What Lies Beneath – (The Laurel Tavern/Log Cabin)

Okay! The answer is after the jump! :)    

We’re heading to Laurel Canyon for this week’s little geographical history test! Allright, maaaan!

Just to remind you, here’s how this little game goes… we’ll show you a spot on a google map (see below). We’re thinking of something notable that once happened or existed within a block or two of the point on that map. Within 24 hours we’ll give you the full details… but as always, we’re going to give you a fair amount of time to guess what we’re referring to first. We encourage you not to cheat by googling the address and if you know the answer right away please try not to announce it too quickly and ruin the game for the people who don’t.    

And since you guys like hints, here’s your hint for this one… THE CORRECT ANSWER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HARRY HOUDINI!!! Nope, sorry. Nice try but that would’ve been waaaay too easy. :)

Ready? OKAY! :)

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TavernReady for the answer? Here you go… the corner of Laurel Canyon and Lookout Mountain, once an undeveloped wilderness of flora and fauna, was the original site of “a massive tavern/roadhouse on that very same corner. Dubbed the Laurel Tavern, the structure boasted a 2,000+ square-foot formal dining room, guest rooms, and a bowling alley on the basement level.” This roadhouse was later dubbed the “Log Cabin” by fans of rock and roll.

TomMixUp until around 1913 or so, Laurel Canyon was mostly undeveloped and often used as a water source for the farming land of the neighboring valleys. Charles Spencer Mann and his partners began to purchase land and develop resort getaways (like the Lookout Mountain Inn which burned down in 1920), also creating a “trackless trolley” to bring people to and from the canyon. It was at about this time that the Laurel Tavern was designed by architect Robert Byrd. The property was later purchased by movie cowboy Tom Mix and eventually inhabited by Frank Zappa and his family for a short, but infamous, period of time.

From Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood:

Beneath Bungalow Land’s (one of the early names of the development) twisting lanes, a log-cabin-style roadhouse was built in 1916 at 2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Among the amenities was a bowling alley in the basement. The tavern later became a privte retreat with an unnervingly long, narrow living room dominated by a granite hearth of feudal proportions. Tom Mix, the former rodeo rider turned matinee idol then on his way to earning $17,000 per week prior to the federal income tax, lived there briefly before moving to a seven-acre Beverly Hills compound with front gates emblazoned “T-M” in flowing neon. Mix’s journey from Laurel Canyon log cabin (his “wonder horse,” Tony, was supposedly buried beneath the bowling alley) to Beverly Hills pleasure dome would uncannily foreshadow the diaspora of a later generation of Laurel Canyon pop culturalists struck by sudden, thunderous wealth.

azppaSo it was that in 1968 Frank Zappa, a desperately ambitious twenty-eight-year-old classical-music composer, electric guitarist, and strident pop iconoclast, fresh from a chaotic artist in residency in New York City’s Garrick Theater with his band, the Mothers of Invention, installed himself, his wife, Gail, and their baby daughter, Moon Unit, at the Mix cabin. “The rent was seven hundred dollars a month,” Zappa later recalled. “It really looked like an old-time log cabin…”

“…Zappa, his wife and daughter, and an extended family of musicians gifted and aspirant, groupies turned governesses, and unclassified hangers-on would occupy the cabin for only four months before the sheer madness of the place drove them out…”

“…The place was huge and vault-like and cavernous – the living room was like seventy feet long and thirty feet across,” says Gail Zappa, Frank’s widow. “It was so dark. I think the oldest eucalyptus tree in Southern California overshadowed the whole property. There was no floor in the kitchen, just this sort of platform in one corner that had the stove sitting on it. It was infested constantly with bus groups of rock-and-roll bands looking for a place to crash – they would just show up at all hours of the day and night. It was impossible to keep any food in the place; people were literally eating us out of house and home. There were no locks on any of the doors. It was insanity. Insanity…”

“…The log cabin nevertheless left indelible memories among those who visited during the Zappa’s residency in the summer of 1968. John Mayall bunked there before buying his own place in the Kirkwood Bowl and wrote “2401″ – the cabin’s address on Laurel Canyon Boulevard – in honor of the Zappas’ hospitality: ‘There’s a hero living at 2401 and all around/a family circus in the sun.’”

Legend has it that a year or so before the infamous murders took place, some members of the Manson family also lived in the cabin for a few months until Frank Zappa kicked them out during a New Year’s Eve party.

“On Halloween morning in 1981 the “Log Cabin” burned down. Helicopters hovered overhead, police roped off the area and locals stopped to watch it burn to the ground. Only the Treehouse was saved. Some say the fire was started by a banjo player’s cigarette. Another version claims it was a drug lab explosion. (SOURCE)”

The guesthouse for the Log Cabin, known as the Birdhouse or Treehouse, was recently foreclosed on and up for sale.

Click here for more Laurel Canyon history.

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23 Responses to “What Lies Beneath – (The Laurel Tavern/Log Cabin)”

  1. Debby says:

    Isn’t that where Jim Morrison hung out?

  2. Wade says:

    Is it Frank Sinatra’s hang out?

  3. Janelle says:

    Thinkning it might be about Frank Zappa, but I can’t remember what happened. Close?

  4. Dan says:

    Thats pretty lame…..more clues please…

  5. Dan Jones says:

    I heard years ago that a tunnel was under under Laurel Cyn. to a house across the street.

    • lynnster says:

      It’s said that there was a cave which led from the main house on one side of Laurel Canyon to the guest quarters so that Houdini could go back and forth on his property, but that’s not accurate at all. The property most people call “the Houdini House” at 2400 (across the street from the Log Cabin) wasn’t the house Houdini lived in for the better part of a year, though. He never lived there, his actual address was apparently 2435 Laurel Canyon, just North of (and overlooking) Tom Mix’s log cabin.

      Some of the caves on the property of the Bird House/Log Cabin were natural and some man-made but most are now closed off or buried. There are said to still be two known caves and many waterfalls on the property. I’m not sure if any of the surviving caves actually go under/accross the road.

      • Rob Willhite says:

        I was in the log cabin in the mid 1970′s when my cousin Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith was living there. The walls of her bedroom were covered with graffiti, signatures, lyrics and such; the best being a huge black and white self-portrait of Frank Zappa. I remember the bowling alley and the door to the right of it which is where she said the tunnel to the Houdini mansion was, her story being that there was an affair going on between members of the two households. At the time I saw it, it was indeed caved in and filled with dirt. There were three mansions at that place in the canyon, Tom Mix’s log cabin, they Houdini Mansion across Laurel, which had burned, and the large white Steinway mansion north of the log cabin on the same side of the street as the cabin. Lots of speculation!

  6. drbill says:

    Today I live just north east of there on Willow Glen.

    I remember hanging out there with Vito’s freaks and the “Fraternity of Man,” were the supposed residents. There were great parties on the weekends and the living room was huge. The bowling alley still can be seen (or at least could when I last walked down there awhile back.

    What’s wrong or forgotten is that the tunnel has been gone for a long time, well more than 40 years. I remember opening the downstairs door to it and there was about five feet in until it was closed-off; completely gone and filled-in. There was a big project that tore up the street a few years later at the junction of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon; but tunnel was gone and the so-called Houdini House had a very serious fire that destroyed the main house in 1972, when I was living on Stanley Hills Place. By then the worst derelicts hung out at both houses and were unequivocally connected to the fire.

    Today, a wonderful man who loves his legendary real estate has restored the property to perfection and added on to the back house that used to be shaped like a castle (or rook).

    • lynnster says:

      I’m pretty sure that the house that was destroyed by fire was the one at 2400, not the actual one Harry Houdini lived in. The only part of that house that had survived the fire was the chauffeur’s quarters.

      • drbill says:


        Houdini lived up the road; the first and beautiful house north of the log cabin remains. It may once have been occupied by Marion Davies.

  7. Tom Mix’s horse is buried under the now filled in basement. Everything is gone. No idea if they tried to find the horse.

  8. By the way, the entire “counterculture” of music and drugs was promoted by the CIA. All of these so called hero rock stars were spoiled kids of military industrial complex people all connected to the nasty CIA spook community and/or the spawn of elitist old money aristocracy from back east and in europe. None of them were real, all of them were frauds. Their music was given to them by jewish writers who did the same with Motown. They were all already wealthy or would have inherited wealth. Their studio sessions were all done by session musicians and they all sucked live. Ever really listen closely to most of the live films of these laurel canyon frauds? I grew up thinking it was really special. I even emulated David Crosby and Dennis Hopper who mimiced him in Easy Rider. Turns out they were all closer to their military daddies in their political thinking. NONE of them really did anything to oppose the coming new world order. They all decended into drugs, alcohol, violence, madness, death or even murder. Lots of young girls went missing up there in that canyon. Lots of homes burned down mysteriously. Lots of “suicides”. Imagine all that fake flower power shit with Charlie Manson in the background. Charlie don’t surf and neither do the CIA black ops people.

  9. RGW says:

    Up the hill from the “Mothers of Invention” house (Zappa’s Log Cabin) was one of blues artist Leadbelly’s residences. Leadbelly was known to dress up in a tux and top hat, then he would carry his garbage can down the hill along with a six-pack of beer to meet the trash man each week.

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