When you think of castles in Southern California, you might think of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, or Hearst Castle in San Simeon, or perhaps the Magic Castle in Hollywood. But there are castle style buildings all around us in LA.
They come in all sizes, from large hotels and apartment buildings to small cottages. They’re known as French Normandy Revival Architecture and their popularity here in LA was influenced by World War I, silent movies, and technological advances in construction.
It started back east in the late 19th century. Americans (especially those coming into money for the first time) looked to Europe for guidance in taste. Castles that were hundreds of years old and still being used as residences were incredibly impressive. It wasn’t long before that look started showing up on our side of the Atlantic. One of the first examples in Los Angeles is still standing: the Frederick Hastings Rindge House in the West Adams neighborhood of LA.
Over the years examples of these castle style mansions would be built around LA, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that the style really took off. By then the movie industry had established itself in Southern California. The city was growing and new housing was needed. New building techniques allowed developers to add a thin veneer of stone or brick to the exterior of a wood framed building. This allowed fast, mass construction of homes and multi-dwelling apartments (perfect for creative young, single, men and women coming here to break into the movie industry).
French Normandy was especially popular with people who had traveled to Europe (like veterans of the 1st World War). But other revival styles like Spanish, Mediterranean and English Tudor were also being built. Walking through a new neighbourhood might have felt like walking through a studio backlot as you passed French castles, English cottages, and Spanish haciendas.
Eventually, the panache of the castle style started to fade. By the late 1920’s, architects stopped using French Normandy Revival as Mediterranean and Spanish Revival styles looked more at home on palm tree lined streets. But many of these beautiful classic buildings still survive and their popularity helped create one of the most popular landmarks in LA.
So join our host, Bailey O’Carroll as we examine LA’s Love of Castles.