Hollywood filmmaker Charlie Chaplin built the Chaplin Court bungalows in the year 1923 on North Formosa Avenue with the aim of providing a living place for crew and cast working at his studio that was a couple of blocks away. He also wanted to provide a place to stay for those who were just visiting the area.
Over many years, stars like Rudolph Valentino, Judy Garland and Douglas Fairbanks spent their time in these tiny bungalows (from 560 to 700 square feet) that were designed in the then-famous “storybook” style, thus attracting people who needed something that would easily work for them during the period.
The Jim Henson Co. now work from the studio, however, they remain in pristine condition and look very much like they did back in Chaplin’s day. These cottages have now been sold to Michael Kesler, a real estate investor who promised that the cottages would be kept as close to their original design state as possible. Kesler had a special attachment to the property, as he recalls passing by the cottages as a child and, being an L.A. native, wanted to own a piece of history.
The cottages were put up for sale in 2015 for roughly $2.5 million after their owner, Larry Davis, passed away. They were then taken off of the market, as many people approached the Davis family with the intention of purchasing the property in order to tear down the cottages. When Kesler’s broker approached them expressing his intention to restore the cottages, the Davis family agreed to an undisclosed price and proceeded with the sale. It was of the utmost importance to the Davis family that the cottages be restored and not torn down.
Kesler has already gotten to work hiring contractors who work specifically on the restoration of old and historical buildings. As you can imagine, there was extensive work needed on things such as the electrical system, plumbing, and termite-damaged wood. The cobblestone paving was in desperate need of repair as well. It is Kesler’s intention to complete the restoration and then lease the units to others.
The bungalows were not under any type of historical protection. Kesler took it upon himself to apply for a Mills Act tax exemption which would then provide the property with certain historical protections, allowing Kesler to maintain the original scope of the cottages and eventually be able to leave the property to his family to pass down through the generations.
It is interesting to note that Chaplin himself lived within one of these units, making it an even more desirable property for those with an appreciation for its rich history. Many other famous actors of Chaplin’s time resided in the cottages as well while working on films nearby.
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