Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2022

Faux Lighthouse Built for Actress

By Timothy Harrison


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
This vintage post card of the Trancas Lighthouse ...

In 1929, stage and film actress Pauline Frederick (1883-1938) built a four-story lighthouse facsimile on Broad Beach near Trancas Canyon along the Roosevelt Highway, which later became the Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu, California. Because of its location, it became known as the Trancas Lighthouse.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
1930s photo of Pauline Frederick’s lighthouse and ...

Known as the “The Girl with the Topaz Eyes,” Ms. Frederick made her first film in 1915 and built her lighthouse home in 1929, in an area which was labeled Billionaire Beach, that had numerous other whimsical-styled homes.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
1931 advertisement for Lux Toilet Soap featuring ...

By the time Pauline Frederick made her last film in 1937, she had made a successful transition from the silent movies to the talkies. However, many of the movies she starred in have been lost in time, and others are in fragile condition and stored in vaults deep below the earth’s surface waiting for the day when they might be able to be restored. Perhaps, her idea to build a lighthouse for a beach home came from a movie that she appeared in. Today you can view her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
Actor Lew Cody, who purchased the Trancas ...

Ms. Frederick had her own rules about welcoming guests to the lighthouse. In the evening hours, if the beacon in the lantern was on, it was okay for guests to stop by, but, if the beacon was off, don’t stop for a visit. In the day time, if a red flag was flying, it was okay to stop in for a visit and if the flag was not flying, she wouldn’t answer the door.

Strangely, only two years after Pauline Frederick built her lighthouse home, she sold it to stage and film actor Lew Cody (1884-1931), a native of Waterville Maine, who bought it so that he could be reminded of his native state.

The boat-shaped home next to the lighthouse named “The Yacht,” was built by wealthy Pasadena, California civic leader Freeman Ford, whose father was David Tod Ford, president of Youngstown Iron and Steel.

The March 23, 1930 edition of the Los Angeles Times described the “The Yacht” in the following way: “Not a single item which would foster maritime atmosphere has been omitted. A huge anchor attached to a heavy chain, has been dropped overboard and everything from gang-way, and steering wheel, to flag, mast and smoke stack are in ship-shape. The kitchen is a ships galley, arranged in a most orderly manner. There are no bedrooms, merely berths, bunks and cabins and the deck is the main dining room.”

Freeman Ford told the reporter that he had owned a yacht of one sort or another since he was a young lad, and he enjoyed giving yachting-parties onboard his boat yacht-house because it is much simpler than taking a crowd of people out to sea. He explained, “They don’t get sea sick and if a storm comes up, one doesn’t have the horrible feeling of responsibility for their lives.”

Exactly who owned both structures in later years is not known, but in December of 1956, nearly 10,000 people were displaced when a massive wild fire swept through the area, destroying the Trancas Lighthouse, the yacht-house, and the other nearby structures of the rich and famous, including the home of Hugh O’Brien, star of TV’s Wyatt Earp.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2022 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History