The history of these eight storybook cottages attests to Los Angeles’ reputation as a city of dreams and whimsy.
Built in 1931 by Ben Sherwood, this complex of eight cottages was a likely inspiration for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. With cragged thatched roofs, black timber framing and random patches of rusticated masonry, the cottages are a prime exemplar of the so-called storybook style—a minor phenomenon in Los Angeles architecture of the 1920s and 1930s. The Spadena House in Beverly Hills and the famous Tam O’Shanter Inn restaurant are two other such examples of L.A.’s fairytale craze.
Located at the 2900 block of Griffith Park Boulevard in Los Feliz, the cottages stand just a few blocks from the original site of Walt Disney’s studios, where the animation legend worked from 1926 until 1940. The current owner is Sylvia Helfert, who purchased the property in 1976. She claims that a former Disney employee used one of the cottages as an office space during the production of Disney’s classic 1937 re-telling of the Brothers Grimm tale. It’s hard to imagine that Disney could have overlooked the charming coincidence of the cottages’ number, eight, as a perfect dwelling for Snow White and her suite of seven dwarves.
The cottages, nicknamed the “Snow White Cottages” by locals, made a more literal film appearance as the location for the Sierra Bonita apartment complex in David Lynch’s 2001 neo-noir thriller Mulholland Drive. In a real-life testament to the site’s spooky allure, two of the cottages were once home to musician Elliott Smith, whose mysterious death by stabbing in 2003 remains unsolved as either suicide or homicide.