Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments – Culver City, California - Atlas Obscura

Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments

Known as the "Hobbit Houses," these storybook homes look like they're straight out of the Shire. 

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Hidden in downtown Culver City, surrounded by high-rise apartments and restaurants aplenty, are the “Hobbit Houses,” officially titled the Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments.

In 1946, former Walt Disney Studios artist Lawrence Joseph purchased a single-family home. Over the course of 20 years, he added two more buildings and covered it all in fairy-tale elements. Major construction was completed in 1970, but Joseph tinkered with the cottages until his death in 1991. 

His wife Martha has maintained the property and kept her husband’s designs alive. The cottages are now a historical landmark and cannot be dramatically updated and renovated like much of the surrounding area has been in recent years.  

This whimsical three-building complex includes multiple residences and maritime decor. While the inside is not open to the public for viewing, individual units are often available to rent or sublet.

Stroll by for a clear view of the buildings and turtle pond—though they’re often quite still while sunning themselves on the rocks, they’re real turtles! One of the resident’s friendly cats may even greet you on the sidewalk as the storybook architecture and curved walls transport you to another world.

Know Before You Go

The courtyard is private property. Enjoy the hobbit houses and turtle pond from the sidewalk unless a resident invites you into the courtyard.