The Playboy Mansion
In the late 1960’s, my father was a law student in Los Angeles, and every chance he had, he would drive past his favorite house. The home sat only a block off of Sunset Boulevard at 10236 Charing Cross Road. This is was the type of home he hoped to some day own. It was beautiful, grand, yet not over the top. Then one day, he heard the house had been sold. “Who bought it?”, my father asked. He could hardly believe the answer, “Hugh Hefner. You know, the guy who does that nudie mag?” Since then, the house has gone through substantial changes. The house today is completely hidden from street-view by a series of walls, hedges, and fences that could hold off an army of invading Saxons… or Larry Flynt.
Here are a few fun facts about the mansion:
If you go back far enough, in 1843, the land the Playboy Mansion sits on was granted by the Mexican Governor, Manuel Micheltorena, to Jose Maximo Alanis. The land was known as “Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres”. The ranch was then sold in 1858 to Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson (grandfather or General Patton). In 1884 the land would be sold again, this time to William Wolfskill, creator of the Valencia orange, which Orange County was named after. Today, this land is known as UCLA, Westwood, and Holmby Hills.
The neighborhood the Playboy Mansion sits on came to be when Arthur Letts Sr., who made his fortune as the founder of the Broadway Department Store, purchased the land from William Wolfskill’s heirs. The east portion of the ranch would be named Holmby Hills, loosely derived from Arthur Letts Sr.’s birthplace, Holdenby in England. After Arthur Letts Sr. passed away, his son, Arthur Letts Jr. would build a mansion atop of one of the hills in the neighborhood. That mansion survives to this day as the Playboy Mansion.
Architecturally, the house is a Gothic-Tudor style home. It was designed by Arthur R. Kelly for Arthur Letts Jr. and built in 1927.
Louis D. Stratham was the owner who sold the mansion to Hugh Hefner in 1971 for $1.05 million. Stratham was an engineer who became wealthy by inventing various measuring instruments. These included devices used for everything from oil exploration, to medicine, to the space program.
Since purchasing the mansion, Hefner has put in over $15 million worth of improvements into the estate. While property values are fluctuating these days, the house would easily sell for tens of millions of dollars if not more.
Hugh Hefner does not directly own the Playboy Mansion. Actually, he rents it. The house is owned by Playboy Enterprises and Hefner rents the portions of the home that he needs for his own personal use. It is technically Playboy Enterprises that has paid for all of the home improvements over the years. On paper, the Playboy Mansion is valued in the Playboy Enterprises books at $1.3 million. Hefner’s annual rents has ranged from $700,000 to $1.4 million over the past several years.
The Playboy Mansion contains 29 rooms, including the mysterious “Elvis Suite”, which is one of the few rooms strictly off limits for public viewing. Hugh Hefner is a huge Elvis Presley fan and it is said that in the early 70’s, Elvis stayed in that room as a guest of Hef’s with eight Playboy bunnies as his… sleep mates.
The Mansion is also one of the few homes in the country of Los Angeles to be granted a Zoo permit. It is the only home in the county to be granted a permit for fireworks.
The Mansion’s estate also houses another building, the “Game-Room”. The “Game-Room” contains an actual game room as well as several bedrooms, one of which is known unofficially as the “Orgy Room” as it features a cushioned floor, no furniture, and mirrors all along the bottom half of the walls.
In 1996 Hugh Hefner purchased the house next door to the Playboy Mansion. The house is currently home to Hef’s separated wife Kimberly Conrad and their two children. Interestingly, the house next door is actually the historic sister home of the Playboy Mansion. The next door house is a smaller direct mirror image of the Playboy Mansion that was also designed by Arthur R. Kelly. It was built in 1929 to serve as home to the sister of Arthur Lett’s Jr.. In March of 2009, this sister house went on sale for $28 million as Hef and Kimberly’s children are soon heading off to college. More recently, Hugh Hefner has also purchased the house across the street from the Playboy Mansion, to serve as a home for various Playmates.
The Playboy Mansion is not actually the first “Playboy Mansion”. Originally, the house was known as “Playboy Mansion West”. The first Playboy Mansion was in Chicago at 1340 North State Parkway and bared a plaque on the door reading, “Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare”, or “If you don’t swing, don’t ring”. The 70 room home was built in 1899 for George Swift Isham and was purchased by Hefner in 1959. For the first few years after the mansion was purchased in Holmby Hills, Hefner divided his time between Chicago and Los Angeles, but in 1974 he made “Playboy Mansion West” his permanent residence.
The Playboy Mansion is easily one of the most famous homes in California. Arguably, it IS the most famous, but one must remember that a huge portion of the Playboy Mansion mythos comes not from the house itself, but from the lifestyle Hugh Hefner has propagated within its walls. That being said, the Playboy Mansion all on its own is still a site to behold. These days, just as my father used to, when I drive past the mansion I think what it’d be like to own it… even if all I can stare at is its front gate.The Playboy Mansion blog comments powered by Disqus