you happen to have photos of the interior, especially the painted sections that have been whitewashed? It would be so helpful to have reference images, in the hopes they can be uncovered in the future.
hi David I think i remember who you are i live a couple of houses down from where the house..