Close up of the model of the Garden of Allah commissioned by Bart Lytton before he demolished the hotel
Close up of the model of the Garden of Allah commissioned by Bart Lytton before he demolished the hotel

In memory of the Garden of Allah, Bart Lytton commissioned the creation of a scale model of the hotel. He also built the domed structure to the left in this drawing to house the scale model, which depicted the hotel grounds as they looked in the late 1950s. He called the structure “the Pavilion.”

Sheilah Graham mentioned it toward the end of her history of the hotel, The Garden of Allah, published in 1970:

“Today, where the pool and villas stood so securely,” she wrote, “where Benchley laughed and Scott weaved along the narrow paths, all that remains on the Sunset Blvd. plot at the foot of Laurel Canyon is a model of the Garden in a glass case. It remains unnoticed by the new nonconformists, who frequent the area, the hippies of the Sunset Strip.”

In this rendering of the Lytton Savings headquarters that replaced the Garden of Allah, the model of the hotel sat in a glass case under the pavilion – the small structure with the round roof – at the left

The model disappeared when the pavilion was demolished to make way for parking at the shopping center that was built around the bank. Martin Turnbull, author of a series of novels set at the Garden of Allah, located the model not long ago.

A recent photo of the Garden of Allah model (photo by Martin Turnbull)
A recent photo of the Garden of Allah model (photo by Martin Turnbull)

He learned that shop owner had rescued the model as it was about to be discarded by the shopping center’s management. The owner restored the model and has it preserved under glass in his home in West Hollywood.

For reasons that are obscure, there are life-size replicas of some of the Garden of Allah’s villas at Universal Studios in Orlando – but not in Hollywood.

Replicas of Garden of Allah villas at Universal Florida
Replicas of Garden of Allah villas at Universal Florida

Then & Now

: Looking south from Selma Avenue across Sunset Boulevard at the entrance to the hotel in the 1930s. Bottom: The same view in 2018.
Top: Looking south from Selma Avenue across Sunset Boulevard at the entrance to the hotel in the 1930s. Bottom: The same view in 2018.

The Future

Model of the 8150 Sunset project designed by Frank Gehry
Model of the 8150 Sunset project designed by Frank Gehry

The former Lytton property was purchased in the 2010s by Townscape Partners. In 2015 Townscape announced that it would develop a mixed use complex on the site – a mix of housing, retail, dining and entertainment venues – to be called 8150 Sunset. The architect for the project was Frank Gehry, one of the best-known and innovative building designers in the world.

In 2020 Gehry released the revised design for the property in the photo above. Demolition and construction were scheduled to begin in 2021.

What Has Been Lost

It has been six decades since the Garden of Allah was demolished and yet its memory lives on. Maybe it’s the tales of a glamorous, seemingly more carefree life. Maybe it’s its association with so many sophisticates from Hollywood’s glory days. Maybe it’s the irreverent, exotic name. Whatever the reason, curiosity endures about the Garden of Allah. Its mystique is timeless.

 
 

Acknowledgements

Thanks for help with this exhibit to Violet Wilcox, Tere Tereba and Patricia Ponder – and for research assistance from Martin Turnbull, Tracy Pattin, MaryEllen Marshall and Sasha Razor of the Alla Nazimova Society.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter