The Snow White Cottages

I thought I had pulled all the useful information out of the 1940 census, that I had discovered everything of relevance to me and my family.  Well, not exactly.

I recently read a Los Angeles Times article about a Glendale, CA, home tour.  One of the featured houses was built in 1927 and designed by Ben Sherwood, best known for the Snow White Cottages in Los Feliz.  Something about “Snow White” and “Los Feliz” rang a bell, so I clicked on the link to a November 2011 Times article about the cottages.

As soon as I saw the pictures of the cottages I understood why they seemed familiar.  My aunt Betty and her husband lived at 2908 Griffith Park Blvd. in 1940 in one of the eight cottages within the small complex.  I had found my aunt in the 1940 census a couple of months ago and used Google’s street view to see what the property looked like these days.  My first impression was that the homes looked interesting in that 1930s L.A. kind of way, nothing special just different.  It never occurred to me to refer to them as cottages. And I definitely did not make the Snow White connection.

The cottages were built in 1931, right around the corner from Walt Disney’s original animation studio.  Disney’s staff sometimes used them as offices, and according to the 1940 census, Claude Coats, a young animator at Disney, lived in cottage 2912.  Coats would go on to have a brilliant career at the studio and was honored as a “Disney Legend” in 1991.  Among the many films he worked on: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The Snow White movie didn’t come along until 1937, so the cottages may have been an inspiration for the design of the Seven Dwarfs’ homes, rather than the other way around. The cottages’ most well-known recent Hollywood connection was as the Sierra Bonita Apartments in David Lynch’s 2001 film, “Mulholland Drive.”

Talk about a house history.  Check out the Times article here for an in-depth look at these fascinating little cottages and their storybook existence.


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