Anyone who has been acquainted with me for any length of time knows that there are two places I love above all others – the defunct (and sadly now demolished) Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, and “Ann Land,” which is my nickname for the parcel of property in Encino that Ann Dvorak and husband Leslie Fenton developed and lived on from 1934-1945.
I’ve written about it many times on this site, but just to recap, it was originally a 35ish-acre walnut ranch, subdivided into three parcels and sold after Ann and Fenton separated in the mid-1940s. The heart of the property, which included structures and landscaping, was sold to crooner Andy Russell and his wife Della. The rest of the land would ultimately be developed into a multi-residence neighborhood. By the time I first set foot on the property, in 2006, it had changed ownership two more times: first to Al Teeter, a music editor at Disney, and later to Dr. Arnold Scheibel who had owned the property for 47 year when I first met him. Though suffering from deferred maintenance, the property was still stunning and looked very much like it did when Ann lived there. A year later, my husband and I would have our wedding on Ann Land.
When Arne retired from his position at UCLA in 2011 and got ready to relocate to the Bay Area, my husband and I tried to figure out a way to purchase it, but two acres in Encino and the amount of repair work needed was well beyond our means. The property never went on the market but was instead sold to a neighborhood couple who Arne trusted would do their best to restore it. In 2014, Glen and Penny generously invited me to tour the acreage with them. However, they were in the midst of the renovation, so the house was stripped down to the studs and much of the garden incomplete. It was the wrong time for me to visit, and I am ashamed to admit that I burst out crying in front of them. Not a few tears, mind you, but full-blown ugly sobbing. As I tearfully departed, I felt confident that I would never return. Not only was I embarrassed by my inability to contain such a visceral reaction, but I thought returning to a place that had been so irrevocably altered would be too painful. Glen was kind enough to inform me when Arne passed away in 2017, but otherwise I thought my time with Ann Land was complete.
A couple of months back, Penny got in touch because Ventura Blvd Magazine was going to be doing a feature on the gardens, and she hoped I would be willing to speak with the reporter about Ann. I don’t have to be asked twice to talk anyone about the Divine Miz Dvorak! I was also invited to come and visit the property which I was less enthusiastic about. However, my daughter, who is almost 12 and only visited Ann Land when she was a baby, was eager to see the place she has heard so much about. I relented, and what I thought would be an hour visit, turned into a five hour one! While I still can’t say I am thrilled with some of the changes that were made to the house, the gardens are impeccable and it’s evident how much love and care they have put into the land and Ann’s memory. And ultimately, the gardens, which were so carefully curated by Ann, are the soul of the property. Arne could not have chosen better people to be the custodians of this special place, and I like to think that Ann has brought yet two more wonderful friends into my life. I especially love that the gates at street level are replicas of the original property gates. What a wonderful touch!
The issue of Ventura Blvd. hit the newsstands a couple of weeks ago featuring a breathtaking image of Ann’s greenhouse on the cover. As you can see, the photos capture the majesty of the place and the article pays such a lovely tribute Ann. It’s wonderful that her legacy lives on in so many difference ways and through so many different people.
Read the full article here: venturablvd.goldenstate.is/a-historic-estate-in-encino-gets-a-loving-makeover/
My photo of Ann Land are compiled on this page: www.anndvorak.com/cms/galleries/ann-at-home/