Few buildings in L.A. have as much enduring appeal as High Tower Court, a small building complex that sits like a citadel atop a steep hillside near the Hollywood Bowl.
The storied property, built by architect Carl Kay over nearly two decades from the mid 1930's to the mid 1950's, is constructed around a unique centerpiece – a five-story private elevator for residents. Without a key to this exclusive perk, hidden inside an Italianate bell tower, visitors must navigate a labyrinth of stairs, walkways and bridges half-hidden in overgrown bougainvillea.
High Tower Court's seclusion, and mystery, have made it the setting for Raymond Chandler's noir detective Philip Marlowe. Immortalized on film in The Long Goodbye, which screens tomorrow at LACMA, Marlowe (played by Elliot Gould) lives in one of the apartments with half-naked hippie neighbors.
In the past year, three of the four duplexes sold, bringing in a new crop of residents. Today we talk to one of them, 32-year-old art advisor Veronica Fernandez, who reminds us the eclectic charm of the Tower is still alive and well.
When did you move in? How did you find the apartment? What sold you on it?
Earlier this year (January), I was between places and had decided to take a few months off to live in Buenos Aires after which I was then planning to return to L.A. and begin my search for a new home. One night, about a week before I was scheduled to leave, I went on craigslist solely out of curiosity to see what types of rental properties were out there, and that is how I came upon High Tower Court and the home I now live in.
It was only a preliminary listing with one very small pixelated .jpg of the tower along with a few sentences noting that better pictures would be posted that coming weekend. I immediately researched the address online and discovered the incredible history of architect Carl Kay and his cluster of structures — four streamlined modern homes and the otherworldly campanile that serves its residents.
From that moment on, I was determined to live there and contacted the owner via her minimally worded listing. I saw the property for the first time a few days later and fell totally in love with its charm, the view, the tower, its seclusion — it was beyond fantastical, an entirely surreal living experience, really. That same week, I signed the lease. Needless to say, I never left for Argentina. I had found a great romance much closer to home.
What's been the most surprising thing you've discovered about living there?
As is no surprise, with romance usually comes some degree of impracticality. Moving anything heavy or bulky to and from the house can be complicated given that we're high on a hill where there is no direct street access. I travel quite a bit and dealing with luggage is always burdensome. The worst inconvenience is when the private elevator shuts down, usually due to a newcomer incorrectly operating it. When that happens, the residents have no choice but to take the dreaded stairs — all 200 of them!
Have you met your neighbors? Who else lives there?
Though we're all pretty private and busy individuals, the residents look after one another as there are just a handful of us. The general mentality is that “we're all in this together,” and we accept each other's inconveniences as our own when it comes to elevator trouble, hauling the trash bins down to street level, not to mention parking issues due to our proximity to the Hollywood Bowl, etc. etc.
There are obviously certain sacrifices that we've had to make — most people who live in (and amongst) historical architecture generally do. You really have to have the patience and willingness to accept a slower pace of life, and you must recognize and value both the history and the integrity of the place. It's really the only way for us to help prolong the magic of this tiny little sliver of L.A. that few of us are lucky enough to call home.
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