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Johnny Weissmuller’s Former Home

Oct 31st, 2012 | By | Category: Celebrity Homes

Johnny Weissmuller House (3 of 10)

I would like to start off today’s post by wishing all of my fellow stalkers a very Happy Halloween! And while I could not be more excited to celebrate the day that I pretty much spend all year waiting for, my heart is broken over the devastation to the East Coast (especially New York, one of my favorite cities in the entire world) caused by Hurricane Sandy. My prayers go out to those affected by the storm. Here’s wishing for a speedy and safe recovery process and that those on the East Coast are still able to somewhat enjoy Halloween. And now, on with the post! Knowing how much I love me some historical properties, fellow stalker E.J., from The Movieland Directory website, recently told me about a massive Bel Air estate that had once belonged to Tarzan-actor/five-time Olympic-gold-medalist Johnny Weissmuller. E.J. thought that I might be interested in stalking the place for my Haunted Hollywood posts being that it has been abandoned for almost two and a half decades now. An abandoned mansion with a Hollywood history? Um, sold! So I immediately added the site to my To-Stalk list and dragged the Grim Cheaper right on over there this past weekend.

According to Wikipedia, the property, which was named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on April 6, 1990, is known as the Nicolosi Estate and it was designed in 1931 by Paul Revere Williams, the legendary architect who also designed Perino’s restaurant (which I blogged about here) and the residence that stood in for Wayne Manor on the Batman television series (which I blogged about here). The mansion was named in honor of one of its lesser-known residents, sculptor Joseph Nicolosi, who lived on the premises beginning in the 1950s until his death in 1961. According to property records, the Mediterranean Revival-style pad still belongs to the Nicolosi family, although it has not been lived in for over 24 years. As you can see below, sadly, not much of the place can currently be seen from the street.

Johnny Weissmuller House (6 of 10)

Johnny Weissmuller House (4 of 10)

Thankfully though, E.J. was kind enough to share some photographs that he took of the home back in 1988, when the property was much more visible to the public. As you can see, thanks to some fire damage, the place looks like a real life haunted house.

Johnny Weissmuller House (12 of 12)

Johnny Weissmuller House (6 of 12)

The Nicolosi Estate was commissioned by Johnny Weissmuller, who portrayed the legendary character Tarzan in twelve of the series’ films. The actor was also a lifelong competitive swimmer and the house reflects his passion. While the 8,700-square-foot, 4-bedroom, 5-bath abode looks to have been pretty spectacular during its heyday, it is the GINORMOUS 300-foot-long serpentine swimming pool (which is visible from the road) that circles around the dwelling, complete with rock bridges and grotto-style hot tubs, that had me drooling. What I would not give to have seen that pool in its glory days!

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The pool also featured a cascading 150-foot electric waterfall made out of rocks, which you can see a portion of in the photograph below.

Johnny Weissmuller House (11 of 12)

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion, as well as a slew of rumors, surrounding the history of the Nicolosi Estate. In fact, some people doubt that the house ever even belonged to Weissmuller. In The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book, author William A. Gordon states, “Weissmuller’s only biographer was unable to substantiate this claim, and Jeff Hyland, a prominent Beverly Hills realtor and author of The Estates of Beverly Hills, told me he believes tour guides concocted the story because ‘it sounded good.’” According to the official Paul Revere Williams website, though, the house was indeed built for the Tarzan actor. And judging by that spectacular pool, I would say that the place definitely had to have been commissioned by a professional swimmer.

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The rumors don’t stop there, though. In the book Miss O’Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved, author/groupie Chris O’Dell says of the house, “The grounds were equally extravagant, with a swimming pool the size of a football field, another pool made to look like a river and big enough for a rowboat, tennis courts, four pink stucco guest houses, and stately old trees with overarching branches and dense foliage. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst had bought the house for his mistress, actress Marion Davies; Howard Hughes had been a guest there in the grand old days of Hollywood, and John and Jackie Kennedy had honeymooned there in 1953. At least that’s what I was told, and I believed it.” And while the William Randolph Hearst/Marion Davies story is, most likely, true, I do not believe that JFK and Jackie ever spent any time on the premises.

Johnny Weissmuller House (8 of 12)

Not that the place didn’t have its fair share of celebrity inhabitants. In 1972, actress Mackenzie Phillips lived there for a short time with her father, The Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips, and step-mom, actress Genevieve Waite. In her 2009 book High on Arrival, Mackenzie says, “Dad gave me my own wing of the mansion. It was that kind of place – a pink Italian palace that was designed by Paul Williams for Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer and on-screen Tarzan. We also heard it had been rented or owned by William Randolph Hearst for his long-term paramour, Marion Davis. Whatever the case, the house was clearly built as a place for rich people to play. First Mick and Bianca Jagger had rented it at my dad’s recommendation, and when they left, Dad and Genevieve moved in from the Chateau Marmont. Dad liked to live large, to show everyone what a big star he was. The ceilings were twenty feet tall. The moldings had hand-painted fleur-de-lis. There was a mirrored hall and countless antiques. The vast ballroom was surrounded by Moroccan murals of guys on horses and temples with pointed tops. There was a stage, mirrors, a ballet bar, and a supply of wax to restore the floor to an optimal surface for dancing.”

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Of the pool, Mackenzie states, “Outside, there was a swimming pool that Johnny Weissmuller must have had built so he could do his laps. To say the pool was long is an understatement. It was 301 feet long, but skinny, and winding like a snake through exotic landscaping and funhouse weirdness. An arched bridge crossed over the pool and led to a stone tunnel with Gothic windows. Near the tunnel was a wall of hand-painted stucco cabanas. All the structures, including the bottom of the bridge over the pool (the part you saw when you swam under it) were decorated with hand-painted murals. It looked like the hybrid child of an Italian church and a Hawaiian lagoon. At the end of the pool closest to the road was a massive waterfall. What made the enormous, serpentine swimming pool most extraordinary was that it was kept empty. Who could maintain a pool that size? Dry and collecting dead leaves, it wound a deep, smooth path through the gardens with the mysterious aura of ancient ruins – the indestructible relic of other people’s lives. It may have been empty and eerie, but we put the pool to good use. It would have made an excellent skateboard park, but we didn’t have skateboards, so we rode Big Wheels down the length of it at four in the morning, racing back and forth in the deep darkness of the long, sunken pit.” So incredibly odd!

Johnny Weissmuller House (9 of 12)

The Phillips family was evicted from the Nicolosi Estate after only a few short months due to non-payment of rent. Apparently, when Mackenzie was on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009, a video clip of the house was shown, but I, unfortunately, could not find a copy of the episode anywhere with which to make screen captures for this post.

Johnny Weissmuller House (4 of 12)

Sadly, the massive abode was completely gutted by a fire sometime in the late ‘80s and, for whatever reason, has been left to rot, abandoned, ever since. You can see some of the fire damage in E.J.’s photographs below. According to Yahoo Answers poster Cortney K., another rumor about the house states that the then owner of the property set fire to it, while his family was inside, one Christmas Eve night before fleeing the scene. Who knows if that story is true or not, but Cortney said she did once spot old Christmas lights and bows on the premises. Oh, if only those walls could talk! Whatever the truth behind the mystery of the abode may be, there is no discounting the fact that it is a fabulous place to stalk and I was absolutely in awe while there.

Johnny Weissmuller House (10 of 12)

Johnny Weissmuller House (5 of 12)

You can find me on Facebook here and on Twitter at @IAMNOTASTALKER. And be sure to check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic.

Big THANK YOU to E.J., from The Movieland Directory website, for telling me about this location and for providing the fabulous pictures for this post!

Johnny Weissmuller House (6 of 12)

Until next time, Happy Stalking! Smile

Stalk It: Johnny Weissmuller’s former house is located at 414 St. Pierre Road in Bel Air. Alfred Hitchcock’s first Los Angeles home (which I blogged about here) is located just around the corner at 609 St. Cloud Road.

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35 comments

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  1. Donna Ayerst says:

    I lived in this house for a couple of months while the Rolling Stones were finishing Exile on Main Street. Mick and Bianca has rented the house and hired me as Jade Jagger’s nanny. The house had incredible coffered ceilings that were completely decorated with Italianate motif. The library was large, filled with walls of book shelves.The steps from the rear terrace led down to the enormous pool and the tunnel that was painted with beach-side cabanas and bathing beauties from the ’30s. The odd thing about the house was the kitchen, which was quite small. Also, the front entrance was virtually on the road. On night when I was alone in the house with Jade, someone began banging on the front door! I opened the upstairs window over the entrance and yelled at the guy to stop. He didn’t so I called the Bel Air security. The next morning Mick said to me that I had caused trouble for his friend, Brian Wilson (he also said I was right to call security)! Who knew???

  2. Sam says:

    Johnny Weismuller was renowned not only as Tarzan and a 5 Olympic Gold medalist but also for designing and building swimming pools for the rich and famous. He did this up until his death in Florida. That may be the confusion of the legend of this being Tarzans house. In florida there are literally dozens of homes where their pools were designed and built by Johnny Weismullers pool company.

  3. Casper W. Zublin Jr. says:

    My grandfather John A. Zublin commissioned the house as reported in the Williams book. He was a Swiss engineer that invented many oilfield tools – in fact, he had over 70 U.S. patents. My father and uncle grew up in the house and unfortunately they sold the house in the 50″s. Our family photo album is full of pictures of my family in the house, parties that my grandfather liked to throw, etc. The house had 55 rooms, the pool in fact was 310 feet long – one of my favorite pictures is of my father on an early surfboard paddling in the pool. When the house was first sold an 8 page brochure was printed highlighting many of the most beautiful rooms. It’s been many years since I have walked by the house, but at one time our family crest was above the front entrance. Mr. WIlliams created a beautiful home – it would be wonderful to see it restored to its former beauty.

    • David says:

      Casper, it would be great to see photos of this iconic house of its interior and exterior from the era your father and uncle grew up in it. I have been fascinated by it for decades, driving by it almost daily for a very long time. Could you possibly share some of those with us here? Or email them to me at davidrrbam at hot mail dot com. Thank you in advance, I know there are a lot of people who would appreciate that.

  4. Janice says:

    When I mentioned I live up the street, I meant Beverly Glen, not St. Pierre! I used to ride my motorcycle past this house on the back roads to UCLA tennis courts. It sparked my imagination every time. Such a grand, fun-loving place. I would love to plop a kayak into that pool, if it was full, and just paddle away. Maybe Weismuller had mini gondolas built!

    Obviously, some regular blow and go landscape maintenance is occurring. Those 134 pictures show a surprisingly tidy setting for such a lush locale. It looks like someone is showing 414 some love…

  5. Janice says:

    Live just up the street from here–such a cool old place. May be the inspiration for my next novel about an enlightened vampire who runs a girls’ school (a la Westlake). Have had some creepy dreams about the place…
    Thanks for keeping the imagination alive!

  6. THIS HISTORIC SITE SHOULD BE PRESERVED – PASS THIS HOUSE EVERYDAY – L U C I A

  7. Roy Jimenez says:

    Save Tarzan’s House is inviting citizens interested in morning protest supporting SAVING TARZAN’S from demolition. This is the last chance to shoe public support to save and restore the legendary hang out of Johnny Weissmuller, legends says: Tarzan was here!
    The City Counsel is the 21st of October at 7PM :

    State your support to save Tarzan’s House for Future Generations!The Elsinore City Council Meeting
    Starts at 7 PM Sharpe.
    At the Cultural Center
    183 N. Main Street
    Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
    Contact Phone for information: Phone: (951) 674-3124

    Public contact information on how and where to be to support Save Tarzan’s House:
    savetarzanshouse@gmail.com . Sent an email and leave your contact information, we’ll get back to you.

    Tarzan, Jane and Chita thank you, the children of the future thank you.

  8. Sobaire says:

    Would you know who I should contact to get permission tto photograph inside ?

    • Roy Jimenez says:

      You can just walk up there, abandoned for 20 years, best day to do this is on October 21, 2014.
      to see current condition go to: rockethub/tarzan

      Public contact information on how and where to be to support Save Tarzan’s House:
      savetarzanshouse@gmail.com . Sent an email and leave your contact information, we’ll get back to you.

      Tarzan, Jane and Chita thank you, the children of the future thank you.

  9. Sobaire says:

    What is the current status?

  10. Roy Jimenez says:

    HELP SAVE TARZAN’S HOUSE Go To http://www.rockethub, search: tarzan

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
    Effort Started to Stop Demolition of Legendary Tarzan’s Home says Save Tarzan’s House founder
    Elsinore, California, USA – April 21, 2014 – Renewed effort to preserve local legends is the new effort to Save Tarzan’s House in Elsinore, California. “This legendary Tarzan hang is worth preserving in any way possible” says Roy Jimenez, founder of the “Save Tarzan’s House” Support Fund via Rockethub.com.
    62-year-old Roy Jimenez has been spending his attention in saving the Legendary Tarzan’s house atop a hill, about to be developed into 1,035 homes. Everybody want to save legends and historic buildings, but latest word is that developers want to tear down Tarzan’s house to make way for a home development.
    “There comes a time when legends and Americana crosses path with developers”, says Mr. Jimenez, “but when it comes to saving older historical or places of legend, it easier to tear them down or let the place catch on fire”,”than to preserve legends of which history is made of and about”. ” I have started a Direct Public Support Fund via Crowdfunding portal “Rockethub.com”.
    In recent years, historical and legendary places of Pop Culture have disappeared by fire or demolition; due to lack of funds. Such is the case for Tarzan’s house for over 20 years: no funds to preserve this old house of a legend. Recent efforts in late April, 2014, include an offer to purchase the old Tarzan’s house by Roy Jimenez. As of this date no written response from the developer Spyglass Ranch,LLC.
    Jimenez, decided to lend a helping hand by spearheading to preserve the Tarzan’s house legend. Recent regulatory guidelines on Direct Public Offering/Crowdfunding, would allow for direct public support (donations) of a great cause or social project. There are rules, full disclosure up front, no exchange of ownership, gifts of appreciation are commonly given upon the close of the funding period.
    Roy further reveals, there are three options to Save Tarzan’s house: 1. Purchase and preserve Tarzan’s house where it now sits on three acres. 2) Relocates the house to another historical or willing site to rebuild Tarzan’s house or 3) the developer will demolish Tarzan’s house and plant a green zone over it.
    I prefer to “save Tarzan’s house”, says Roy Jimenez, “this international social experiment is what legends are made of” “the legend of Tarzan’s house is worth preserving: at all cost” The funds can be raised via the Rockethub.com portal; with the peoples support: together we can “save Tarzan’s house” and preserve for future generations.
    I will join in the Public comments session at the City of Elsinore, City Council meeting at:
    Time: 7PM Date: April 22, 2014 Where: City of Elsinore Address: EVMWD (Boardroom), 31315 Chaney Street, Elsinore, CA 92530, (951) 674-3146
    I formally will present the Save Tarzan’s House Fund Project to the City Council and ask for support to bring the parties together, seek a solution and to save Tarzan’s house under previous concerns laid out by the City of Elsinore City Council.
    I am prepared to conduct ongoing Crowdfunding efforts via Rockethub to save Tarzan’s house.
    Contact:
    Roy Jimenez
    savetarzanshouse@gmail.com Go to search: Rockethub Search: tarzan
    9107 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 450, Beverly Hills, CA, 90210

    • Dawn says:

      The house they are showing on Rocket Hub is not the same house. The one pictured here is in Bel Air. The one pictured in Rocket Hub is in a completely different place and looks nothing like the one in the above photos.

  11. Roy Jimenez says:

    I am putting together a Direct Public Fund to save Tarzan’s House in Elsinore. The developer wants to tear the old house down subject to permit application. There is a short time to save this summer swimming home.
    I have created “Savetarzanshouse” via Rockethub.com
    I ask all Tarzan supporters to visit Rockethub, search: savetarzanshouse
    Thank you.
    I would like to talk to you about your Tarzans home in BelAire

    savetarzanshouse@gmail.com

  12. Cortney says:

    My cousin shared your page with me, I am the Yahoo Cortney K. Haha, I actually have some photos from inside te house (yes I snuck in) and let me just say it’s way creepier inside those walls.

    • Dawn says:

      Johnny W.’s house (same house Mackenzie Phillips live in at one time) was 414 St. Pierre Road. The pics from this are for another address. That’s an amazing home though.

  13. C_Valley Girl says:

    I have been obsessed with this house for a long time and hope it is one day restored. Just walking the length of the pool would blow my mind. I found pics of the murals and a ton of other photos from the property. Hopefully this link will work for you all:http://imageevent.com/jeap/414

  14. Kent Schuelke says:

    Lindsay:

    I believe that the Marion Davies home where The Kennedys spent part of their honeymoom was not the Bel Air property but the Marion Davies’ mansion at 1011 Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. The Beverly Drive mansion was a filming location from The Godfather (horse head in bed scene) and The Bodyguard. Here’s a link:

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2007/07/las_most_expens.php

  15. sandra says:

    I’ve been reading your posts for a long time, but this one has put me over the edge. Its time to save my money for a trip to L.A.! I was there on business about ten years ago, and my friend and I had a car service drive us all over the hillls one night, just to look at the houses, your blog keeps me in a Hollywood state of mind. I love it, thanks for all your efforts.

  16. Sam says:

    The photo’s that your friend took, in 1988, was that before the fire?

    • E.J. Fleming says:

      Photos from ’88 and early 90’s. They fire took place some time before that, although there was a newspaper story that it was also damaged in a 2007 fire. The roof area from a fire in the attic or upper floor or something. But it was clearly damaged long before that. I visited the site in 2000 or 2001 for a segment on the AMC show Behind the Screen and it was in the exact same condition it was when I first visited in the late 80’s.

      • Sam says:

        Hello E.J. Thanks for the information. Have you ever seen or read what caused the fire? The photo’s are great, thank you. Have you ever been inside the house? Appreciate your comments, sam

    • Lindsay says:

      No, from after. You can see the fire damage in the pics.

  17. E.J. Fleming says:

    Sam, Paul Revere Williams archives confirm that the house was indeed built for Weissmuller. I also found no mention of the person you describe in the book by his daughter.

    • Sam says:

      Hi there, where are his archives stored? Do you know? I “heard” many were destroyed in the LA Riots due to fire? Is that accurate? Thanks for the info!
      Does this mean that Zubin just lived in it? “Williams’ designs in Bel Air included homes for John A. Zublin (aka
      Nicolosi Estate, HCM #485)” This came from that link below… I appreciate all the info!!

  18. Sam says:

    Great positng, I have always loved this home. It was built for John A. Zubin in 1931 I believe, he was an engineer, hence the reason behind the waterfalls, and the pool, as that was pretty unheard of at that time. (that type of engineering) This info is in a book that William’s granddaughter wrote about his properites. The Williams Project website is incorrect about Johnny building it. There was a restoration plan in 2000, but that fell through, I believe due to family issues. (one wanted to spend the money on it, one did not). Where you able to go into the home? thanks for the awesome post on my favourite house!

  19. lavonna says:

    Drove by on one of our LA trips…love it!


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