“Do you remember, during the war, when Porky worked in a defense plant? He and Bugs Bunny. That was a good one too.”
― Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
There is no doubt that Laurel Canyon has one of the most colorful pasts of any Los Angeles neighborhood.
But did you know that for decades, the military operated a top-secret facility just a few miles from the Sunset Strip?
The mega-property at 8935 Wonderland, also known as the Lookout Mountain Air Force Station, was relatively unknown to those outside Laurel Canyon until it was sold late last year to actor Jared Leto.
Originally the facility consisted of nearly 100,000 square feet occupying 2.5 acres of land at the top of Laurel Canyon. It was built During World War II to coordinate nearby radar installations.
Of course, like many other newcomers to Los Angeles, the military soon realized that what it really wanted to do was direct.
After WWII, the government repurposed the plant and established a secret film production studio for the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission. The studio was mainly responsible for documenting nuclear testing.
The entire production could be handled on site which included a sound stage, editing bays, developing labs and screening rooms.
The massive operation produced a slate that would shame modern studios with an equivalent output of 35 to 40 films a year.
As we now know, many Hollywood celebrities of the day took part in film projects there including Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck.
When nuclear testing was moved underground, the role of Lookout Mountain changed once more to documenting Air Force combat missions during the Viet Nam war. Strange days those must have been with crew-cutted soldiers commuting to work while strains of Sgt. Pepper echoed through the canyon.
The secretive activities at Lookout Mountain added fuel to conspiracy theories surrounding Laurel Canyon including the alleged tunnel network and mind-control experiments being conducted in the Canyon.
Much of the work was finally declassified in 1997 and the film makers were at last able to talk about their adventures.
Eventually, the property was turned over to private hands and was converted to a residence. Artist Mark Lipscomb and attorney John Ladner acquired the home in 1994 for $750,000. The pair turned the residence into a lavish art estate which included, among other amenities, a bomb shelter, helicopter pad, underground parking garages, three screening rooms and climate-controlled film vaults.
Lipscomb and Ladner put the property on the market several times in the late 2000s without success. During that time, Lookout Mountain was shrouded in more notoriety after the One80Center rehab provider lost their lease for the home amid controversy.
In January this year, the news broke that Jared Leto had bought the property for $5,000,000 in an off-market sale.
Here’s a peek inside this ultimate makeover.
At the time of sale, the property highlights included:
- 8 bedrooms
- 12 bathrooms
- 50,000 sf of living space
- lot size nearly 1.4 acres
- galleries, theater and a soundstage
Last listed for $5,750,000.
Listing photos courtesy of Hilton & Hyland and Brett Lawyer