The Black Dahlia house in LA

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

I present to you: the infamous Black Dahlia House, a.k.a. the The Sowden House, a.k.a. the “Jaws House” at 5121 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, California.

image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Sowden_House,_Los_Angeles.JPG (by: Los Angeles)

image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Sowden_House,_Los_Angeles.JPG (by: Los Angeles)

Built by Lloyd Wright [not to be confused with his famous father Frank Lloyd Wright] in 1926 in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, the neo-Mayan temple-esque house has both old Hollywood glamour AND an insanely ominous creep factor about it - for good reason.

image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sowden_house.jpg (by: National Parks Service)

image from: wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sowden_house. (by: National Parks Service)

The house is quite possibly the location of the long unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short – a.k.a. The Black Dahlia.

image from: www.gadailynews.com

image from: www.gadailynews.com

In addition, the home has been featured in several films and has seen its share of movie stars and news coverage. Most recently, a cadaver-sniffing dog indicated that there were human remains buried in the basement, lending credibility to the long held theory that the home’s former owner Dr. George Hodel murdered and mutilated at least one - and possibly several - young women here.

image from: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue--1

image from: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue–1

The iconic house just popped up for sale last week so have a look inside while I fill you in on the house’s backstory…

image from: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue--1

image from: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue–1

It is priced at $4,888,000 and has 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms in 5,600 square feet. As stated above, it was built in the 1920′s by Lloyd Wright for his friend painter/photographer John Sowden and his wife.

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

The couple requested something dramatic and theatrical and Lloyd Wright delivered. Wright was not only an avant-garde architect like his father, but also a landscape architect and a production designer at Paramount Studios. All of these elements converged in the Sowden house.

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

Ample use of ornamental concrete blocks on the facade and courtyard resulted in the home having the look of a Mayan temple… or some bizarre film set.

The home was extensively remodeled during the early 2000′s by designer Xorin Balbes. He restored much of the stonework, added a pool & spa in the courtyard, and completely redid the kitchen, converting three rooms into one large open kitchen:

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

But getting back to the Black Dahlia connection…. the home was owned from 1945 to 1951 by Dr. George Hodel, a physician who studied surgery in school and specialized in venereal diseases. On January 15, 1947, the mutilated body of 22 year old Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant lot in the Meimert Park area of Los Angeles. The gruesome and sensational nature of the case caused the press to go into overdrive and they named the unfortunate victim “the Black Dahlia”.

Dr. Hodel, who had been accused of molesting his teenage daughter around that time and who was previously investigated for the death of his secretary, became one of many suspects in the Black Dahlia case. He was placed under police surveillance and was even recorded making some very incriminating statements like “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now.”

Dr. George Hodel:

image from: yesteryearremembered.com

image from: yesteryearremembered.com

Here’s the kicker:

The doctor’s own son, Steve Hodel, himself a retired City of Los Angeles homicide detective, argued in his 2003 book “Black Dahlia Avenger” that the Black Dahlia victim, Elizabeth Short, was actually tortured, murdered and dissected by his father inside of the Sowden House, in January 1947.

- from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sowden_House

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

This is all only alleged, of course, because the Elizabeth Short case has never officially been solved and there have been many suspects over the years. At least 50 individuals have even confessed to the gruesome murder! So we may never know for sure, but there is a lot of compelling evidence against Dr. George Hodel - who died in 1991.

His son, Steve, claims that his father could have been responsible for a slew of other unsolved murders of young women over a 20 year period.

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

In November of 2012, Steve Hodel arranged for a cadaver dog to search the Sowden House property and the canine honed in on windows to the basement. The dog was there as part of the filming of a Ghost Hunters episode.

It certainly gives one chills just looking at these listing photos…

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

The home last sold in 2011 for $3.85 million, according to Curbed.com.

The fact that it is once again for sale so soon after having been sold, leads me to believe that the creep factor of this house is even more tangible than what we can see in the photos.

image from: http://www.estately.com

image from: http://www.estately.com

Who has a silver-plated toilet?

It is reported that the home even contains a “secret room” where the Hodel children were forbidden from going.

There are many, many perplexing things about this house.

But it’s not so bad when the sun is shining…

image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperbolation/5523779835/ (by: By kara brugman)

image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperbolation/5523779835/ (by: By kara brugman)

…if you don’t mind the massive, angry chomping jaws coming at you.

 

~~~

Sources and further reading:

Sowden house official website: http://sowdenhouse.com/history.html

Wikipedia site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sowden_House

The real estate listings: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue–1

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5121-Franklin-Ave-Los-Angeles-CA-90027/20809687_zpid/

Curbed.com write-up: http://curbed.com/archives/2013/03/01/lloyd-wrights-sowden-house-returns-as-black-dahlia-house.php

Further reading about the Black Dahlia murder case:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Dahlia_suspects#George_Hodel

http://www.stevehodel.com/

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22502545/author-cadaver-dog-discovered-black-dahlia-death-scene

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18559_162-657318.html

12 Responses to The Black Dahlia house in LA

  • Nick Kirby says:

    I would take it if someone would buy it for me and pay the taxes and utilitys.:) (wishful thinking). Great post!

  • Pingback: The Black Dahlia House a.k.a. the Sowden House in LA - City-Data Forum

  • Sue says:

    What the heck! It seems horrible that a son thinks his father could have committed multiple murders! I wonder who would live in a house like this with its history. The only thing I can find to like about the house is the kitchen and the very odd silver toilet. Creep factor…5 stars.

  • Sel says:

    indeed, if walls could speak! As always, great blogs…thank you for all your work…Sel

  • Ray-Ann Barns says:

    This place is hideous! sorry I can’t find anything nice to say about it. What, no pictures of the secret room? Yuck!

  • Christian says:

    This house is amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it – not even Mayan Temples! I think it is worth every dollar they are asking because it is so unique, architecturally significant, and has hosted some historic – albeit gory – events. Great post!
    -C

  • FaunaElizabeth says:

    Mayan Temple was how our family referred the this
    Masterpiece of art. The secret room is located in the
    living room behind a sliding bookcase.
    The house should be Blessed the killer found
    to let rest in Peace, but I find many aspects of the
    house is very beautiful as shown in the Movie “Aviator”.
    Also remember this was a family home, built
    In Love and filled with many happy occasions.

  • danielle says:

    i love everything about this amazing home,,….would just cuddle up in one of those cozy beds…love the kitchen..could prepare an amazing feast for everyone……

  • Ron says:

    The sickest crap went on here. The Boogermans house.

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