Krotona: Hollywood Hills’ Hidden Theosophist Haven

Krotona Institute of Theosophy. Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library
Krotona Institute of Theosophy. Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library


Ever wonder about the mecca of Moorish homes up in Beachwood Canyon? From 1912 to 1924, a plot of land nested up in the Hollywood Hills served as the national headquarters for the Theosophical Society. Named Krotona, the commune was a haven for followers of the mystical movement founded by Helena P. Blavatsky, whose principles included the promotion of unity across all sexes, colors, castes and creeds; compassion for all living beings and dedication to the “Divine Wisdom.”

The man behind the 10-acre community was Albert Powell Warrington, who transformed canyons into a secluded sanctuary for Theosophists, writes Hadley Hall Meares for Curbed LA. In her latest piece, she uncovers the history of Beachwood Canyon’s early bohemian colony:

Working out of bungalows on the property, the Theosophists quickly began planting “exotic” plants, including eucalyptus, pepper, citrus and olive trees, and date palms. […] Over the next few years, there was a flurry of building activity at Krotona. Wealthy Theosophists supplied money for surrounding acreage and expensive, in-demand architects. The heart of the commune was the Krotona Inn (now Krotona Apartments), designed in 1912 by the highly influential San Diego firm of Mead and Requa. The firm designed many notable California landmarks, including much of downtown Ojai.

The utopian enclave attracted well-heeled freethinkers, socialites and other wealthy artistic types who “commissioned fantastical homes for themselves,” like the famous abode of Grace Shaw Duff. Meares writes the famed Ternary consisted of “three Moorish houses probably designed by Arthur and Alfred Heinemen, featuring Batchelder tiles, surrounding an open courtyard. Next door was a fantastic Italian garden centered around a lotus pond and crowned with an Indian-style kiosk.” Located at 6205 Temple Hill Drive, the 1915-build home is now a six-unit apartment structure.

Other notable Theosophists who settled in Krotona included Mrs. Christine Stevenson, heiress of the Pittsburg Paint Company who  built Hollywood’s Pilgrimage Play Theater. (Modern-day Angelenos know it as the John Anson Ford Amphitheater.)

Eventually, the hustle and bustle of Hollywoodland “became too congested and corrupt” for Krotona’s inhabitants, and they decamped to a 115-acre estate just outside of Ojai, Meares writes. Built by architect Robert Stacey-Judd, the Theosophists’s new West Coast HQ was believe to be “impregnated with occult and psychic influences.”

Read the full story and see more photos of Krotona during its heyday over at Curbed LA here.

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