Originally a hunting lodge built in 1911 in remote Beverly Hills, the building and 15 acres were purchased in 1919 by Douglas Fairbanks for his new wife, Mary Pickford. He paid $35,000 for the property. The press, not the owners, christened the place Pickfair, a combination of the names of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, but the name stuck. Pickford and Fairbanks renovated and greatly enlarged the house to about 40 rooms, added a swimming pool—supposedly the first swimming pool at any private residence in Hollywood—and entertained almost every night.
To be invited to Pickfair was the dream of everyone in Hollywood and the world. It was like being invited to the White House. Maybe better. In fact, some referred to it as the second White House. Guests included the usual suspects of the film world like Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, and all the famous stars, directors, and moguls, but also an eclectic bunch of internationally famous people, heavy on royalty. Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Dempsey, the kings of Spain and Thailand, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Duke of York (later King George VI), a Swedish prince, Lord Mountbatten, and hundreds more.
And look at the swimming pool! It was so large you could canoe in it!
Sadly, after Pickford’s death in 1971, the estate was sold (she had no children). A subsequent owner tore it down in the 1980s and built another house in its place. This new house is called Pickfair too, but don’t be misled. It’s nothing but a modern house with no connection—other than to the site—to the real Pickfair.
I set a couple scenes of my mystery at Pickfair. It was hard to be accurate, since it doesn’t exist any longer and there are very few pictures of the interior. I did find a few black and white photos in biographies about Pickford and Fairbanks. Those plus some descriptions as to the color of the curtains and so forth let me be fairly confident of the accuracy of my details.