In the 1920s, housing developments sprang up all around the Los Angeles area as real estate developers purchased small farms to subdivide into housing tracts holding everything from small homes to apartments to bungalow courts. Fernridge Row, stylish Hollywood bungalow complex, was built by A.B. Zwebell, who later built designed apartment complexes around the city with his wife, Nina.
Stylish but comfortable, these complexes offered individual units that functioned as mini-homes, with multiple rooms, special amenities, and porches looking out at greenery and gardens providing their residents bang for their buck. In the 1910s to the 1930s, bungalow courts served as popular housing for new, middle-class residents of Hollywood and Los Angeles. Popular with entertainment industry professionals and wanna-bes, these mini-bungalows made a comfortable dwelling in which to nest.
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Many followed popular architectural styles of the time, be it Spanish Colonial, Craftsman, or even Art Deco. Some went farther, copying elements of programmatic architecture meant to entice people to rent, especially storybook architecture, popular in the early 1920s. Romantic and reminiscent of little fairy tale cottages, the style evolved from Hollywood designs. Architects with creative vision designed many attractive complexes appealing to residents with up market dreams.
Before renowned apartment complex architect Arthur Zwebell began designing striking units, he served as contractor and builder for a storybook-style collection in 1923. Paying homage to Harold (Harry) Oliver per the June 9, 1923, Hollywood Citizen newspaper, Zwebell constructed a “quaint village” reminiscent of Tam O’Shanter at the intersection of Fernwood and Ridgewood in Hollywood in the Sunset Square Tract, With Smith & Zwebell serving as contractor for bungalow architect Rufus Buck.
Sunset Square Tract had been developed by real estate man George M. Sunday, son of the revivalist preacher Billy Sunday. As potent a salesman as his father, Sunday sold land tracts around Los Angeles, before joining with Harry Merrick and Roger Ruddick in 1922. Merrick, formerly with the Armour Company in Chicago, would facilitate the creation of Mulholland Drive to benefit his Hollywood Country Club tract and later organize the Central Motion Picture District in Studio City in 1927, which contained the Mack Sennett Studio, now known as CBS Studio Center.
Mrs. Bairbairn of the Sunday, Merrick & Ruddick Inc. real estate office sold it for $36,000 to J.W. Mr. Bowman in early June 1923. Called Fernridge Row by the Los Angeles Times, the small, Brigadoon-like complex contained five apartments, four of them with four rooms and one with five. Building permits with the city of Los Angeles for 5711-5719 Fernwood list Mary S. Carr as owner. Though she possessed the same name as an older film actress, this Mrs. Carr was a widow.
In 1924 Mrs. Carr decided to return to England, putting the “quaint village” up for sale. Listed with auction company Kemp and Ball, the five-unit furnished bungalow court was called “a veritable snap for the wise investor” and “one of the most beautiful and unique bungalow courts in Los Angeles.” Arthur Verneau served as interior decorator.
Each unit contained built-in features along with dining room, kitchen, and bath; four-unit apartments contained Murphy beds. Interiors featured French gray oak with walls in hand done oils. Each unit contained old English fireplaces, tile and porcelain in the baths, built-in refrigerators, wall radiators, and hardwood floors. Furnishings included “period and modern mahogany and overstuffed furniture” as well as a Steinway grand piano in the five-room unit. Each unit featured its own garage as well.
On April 20, 1924, C.A. Monroe won the complex at auction for $23,106.
Over the next 40 years, many residents would enjoy this charming little village. Ads show units cost $50-$60 in 1938, $57.50 and up in 1955, with the larger unit renting for $75 in 1955.
Over time, many developers or businesses purchased small, quaint apartment complexes to demolish and construct larger, nondescript units or office complexes. On January 14, 1966, Metromedia, Inc. pulled a permit to demolish the “quaint village,” and a sweet part of Hollywood history was lost.
Though no longer standing, photographs allow this special little apartment complex to be remembered for its outstanding architecture and character.