Visiting Dolores and Bob Hope’s House in Toluca Lake

March 12, 2015 § 2 Comments

A Norman Rockwell Portrait of Bob Hope in his Toluca Lake Home/All photos Hope Anderson Productions

A Norman Rockwell Portrait of Bob Hope in his Toluca Lake Home/All photos Hope Anderson Productions

Several weeks ago I was invited to tour the Bob Hope house, which had recently hit the market. Located in Toluca Lake, the five-acre estate runs the length of a couple of city blocks and is hidden behind a tall hedge. Given its sprawl, I had always assumed that it was a country club. But when I made my way in via the huge gatehouse (which also housed Hope’s business office, a substantial enterprise), I found a surprisingly comfortable, albeit super-sized, family house.
A Downstairs Sitting Room

A Downstairs Sitting Room

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 Pool and Guesthouse, with California Pepper Tree in Foreground

The Pool and Guesthouse, with California Pepper Tree in Foreground

The Back Terrace

The Back Terrace

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.
Dolores Hope's Bedroom

Dolores Hope’s Bedroom

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.
Bob Hope's Bathroom

Bob Hope’s Bathroom

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.
The Children's Room. The door is at left.

The Children’s Room. The door is at left.

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§ 2 Responses to Visiting Dolores and Bob Hope’s House in Toluca Lake

  • M.F. Sibley says:

    How wonderful to see a house that was truly being lived in as a practical HOME and not as a trophy house! I tire of seeing high priced homes today that have every convenience known to man and are painted white, white, white and have the dreaded “open floor plan”. Bob and Dolores Hope planned their house to suit their needs and didn’t cave in to the decorating “flavor of the month” concepts. Gee, separate bathrooms? The earth is going to fall off its axis and the moon and stars will never shine again!! Adding insult to injury was the concept that Mrs. Hope actually watched her own children and didn’t pawn them off on nannies. I love this woman! In closing, I find their home lovely and a delight to behold. I’d buy it in a New York minute if I lived on the West Coast.

    • It was listed at $22 million–too much for the location, and it had already been dropped in price. The realtors were remarking on the separate bedrooms, not the bathrooms–yet my realtor says a lot of his clients would prefer that arrangement.

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