Wolf’s Lair: Bud Wolf’s Storybook Castle in Hollywoodland

January 4, 2010 § 13 Comments

Wolf's Lair/All photos by Hope Anderson Productions

Chief among the misconceptions about Wolf’s Lair, the beautiful Loire-style castle on Durand Drive, is that its name has something to do with wolves; certainly the wolf’s head placard on the front gate implies it. Nevertheless, Wolf’s Lair was named not for the animal but the man who built it:  Bud Wolf.   

Wolf was a real estate developer; he also owned the Texaco station that stood on the site of Beachwood Market’s parking lot. As lord and master of Wolf’s Lair, he also may have been the archetypal early Hollywoodlander: an eccentric bon vivant. When not at home in his splendid turreted mansion with views of Lake Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign and the Observatory, Wolf enjoyed playing golf and driving his gull-wing Mercedes. He had a mistress named Diane. (His wife suffered from mental illness.) He employed the alcoholic former caretaker of the Hollywoodland Sign as a full-time handyman. He also kept an exotic pet: a gibbon whose howls ricocheted around the canyon. The gibbon lived in a tree during the day; at night he supposedly retired to a room in one of the turrets.   

Wolf’s Lair is notable not only as a fine example of the French château architecture that was the rage in Hollywood during the 1920’s but as an example of mid-century architecture as well, as Wolf later commissioned a guest house by the architect John Lautner. Although the exterior resembles a plainer version of the main house, its interior is pure Lautner, with wood-beamed ceilings, stone pillars and lots of glass. The guest house is one of three commissions John Lautner designed in Beachwood Canyon, the most famous of which is the glass-fronted addition of Beachwood Market, built in 1952.   

Wolf’s Lair’s western facade. Lautner’s guest house is at left.
Beachwood Market’s Lautner addition, at right.


Until I went up to Wolf’s Lair the other day to take pictures of its neighbor, Castillo del Lago, I hadn’t realized it too was for sale. (How long has it been since both lakeside mansions were on the market simultaneously?)  Price:$4.695 million, for 3.3 acres, 8 bedrooms, six baths, a pool and gardens. And the most enormous stone walls imaginable, from granite quarried in Bronson Canyon. (Agent: Ernie Carswell, Teles Properties) 

Even by the fairytale standards set by Hollywoodland’s developers, Wolf’s Lair’s charm is exceptional. At once massive and delicate, it rises above Lake Hollywood like something out of a dream.   

I am grateful to Harry Williams for biographical information about Bud Wolf. 

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§ 13 Responses to Wolf’s Lair: Bud Wolf’s Storybook Castle in Hollywoodland

  • Robert C. Goshay says:

    Thanks for the memories… (ca.1944-49) Worked as a high school teenager at L. Milton Wolfe’s Texaco Station, operated by R>F. “Dick” Hillman originally from Tulare, CA. Serviced LMW’s cars; parking valet for many parties at the Castle, also yard work. Acquainted with his daughter Jackie, later a Stanford student. Helped at the party bar in the “garage” (at the driveway entrance). RCG

  • Accidentally came across this blog. My best friend in elementary school was Bud’s grandson (Jackie’s son). I grew up in the late 60’s playing in this place. When Bud passed, the house went to Jackie. It is my understanding that she was unable to pay the estate/death taxes and sold the house for $1.1M (c.1980). -BLE

  • Denise galant says:

    My grandad made the sign at the gate . My mother and dad were engaged at a party at his house. Diane was one of my moms best friends . I still have two of her outfits from Gunsmoke. I wore them in the 1980s to punk clubs on sunset. I lived under the mansion in 1976 during the rainstorm that tore down the Hollywood sign 1978. The hill fell on the house I was in.

  • Denise galant says:

    I remember bud wolf. I knew Diane we’ll as a child and have many memories of her. I was at her 60th birthday. I was 20 at Ucla film school then. She had Zigfield Folie women at her party. My mom was only 41 then.

  • I have pictures of Diane if anyone is interested. but the sign of wolfs lair was done by my grandfather who would be about 128 years old now. He was an artist. By the way, I also lived with Bessie Lasky and I am the first woman video editor in LA at nbc in 1976. I forget how young Hollywood is. Bessie talked about tying up her horses at holywood and vine.

  • Oh and … Diane,s name was Diane Livingston.

  • Wow a reply. It will take a bit for my to find the pics of Diane specifically. I can get you my grandad right away. Also Bessie Lasky I need to scan as I have the last two Picts of her ever taken. That was about 1972. Grandad was special. Glad you appreciate!

  • Alicia Casale potter says:

    Does anyone know if Jackie McNary, Bud’s daughter is still alive? I lived with Jim and Jackie in the Hollywood Hills in the 90’s. Jackie use to drive me around the properties that Her dad Bud built. She shared so many interesting stories.
    Sadly I lost touch with her and have no idea how to find her. So many cards and letters went unanswered that I gave up. I am well aware that Jim died as did her son. This may have added to her not wanting to correspond. I respect her privacy but would love to know any current details.

    • Brian says:

      Jackie was one of my mom’s best friends. Unfortunately she passed away a while ago. Her son Marty (my best friend in elementary school) also passed away. Daughter Jamie is still alive and my mother still keeps in touch with her.

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