Visiting Dolores and Bob Hope’s House in Toluca Lake
March 12, 2015 § 2 Comments
The Hopes were extraordinarily long-lived: Bob died in 2003 at 100, and Dolores in 2011 at 102. They commissioned the house and lived there from 1937 until their deaths. Given the number of years they spent there, and the ages at which they died, I assumed the house would be in dire need of renovation, but except from some old carpeting in the hallways, it was remarkably well-maintained, and had been updated at regular intervals. Originally a vaguely Norman, traditional house, it was substantially added to in contemporary style, befitting the Hopes’ interest in modern architecture. (Their renowned Palm Springs house was designed by John Lautner.) The broad covered terrace in back and glass entryway were mid-century additions that radically changed the appearance of the house. The airy downstairs rooms, all made for entertaining on a large scale, were also modernist, with glass walls facing the substantial garden, which included a pool and poolside guest quarters and party room. Dolores Hope, originally a singer, was an accomplished hostess, and the substantial kitchen boasted two pantries big enough to hold china, crystal and silver for hundreds.
The upstairs was as private as the downstairs was public. Most of the people touring the house with me were realtors who regarded the unconventional master suite with disapproval. Instead of a single master bedroom, there were interconnected his-and-hers bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and sitting area. Apparently anything out of the ordinary is considered a hard sell, but I found it refreshing to see a house whose owners aimed to suit themselves, not some theoretical future buyer.
Bob and Dolores led highly independent, very different lives. His involved work–including 50 Christmases spent on the road with the USO–and a not-very-secret extramarital social life that included several long-term affairs. Hers revolved around their four children and her religion. A devout Catholic, Dolores was only minutes away from her parish church, St. Charles Borromeo. (She poured millions into building St. Charles, a Spanish Baroque gem that replaced the original Spanish Mission-style church in 1957.) For all the realtors’ tut-tutting about their separate bedrooms, it’s worth noting that the Hopes were married for 69 years, until Bob Hope’s death, and that they now lie permanently side-by-side.
It was interesting to see Bob Hope’s bathroom, not only because it had a urinal but because it was nicely rebuilt late in his life to be wheelchair accessible. But (aside from the pantries), my favorite feature of the house was the little door leading from Dolores’s bedside to the larger of the children’s rooms, which allowed her to check on her youngsters in the middle of the night without going through the hallway. It showed her practicality and maternal concern, and made me feel almost as if I had met her.