The History of Hayworth Gardens

According to the 1920 census, Joanna H.W. ("Jennie") Adams, widow of John L. Adams, shared a home with her son at 1345 Hay Avenue, Cahuenga Township, in Crescent Precinct #2 of Los Angeles County.

On February 28, 1929, Mrs. Adams deeded Lots 10 and 11 of the Crescent Heights tract, on which her home at what had been renamed Hayworth Avenue was located, to Harold Roland Cummings, for ten dollars. Cummings then took out a permit in March, 1929 to develop the land into an apartment building at a cost of approximately $170,000 -- an enormous sum at the time, considering the fact that, in 1929, the average home cost around $2500 to build and that Mr. Cummings was only planning on building 40 apartments. A letter dated at about that time showed that he had entered into an agreement with Albert R. Thompson, a real estate broker, to build an apartment building “per [Thompson’s] exact plans and specifications.” By 1930, Mr. Thompson was living, with his wife, in Apartment #115, paying $100 per month in rent.

On December 22, 1929, the Los Angeles Times printed two articles announcing that the building at 1345 N. Hayworth Avenue, developed by Arthur R. Thompson and now known as "The Casa de Contenta", was open for inspection.

On February 1, 1930, Harold R. Cummings sold the “title, rights and a 99 year lease to Lots 10 & 11” to Mrs. Dorothy Davenport Reid for $174,000, in the form of two trust deeds at 7%, both due in 5 years (30 year mortgages didn’t exist until 1932) and payable at the rate of $300 per month. By August, 1930, classified advertisements ran in the Los Angeles Times for “Mrs. Wallace Reid’s Casa de Contenta Apartments”, which were rented furnished to movie industry luminaries, including Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The March 8, 1931 issue of the Galveston Texas Daily News details the extraordinary fact that Mrs. Reid gave her tenants their choice of furniture at the apartments and Mr. Arbuckle decided he liked the furniture in the lobby best so she had it sent up to his suite. Both the 1930 Voter Registration List and the 1931 Los Angeles City Directory list Mrs. Reid and her mother, Alice, as living at 1345 N. Hayworth.

Mrs. Reid had worked closely with her architect on the home she had shared with her late husband on DeLongpre Avenue, and in all likelihood, she did the same on her Casa de Contenta. The December 22, 1929 article announcing that Mr. Thompson was opening this building for inspection gives a long list of wonderful features that all bear probable witness to Mrs. Reid’s direct architectural supervision – a lounge, a tea garden, a putting green, a 16 by 50 foot swimming pool (originally on the west side of the building, long since filled in, but still visible even with tall trees planted in it), a gymnasium (now a large subterranean storage room), a cafe. Sadly, the original building permit and blueprints for 1345 N. Hayworth Avenue have been lost, so at this juncture we can only speculate as to the identity of the architect on the Casa de Contenta. It's possible that the architect on the Hayworth Gardens was also the architect on the Reid's DeLongpre house -- Frank L. Meline, who designed two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places – the Ruskin Art Club, at 800 N. Plymoth (in 1923) and the Garden Court Apartments in Hollywood, built in 1913. The Reid's home on DeLongpre was also Mediterranean revival and bore a resemblance to the Casa de Contenta, at least stylistically. In 1926, Meline’s company developed the Riviera Country Club, another landmark Mediterranean structure with characteristics similar to our building. But by 1929 Meline was functioning more as a real estate developer and less as an architect, so it's also possible that Mrs. Reid had turned to someone else to develop her rental building.

Dorothy Davenport Reid was a major figure in film history, particularly in women’s film history, as one of the first female directors, the widow of one of the greatest film stars of his era and a major star in her own right, as per this article in the film journal Synoptique 4 “..Dorothy Davenport played an important role in developing this emerging cinema. Her films are exemplary of certain narratives, aesthetic forms, and themes that were developed in the silent era, all of which, as abandoned by the new technology-seeking Hollywood studios, were maintained by the filmmakers of the low-budget independent cinema of the 1930s. In addition, the maintenance of this old-fashioned style and the subsequent evocation of the surreal and the “Social Fantastic” make these wonderful and lurid pulp films worthy of further critical investigation.”

Sadly, it was her film career that probably led to the loss of the building, too. In 1925, Davenport made The Red Kimono, a film about the melodramatic exploits of a real-life woman called Gabriella Darley. Unfortunately, she used Ms. Darley’s real name without permission in the making of this hit film, and was successfully sued by her, with the case settled in March, 1931. To pay settlement costs, it appears that she returned the Casa de Contenta to Harold R. Cummings in March, 1931, and by January of 1932 title to the Casa de Contenta had been taken over by Pacific State Savings and Loan.

By 1934, according to classified advertisements in the L.A. Times, the building had been renamed “El Jardin”, the name by which it was known, according to permit records on file at WeHo City Hall, until at least 1950. Eventually, Spanish gave way to an English equivalent and the building is now known as the Hayworth Gardens.

The building was sold again in 1948, to the Capitol Company, for $165,000. At that time it was described as a 51 unit, furnished apartment building. Several permits on file at West Hollywood City Hall show that the building was extensively renovated during the 1950s, with lighting installed in the lobby and courtyards, and major plumbing worked performed. In 1968, the building, now containing 48 units, as well as a pool, was purchased for $400,000 by a Mrs. Elizabeth Colyear Dible, who planned "extensive renovations" for the building, according to another article in the L.A. Times.

In 1980, the Hayworth Gardens, which a May 17, 1980 article in the L.A. Times described as "one of Hollywood's most distinguished apartment buildings", was converted to condominiums. In October, another article detailed the building's "high coved ceilings" and recreation room (in all likelihood, the former gymnasium and current storage room). It's believed that around this time the pool was filled in and planted with trees. The drawing of the building at the lower right of this website is taken from a 1980 advertisement for condominiums in this building.

The Hayworth Gardens is now a 42 unit, vintage condiminium building with many original features, from the palm frond murals on the hallway walls, to the high, coved ceilings in most of the apartments, to our very ample parking and lovely courtyard (which now contains a lush container garden and central fountain). As the title of this article says, our research into the history of the wonderful old building is a work in progress, and if you have any information that would further enlighten us, won't you please drop us a line?

-- Angela McGregor, May 13, 2007