Sunday, November 24, 2013

House of the Day: Converted Military Base Listed at $6.3M

We just love the mystery and intrigue that surrounds this 53,000-square foot (yes, you read that right) Hollywood Hills house that once functioned as a secret research facility for the military. Now a private residence, it is listed for sale at $6.3 million.

This is one of those legendary properties where it's hard to say which parts of the legend are true and which have grown in a way that only Hollywood can grow stories. But according to Sotheby's listing agent Brett Lawyer and some Internet sites, the Lookout Mountain Air Force Station was built in 1941 as the main WWII West Coast air-defense and radar-communications headquarters. It was turned into a research facility for the atom bomb by the military a few years later. Top generals and consultants worked here and visited, and it was all very hush-hush. Enter James Bond, stage left.

The Air Force established a film studio here in 1947 to process 35mm and 16mm movies and still photos for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission until about 1969, again all top-secret stuff. High-ranking military officers would come here to view the films. The nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site also were filmed in various formats and reportedly processed here under the tightest security controls. In the studio's heyday, the cameramen who worked here called themselves "atomic" cinematographers. Gallery: See This Former Top-Secret Military Base

Just like any other film studio in Hollywood, the compound had soundstages, screening rooms and film-processing labs. There was even an animation department. It is believed that almost 20,000 films were produced on Lookout Mountain between 1947 and 1969 -- about 500 more films than all of Hollywood produced during that time.

Only a few dozen of the Lookout Mountain films have been declassified. Though the studio employed over 250 people, its existence remained unknown to the general public until the 1990s.

There aren't many traces left of whatever went on here 60 years ago, although the property still has a two-story soundstage accessible only through an electric door and there are 17 temperature- and climate-controlled film vaults, presumably all empty. (Think wine storage?) Lawyer says there is a bomb shelter and much of the structure is poured concrete.

The present-day private residence, owned by an artist and a judge, has 10 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms. There are many rooms that are what real estate agents like to describe as "multipurpose." It's a flexible living space with plenty of room for an extended family; each generation could occupy its own private wing.

The property has a large free-form pool that the current owners installed. There are four 100-foot-long art galleries and a large underground parking garage that can accommodate about 15 cars, plus a gated parking lot that holds another 70.

The property is not zoned for commercial use and will be sold as a residence.

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