This historic building, nicknamed “Tara” by locals because of its resemblance to the plantation home in Gone With The Wind, sits on a massive estate right in the middle of Laurel Ave., half a block south of Sunset and within eyeshot of the Laugh Factory. The expansive property, lush with trees and shrubbery, is an oasis among the densely packed apartment buildings that populate the surrounding area. Built in 1914, the house is an excellent example of Colonial Revival architecture, and is the last of its kind in WeHo. It was also the home of the Modern Forum, a mid-century Los Angeles think tank that hosted such luminaries as Einstein, Gandhi, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
When the property’s original owner, Elsie Weisman, died in 2000 at the age of 101 (reportedly while watching, yes, Gone With The Wind) she donated the estate to the city in the hope that it would be preserved as a park and cultural center. So when the city announced plans to demolish the house for an “affordable housing” development project on the site, the neighborhood protested. A group of community activists formed a non-profit and sued the city to stop the development. After several years of legal wrangling, the State Supreme court ruled against the city, preserving the property and paving the way for the long-anticipated park.
That was two years ago, and a recent visit reveals that the park appears closer than ever to becoming a reality. The grounds are extremely well-kept. The vegetation along the perimeter fence – once thick enough to conceal a neighbor’s giant tortoise farm – has been trimmed back, allowing ample views of the property. The house is bright and clean with a fresh varnish of paint, and looks better than it has in years. And new picnic benches have sprouted up in tastefully strategic locations around the property. A sign on the fence says public access is “Coming Soon!” Fiddle-dee-dee.
Tara House, 1343 N. Laurel Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90046