Sunday, February 21, 2010

Walkabout: Garden of Allah

The Garden of Allah was a famous apartment complex in West Hollywood, California, on Sunset Boulevard between Crescent Heights and Havenhurst, at the east end of the Sunset Strip.
Although built in a Spanish-Moorish style of architecture, it derived its name not from Islam but from stage and screen actress Alla Nazimova, its original owner. Originally known as The Garden of Alla, it was a single mansion at 8080 Sunset Boulevard, built in 1919. It became notorious for the wild parties allegedly held there by the openly lesbian Nazimova.

As her acting career declined, Nazimova built a complex of 25 villas around the main building in 1927. The complex had the address of 8152 Sunset Boulevard. Though Nazimova later sold the property, she continued to live in one of the villas on the grounds.

The Garden of Allah became home to many celebrities and literary figures. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there for several months in 1937-38 at the beginning of his final sojourn in Hollywood. (He wrote himself a postcard while there: "Dear Scott -- How are you? Have been meaning to come in and see you. I have living [sic] at the Garden of Allah. Yours, Scott Fitzgerald.") Humorist/actor Robert Benchley was a frequent resident. Fitzgerald's biographer and lover Sheilah Graham later wrote a book about the place called The Garden of Allah (New York: Crown, 1969).

In spite of the fact that it was among the landmark buildings of the west side of Los Angeles, it was torn down in June 1959 and replaced by a bank with a strip mall behind it. Actor Francis X. Bushman and his wife, who had been at the opening party, attended the closing party as well.

Source of the name

In 1905, English writer Robert S. Hichens published the novel Garden of Allah. The novel was adapted into a play first produced in New York City in 1909. Mary Mannering acted in the play in 1910, and Nazimova herself performed in the play in New York in 1913.

Across the street at the northwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights.

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