The “Charing Cross Estate” becomes the Playboy Mansion

The story behind the infamous Playboy Mansion begins in the early 20th century with the purchase of a 4.5 acre plot ofland by an ambitious real estate developer named Arthur Letts Jr. Pursuing his father’s vision for the Westwood community, Mr. Letts  constructed an English Tudor style mansion later to be named the “Charing Cross Estate.” With unparalleled views of the LA Country Club golf course and downtown Los Angeles, the Charing Cross Estate raised the bar of luxury in the new community of Holmby Hills. Arthur and his family moved into the mansion in 1928 where he ran multiple businesses for three decades. After his death in 1959, the mansion was sold to an inventor named Louis Statham for just over $110,000.

Louis envisioned the home as an inspirational sanctuary where one could stroll the expansive property in deep and private thought. Louis gained the funds to purchase the property by inventing revolutionary equipment for both oil and space exploration. Similar to the previous owners, the Statham family utilized the Great Room and lawn to host guests for live music and dancing. These large lawn parties became recognized in the community as staples of elegance and culture. However, both the Charing Cross Estate and the Statham Estate were not aware that the future buyer would transform the mansion into one of the most infamous party destinations in the world.

In 1971, the founder and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner, recognized that the Statham Family Estate would be the perfect location for his company headquarters on the Westside. Playboy Enterprises bought the mansion for $1.1 million, which happened to be a record breaking sales price for Los Angeles at this time. To the dismay of the neighbors, Mr. Hefner turned the mansion into a 30-room ode to the Playboy lifestyle. The same library where Letts and Statham performed their studies now hosted highly competitive tournaments of backgammon, monopoly, and bridge. The game room was now filled with pool tables, and the garden where Statham used to have his contemplative walks hosted 1,000 people parties. Now acting as the sole Playboy headquarters, the mansion has gained a swimming pool, tennis courts, a gymnasium, and a private zoo. Hosting flamingos, peacocks, and two different species of monkeys, the Playboy zoo is the only building in California with a license for these animals.  Formerly known as the “Charing Cross Estate,” the “Playboy Mansion” has become a pop culture phenomenon and tourist destination known around the world.

David Kramer