In the 1940's part of the fabled hill was cut through by the Hollywood Freeway, and Whitley Heights withdrew into its shell, like a threathened snail. Recently it was declared a National Historic Place - Hollywood's first - and acquired some protection against alterations or additions that would change its character.
This character is exemplified by the Villa Vallambrosa, a three-story house built in 1929 by Eleanor De Witt, a wealthy and fastidious widow. Like most of the houses in Whitley Heights, it is not the usual symmetrical rectangle, but a collection of rooms and courtyards of various shapes and levels, fitted to the steep hillside.
Its next-to-last owner, a decorator who evidently in his white period, did everything white, including the dining room ceiling, which had been gold leaf and can not be restored. The present owners mercifully have covered or thrown out the white including the white shag carpet in the high-ceiling Italian living room. Also they have restored a framed photograph of the elegant Mrs. De Witt, in a cloche hat, looking pensive.
Thanks to relays of tireless and friendly Hollywood Heritage docents we picked up some facts, along with the legend. Whitley Heights was developed by Hobart J. Whitley, who bought the hill in 1899. He liked the architectural styles of the Mediterrean, thought they would be suitable to Southern California climate and hired architect, Arthur Barnes, to adapt them to his hill. Barnes did most of the houses built before 1930.