Mt. Kalmia., Dec. 4, 1945
Mt. Kalmia., Dec. 4, 1945

Psychopathic Ward

Hersee was disturbed about her new husband’s fits of temper. George Carson’s rages were so out of control that she filed papers to have him declared insane. With the declaration, she committed him to the hospital’s “psychopathic ward.” Carson railed to his doctors that Hersee was out to get his money.

George’s plight made news, and soon he was bombarded with offers of marriage from women from all over the United States, Europe and beyond. But when Hersee learned about this, she quickly moved to reconcile and take her demented husband home.

On the evening of April 5, 1928, the couple invited reporters to their home. George made an official statement. “Let it be known that my wife is innocent of any premeditated schemes against me, as has been inferred. I talked too much when I was taken to the psychopathic ward.” Hersee said, “I didn’t understand Georgie’s condition at the time. He had tantrums, but it’s all right now.”

In December, Hersee hosted a Christmas party for orphaned Asian children at her home. Her Chinese cook donned a Santa Claus suit and handed out presents. “I have always been interested in foreign children, especially the Chinese,” she said later. The party became an annual tradition that she continued for years.

It was around this time that she commissioned the design of the grand house to be built on four acres a mile or so east on Sunset that the orphans will call the Fairy Lady’s Castle.


Spending Spree

Construction on the castle began in advance of the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 and continued as the Great Depression set in. (The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office lists the “build” date as 1930, but most sources say 1932, which seems more realistic.) Construction was said to cost $500,000. Given real estate prices in Los Angeles today, the equivalent cost would be at least $40 million today.

She had a glass-domed rotunda installed above the center of the house and a glass-enclosed observatory in the west tower. On the main floor she added a music room, drawing room, solarium, library, dining room, morning room, refectory, butler’s pantry, grocery and laundry, and quarters for maids and chauffeurs. On the second floor were master bedrooms with two complete bath units, four guest rooms, a reception room and a nursery (even though the Carsons were well into middle-age and childless). The house had a chimney but not a single fireplace.

With construction underway, Hersee went on a spending spree. We know from auction rolls later she bought early 19th century European paintings, a three-piece set of Royal Blue Sevres (large urns and a bowl), a Louis XV mantel clock, Louis XVI cabinets and a suite of gold drawing-room furniture, as well as Oriental rugs, rare books, draperies and Hepplewhite cabinetry.

She had 125 stained and leaded glass windows installed, along with hand-carved wood moldings and hand-painted wallpaper. Servicing the larder, there was a state-of-the-art mechanized conveyor belt for loading in groceries and supplies from the street.

Mt. Kalmia

Newspapers have given the estate various names over the years – Dracula’s Castle, the Fairy Lady’s Castle, the Dream Castle and others – but officially Hersee named it “Mount Kalmia.” Kalmia is a flowering laurel bush native to the eastern United States. Oddly, kalmia leaves are highly toxic. In folkways, it is called “lambskill” because it poisons hapless young farm animals who eat its leaves. There was a cemetery called Mt. Kalmia near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. But where Hersee Carson came up with the name and what it meant to her is a mystery.

The Carsons moved into Mt. Kalmia in 1933, and George was immediately unhappy there. He divorced Hersee the next year, changed his will and then died soon afterward. The new will gave what was left of his money to his relatives but not a dime to Hersee. She sued, as she had done after the death of Peter Gross. She won the house but had to sell the fancy furnishings to stay afloat – and even that wasn’t enough. She put the estate on the market at $500,000, but times were hard then and she could not find a buyer. Her taxes slid into arrears, and the government seized the estate.

Hersee continued to live in the estate until 1940. She held her last Christmas party for orphans and then left her castle for good. She moved to Orange County, where she continued her avocations as a patron of the arts and a philanthropist. Hersee Moody Carson died in 1972. She was 93.