A Pithy Guide to Greenacres, the Estate that Laughs Built

As he lay dying of prostate cancer, Harold Lloyd felt the unmistakable tremor of a major earthquake. The date was February 9, 1971. What he felt was the powerful Sylmar earthquake, which killed 65 people and caused millions in damages.

When the shaking subsided, Lloyd got up and began to survey the house on his beloved 16-acre estate known as Greenacres. Although others could have checked out the property for him, Lloyd insisted on personally making sure everything had survived the quake. After walking through the house, he felt secure in the knowledge that Greenacres had weathered the shakeup.

Less than a month later, he died.

Greenacres was, for Lloyd, not just a symbol of his enormous success but also a fantasy land of luxury and beauty, far beyond what this humble boy from Nebraska could have envisioned when he was a child.

The $2 million it took to create the grandeur and majesty of the grounds was a pittance compared with what his home meant to Lloyd. Perhaps it was the inconsistency of his childhood, maybe it was a striving for permanence in the uncertain world of show business, possibly it was the pride he took in his success—whatever his reason for building such a grand homestead—Lloyd took infinite care in every phase of the development of his Xanadu.

Every laugh his films produced contributed to the house, which is probably why he had such a good sense of humor about owning such a magnificent estate: “Only 44 rooms, but it’s still home to Mildred and me,” he said.

His granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, who grew up at Greenacres, knew what he meant. “The house had a personality and a life to it,” she recalled. “It was a lovely feeling—there was warmth and laughter, but there was also structure, strength, and integrity. The main thing is that it was his home. And he was very proud of it.

Number, Please?

The Stats on Greenacres

Cost: More than $2 million

Cost (adjusted for inflation): $212,044,401.54

House:  32,000 square feet

44 rooms

6 bedroom suites

16-foot ceiling in entrance hall

50-foot sunken living room

The Grounds: Built on 16 acres

Fountains: 12

Gardens: 7

Bathrooms: 26

Pool:  250,000-gallon Olympic-sized swimming pool

85 foot long by 40 feet wide

Tennis Court: 1

Greenhouse space: 82,000 square feet

Gardeners (fulltime): 16

Chauffeurs: 2

Governesses: 2

Butlers: 2

Maids: 3

Personal Secretaries: 3

Year Named to the National Register of Historic Places: 1984

11 Comments

11 thoughts on “A Pithy Guide to Greenacres, the Estate that Laughs Built

  1. Sean Carlin

    I recently purchased a Diebold safe, when removing layers of paint I came across the word Harold at the top, unfortunately the next word (s) were removed, It dates to the early 10′s or 20′s originally sold by “A.F. Anderson & Co. Dealers, Los Angeles CAL” are there any pictures that exist of a safe in his office?

  2. Around ’68 or so, I visited Greenacres with Harold Lloyd, Jr. (“Hal.” He gave me a tour on various occasions which left me speechless. The Lloyds lived in one wing and the rest of the house was no longer used. There was a Christmas tree which had been decorated and left up for several years. (It was quite beautiful). We were young back then, and Hal and I had a brief, if flaming, affair after we met in the military in the South Pacific, for the HBomb tests. He was a sweet, kind man, spoiled of course. He had a wonderful singing voice. (And wasn’t bad in other respects.) The first time I met him, it was on an abandoned beach stage on Parry Island, and he played the piano and sang “My Funny Valentine” to me. It still chokes me up to hear it. Ah, our flaming youth! Gone and lost forever!

    • To continue my note above, Mr. Lloyd, adored children. When I took my 7 year old daughter there a few times, she would sit on his lap and he’d entertain her, careful never to speak down to her. On one occasion I took her to see Grauman’s Chinese Theater where Mr. Lloyd’s footprints are. She looked at it and said, “Oh, Daddy, there’s Uncle Harold’s prints.) It caused quite a stir with tourists.

      Shortly before Hal Jr. died, I visited him in a rented house in the Hollywood Hills. He was in bed and didn’t arise. I commented something, and he said, “Well, why don’t you join me.”

  3. Jason Stanton

    Dear Sir or Madam,
        I recently acquired an original painting signed AE Hanson ’69.  It has been awhile since I attended art classes, but it looks to be a relief print of some sort.  While researching Mr. Hanson, I came across your site.  I am trying to determine if it was created by the same AE Hanson whose work as a landscape architect is so renowned.  I was curious if there would be a copy of Mr. Hanson’s signature anywhere in your records so that I may see a copy.  Also I am trying to determine if anyone has knowledge of Mr. Hanson painting in his later years.  Any guidance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
              Thank you for your time,
                          Jason Stanton

  4. David L

    Sadly, I recently saw a notice on line regarding the passing of Harold’s daughter, Gloria. In the notice, it mentioned that Gloria was interviewed by Cari Beuchamp for a book on Greenacres. I don’t see any such book listed on amazon or elsewhere on the internet. Does anyone know if this book is in the works and if so, when it is due to be released?

  5. As one who grew-up visiting the place as a youth, and attended Buckley School with his grand daughter, I do remember the place – as it was, and Mr. Lloyd in his bespectacled best. To have the place rendered a museum would have meant rezoning the neighborhood to handle the potential traffic, and that just wasn’t going to happen… anymore than it be turned into a music academy or a golf club. Progress is what it is, and the memories Suzanne has of that wonderful place of opulence and happiness surely were built on laughter; sad to know the land and all that once sat upon it, have been rendered to lesser value… a shadow of its former self. Still, with sites like this… the memory of once was is again reawakened and shared. Alive with laughter… if only for a short while.

  6. I never thought his estate was that big ! Great article ! I will be coming back to this site and reading more for sure !

  7. Michael J.

    It is a shame it had to be subdivided, but thank goodness the house was not torn down as so many great Hollywood estates have been.

  8. Naveed

    Sounds like a grand home, and fit for a silent movie star—and then some!
    A real pity that some years following Harold’s passing, Greenacres had to be sold at auction and part of the grounds were subdivided. It could not be kept on as a “museum” and touring location for future silent film aficiandos, as Harold would have liked.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,021 other followers

%d bloggers like this: