One of Silver Lake’s largest estates at 11,743 square feet on a lot of 82,764 square feet. This huge residence has a storied history, culminating in the development of the Hathaway Estates, a planned subdivision within Silver Lake. The house was built in 1923 and has a commanding 360 Degree View atop one of Silver Lake’s highest hills. The house is built entirely of reinforced concrete; there is not one stick of wood in its structure. Mr. Hathaway apparently had a great fear of fire, and did not want his house burning down! It was recently (September 2004) on the market for $3,250,000.

If any of our readers know about the development of Hathaway Estates, details about the original owner, architect or builder, please feel free to contact the editor of this column.

NOTES: I recently received an e-mail from Michele Martin informing me that ‘the Estate belonged to a Charles Hathaway, a director/studio head from the silent screen era. His great granddaughter, Robin Clarke, was my best friend and neighbor when I lived at 2400 Micheltorena Street.’ 

Michele Martin
Greenwich Library

SLN Subscriber Ken Puchlik writes: ‘From 1950 to 1965 I lived on Redesdale Ave. on the west side of the valley looking east at the Hathaway house on top of the hill. It was always vacant and never a light on. One night, the mansion was ablaze with light and everyone came out to wonder what was going on. It was simply the moon rising behind the home and the light was passing through the windows and out the other side. Obviously, it was devoid of furniture or curtains.

I also remember that there was another large building or home next to it; people said it was another mansion. It apparently was demolished during the construction of the ‘tract’ homes that I believe were a poor use of the viewscape. Having half the number of lots with higher end-well designed homes, taking better advantage of the pre-existing topography, would have been better use of the land. The developer should have used the axiom of ‘less is more’ and probably realized more investment return by developing premium lots on what was a rare piece of land. Paradise lost.

Mr. Hathaway had good reason to fear fire. In the early 50’s a grass fire at the end of summer burnt up to the edge of the estate. Every local fire unit was on the scene. Dry summer grass was prevalent with all the vacant lots at the time. After that, the fire department started controlled burns of the lots every summer.

Before the hum of the freeways diminished the neighborhood’s ambient sound, you could hear the trains switching in the yards off Fletcher Dr. late at night. The greatest chili dogs in the world were sold out of the old Signal Gas station at Effie and Silver Lake Blvd. Across the street, the 7/11 was a Union Oil Gas station with the friendliest guys who took good care of you at 20 cents a gallon of gas. And a kid could walk the 0.75 mile to catch the PE and go to the Ramona and see a 25 cent movie without any concern for safety, even at night.

Craig Collins writes ‘When I moved here in 1982, the subdivision was just being built. The land had been bought by CalTrans for continuation of the Glendale Freeway, which was to connect with the Hollywood Freeway (near Vermont…where there’s that very wide median), then on to Beverly Hills, which was to be the name of the freeway. As a result of that unfortunate choice of name and alignment, one of the very first successful opposition to a California freeway project was mounted, and the freeway ended at Glendale Boulevard. After many years, CalTrans began selling off the property, and you can pretty much trace the path by much of the newer construction, especially on the south side of Sunset.

I had heard about an effort to create a park on the Hathaway hill, but know nothing further about it. How spectacular that would have been!

Anyway, Peggy Stevenson was City Councilperson at the time, was a fervent supporter of the development community, and she evidently got quick approval of the housing project. After the development was completed, it mysteriously became a gated community. It’s worth noting that Stevenson was defeated in a reelection bid by Michael Woo, who shepherded many of the pro-planning and more progressive changes in the city (such as getting a moratorium on the explosive development of mini-malls that was then in full swing). Upon her defeat, Stevenson systematically destroyed all the district constituent and project files in her office, forcing Woo to begin his office with nothing to aid projects and constituent concerns. That was the good old days in the LA City Council!

Well, that’s what I know, subject to verification by others who may have a better historical perspective.

Veteran Silver Lake activist Maryann Kuk writes ‘My recollection about Hathaway is that it had nothing to do with the #2 freeway. It was before I participated in any community stuff. The Hathaway estate (they are old money LA Athletic club, Riviera Country club, CA yacht club) sold it to a developer who wanted to build 100’s of condos. SLRA got heavily involved opposing along with the immediate ‘hood and the developer backed down to the 40+ or so [ugly, tract, crappy] houses. He promised to leave all of the mature tress, but the day after he got his permit he cut them all down. The Hathaway family had been collectors of specimens and I’m told it was beautiful.’

The Garbutt House is located at 1809 Apex Avenue.  To learn more about the Garbutt-Hathaway families, the book, Silver Lake Chronicles:  Exploring an Urban Oasis in Los Angeles makes for compelling reading.

The Silver Lake News thanks our readers for their generous contributions of history and insights of Silver Lake!

A commanding view of Silver Lake Reservoir observed from the balcony facing north.

As seen from the front entrance of the estate.