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.
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.
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.
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
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