The word is that Bela Lugosi once lived in a large castle estate that sits above Sunset Boulevard. The original entrance gates were at 8311 Sunset but today the entrance gates are at 1486 North Sweetzer (the original servants’ and service entrance). The mansion is 90 feet above Sunset, almost totally hidden in the trees.
Lugosi never lived there, though the story of the estate is an interesting one.
The mansion was built by George Campbell Carson, a miner. Because of some trouble with the big mining companies he spent 19 years in court fighting them, at that time living in San Francisco. 1925 he finally won $1,000,000 (probably $50,000,000 today) and in 1927 he married. The couple immediately began construction on an estate they called Mt. Kalmia on a four-acre eucalyptus grove sitting about ninety feet above 8311 Sunset Boulevard (the original entrance was on Sunset).
Mt. Kalmia was an extravagant castle, complete with battlements and rounded turrets and towers, seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms, two sun decks, etc. The inside was designed to mimic the terraced grounds so there were a dozen levels. There was a music room, solarium, library, morning reading-room, coffee-room, nursery, a billiard-room, refectory, butler’s pantry, grocery and laundry rooms, and elaborate quarters for the maids and chauffeurs. Wide three-story tall winding staircases were lit by stained glass among more than 125 grilled windows. The wood moldings throughout were hand-carved and wallpaper painted by hand. The dining hall was all original Hepplewhite. The drawing room original Louis XVI.
The mansion cost $500,000 and took six years to complete. It was finished in late 1933 but George Campbell Carson died less than a year later in 1934. Carson’s family tried to get his money but the widow won in court and kept the mansion. For a time in the late 1930’s she stayed in the house and gave parties for children but by 1941 it was being rented by Patricia Noblesse Hogan and used as a combination guest-house/rooming house.
The castle in the 1930′s:
In 1947 it was sold in a tax sale to dentist Manuel Haig for $83,000.
A photo from 1947:
Over the years the house has had a number of interesting tenants after Haig sold it. Howard Hughes’ mysterious right-hand-man Noah Dietrich lived there in the 1950’s and Motown legend Barry Gordy in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Gordy hosted parties for 300 to 400 people.
Before Johnny Depp bought the castle in 1995 for $2.3 million, it was owned by divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who lost it in a bankruptcy after being convicted of tax fraud.
Because of its resemblance to a Bavarian castle, 1930’s Hollywood tour guides told people Bela Lugosi lived there. But he never did. In the early 1930’s Lugosi lived in several Hollywood and Beachwood Canyon houses. From the late 1920’s into the early 1930’s he lived at 1146 North Hudson. In 1934 he moved to 1728 North Hudson where he stayed for several years. From there he moved to 1534 North McCadden Place and then on to houses on Creston Drive and Outpost Drive. But he never lived at the Carson’s Mt. Kalmia house.
For more photos of Johnny’s homes have a look at our GALLERY.