Of the Legendary Estates that are gone, but not forgotten, few Beverly Hills estates were grander or more splendidly located than Enchanted Hill.
Completed in 1925 by screenwriter Frances Marion and her husband, movie star cowboy Fred Thomson, 1441 Angelo Drive can be found high above Benedict Canyon.
Wallace Neff’s first major Beverly Hills commission and his first of many projects for Hollywood celebrities, few estates survived as long, in near-original condition, as Enchanted Hill.
The thirty-year-old Neff, who had studied architecture in Europe and at MIT, had designed homes for California blue blood in Santa Barbara and Pasadena in the 1910s and early 1920s.
In 1921, Marion and Thomson purchased four acres, at $400 per acre, at the top of Angelo Drive, the start of what would eventually become Enchanted Hill. They weren’t in any hurry. The price of land near their parcel—just $400 per acre in 1921—had soared to $4,500 per acre by 1924. The influx of Hollywood stars into the hills and canyons was driving prices ever upward.
She and Thomson talked about their future gardens. “I’ve always dreamed about having a rose garden, Fred,” she reportedly told him. “Horses don’t care for them,” Thomson said.
In their several years of dreaming about an estate, Marion and Thomson kept getting bigger and bigger ideas. Thomson no longer wanted a stable just for Silver King. He wanted accommodations for a dozen horses. And a riding ring. And quarters for his stable hands and cowboy friends.
By mid-1924, they had moved into the mansion. “I must confess, with embarrassment,” Marion later wrote, “that Fred Thomson and I built the largest house on the highest hill in Beverly Hills.” Modesty aside, it made perfect sense that this incredibly talented and ambitious couple, having lavished their time and money, succeeded in creating what was, and what remains in memory, one of the crown jewels of Beverly Hills.
Enchanted Hill must have impressed Marion and Thomson’s guests. When they turned onto Angelo Drive off Benedict Canyon, they passed the virtually empty hillsides that would soon be graced with Jack Warner’s estate and George Lewis’ ten-acre Hill Grove.
As guests drove higher and higher up into the hills, Angelo Drive became a narrow, twisting roadway. Motorists could look down on Rudolph Valentino’s famed Falcon Lair on the west side of Benedict Canyon. To the south, they could also see the Beverly Hills Hotel and the new mansions clustered along lower Benedict Canyon and Lexington Road. Toward the west, they could look over to the two large subdivisions of just-opened Holmby Hills and Bel-Air, then occupied only by Alphonzo Bell and his family.
Enchanted Hill was demolished in 2000, joining the ranks of the “gone, but not forgotten.”
Recently purchased for $65 million, a steep increase from the $4,500 per acre in 1924, a new Enchanted Hill could regain its place in Beverly Hills lore and legend.