The architecture of Hollywood’s secret hideaways in Lake Arrowhead

Jan 7, 2021 | Lake Arrowhead


Staff Writer

Southern California architecture is often traditionally associated with either the Spanish Colonial era, the Mediterranean style or even Modernistic, but that is not true in the Lake Arrowhead area. The unique style that began almost 100 years ago, in the 1920s, was an Anglo/Norman Revival style that created a new look and brought a unified cultural styling to the mountain community.

This style attracted many famous architects to the area, since it was challenging to create new homes that fit within the mandated style requirement. “Architectural design and style are a visual language,” said Diane Wilk AIA, who will give a virtual presentation on the architecture of “Hollywood’s Secret Hideaways in Lake Arrowhead” on Thursday, Jan. 14.

This free Zoom presentation is sponsored by the Institute of Classical Arts & Architecture in Philadelphia, said Wilk. Although advance registration is required for this virtual meeting, it is recommended viewing for anyone who is interested in mountain real estate or those living in the Lake Arrowhead area and those who are intrigued by its unique visual styling.

Local residents are especially encouraged to sign in to the presentation.

Lifelong part-time resident and American Institute of Architecture (AIA) architect Diane Wilk use videos and photos to illustrate the engaging story, exploring the fascinating variety of architectural styling that has been used over the decades to beautify the Lake Arrowhead community, making it a very desirable area in which to live.

She will also explore the area’s history and the architects who designed the lakeside and forest homes during her talk to the Philadelphia chapter of the Institute of Classical Art and Architecture.

Architectural examples will include the world’s first A-frame by Rudolf Schindler, several projects by famous Black architect Paul Revere Williams, who designed over 3,000 homes in the country and some of the best in Lake Arrowhead. She will discuss a cabin designed by Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Hut,” plus Clark Gable’s hideaway and two of Shirley Temple’s homes, including her 1931 hunting lodge. She will be dropping many celebrity names (such as Liberace and Liz Taylor) while showing their getaway retreats. Wilk will explain how the stars and their architects worked together, creating the current day, desirable community of Lake Arrowhead.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – it started with a scandal involving architect McNeal Swasey, who created the original Anglo/Normandy style and his penchant for promotion. This style began the orderly growth of the community by unifying the home designs within the confines of and inspired by nature and the four seasons the area enjoys. These designs created the beauty that Lake Arrowhead is known for, as seen through the architect’s eye, creating these beautiful works of man that also provide more than just shelter from the elements.

Wilk begins this video story with the Native people who populated the mountains for thousands of years and how the Victorian rustic architecture of the turn-of-the-century, which made an impact in Southern California architecture, was not used in the mountain area and why the Anglo/Norman and now alpine architecture and their legacy are used to the present day.

One of the dozens of homes she discusses is the first significant home at Lake Arrowhead, which was by developer J.B. Van Nuys, who was the first to build in the English/French/Norman style designed by McNeal Swasey.

This home was first opened to public viewing during the 1991 Lake Arrowhead Home Tour for an insight into the classic home’s history. Later on, a Bavarian influence was added into the Lake Arrowhead style, as Swiss and Alpine styles were also incorporated into home design.

Many aviators were attracted to Lake Arrowhead, such as Hamilton, Lockheed, Amelia Earhart and Pancho Bailey, who visited and lived in the area. Their homes and significant impact to the area are incorporated into the talk.

Wilk covers the story of the four Arrowhead Springs hotels and the impact by Paul Williams on them, the styling of Snow Valley and Mozumdar and the invention of the A-frame home design, which originated in Lake Arrowhead.

Join this award-winning, California native architect as she explores the architecture of her childhood from her summers spent on Lake Arrowhead, including the discussion of the design of her own one-of-a-kind Arrowhead home on Point Hamiltair and how it was inspired by the lake, the stream and the rich history of this hidden locale.

Wilk has been doing research for a book she is writing on the architecture of the Lake Arrowhead area for over a decade, interviewing longtime residents, architects, historians and even developers such as J. Putnam Henck. This presentation gives a peek into that future publication.

Wilk came to love architecture as a youngster, inspired by her meeting with architect Paul Williams while in Lake Arrowhead. Her deep love of the area is influenced by her multi-generational experience as a Lake Arrowhead property owner. Hear the story of how Wilk designed a Lake Arrowhead home for her father.

She and her architect husband, Michael Burch, were the first architects in Southern California to receive the “Palladio Award for Adaptive Reuse and/or Sympathetic Addition” for the remodel they did on their home in the Alta Canyada section of La Canada/Flintridge in 2014. “This is the only national award given for traditional architecture,” Burch said. (

The virtual lecture “California’s Other tradition: The Anglo/Norman architecture of Hollywood’s Secret Hideaways” will be presented via Zoom on Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. EST (3 p.m. West Coast time). Advanced registration, which is free, is required. Use this link to register:



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