Pyrenees Castle, Phil Spector’s Mansion in Alhambra
When Phil Spector was accused of murder, many LA natives seemed more surprised to discover that he lived (not in Hollywood or Beverly Hills) but in Alhambra. In fact, this was his isolated home base, Pyrenees Castle, a 30+ room mansion. Spector told Esquire magazine: “I’ve bought myself a beautiful and enchanting castle in a hick town where there is no place to go that you shouldn’t.” Pyrenees Castle is where he was said to have pulled a gun on the New York punk band The Ramones. It’s also where he was alleged to have murdered actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.
There’s a fascinating history about the Pyrenees Castle (from the city of Alhambra):
- Built in 1926 by Frenchman Sylvester Dupuy. It’s a replica of a chateau he admired as a young boy, growing up in Southern France.
- Dupuy hired architects and workers to plan and build the castle, and artisans were brought from Europe to complete the interior.
- Built of concrete and steel, with walls
- 3-feet thick at the foundation and 1-foot wide at the eaves.
- It had 10
- bedrooms, 8 fully tiled bathrooms with Italian marble floors, a game room, a breakfast room, an office, dens, service and utility rooms, a large basement, an extensive balcony, covered patios and a large wine cellar in which the Dupuy family made its own wine.
- Magnificent chandeliers, crystal sconces, gorgeous wood paneling, beautiful hardwood floors, a marbled center hall and a courtyard with a huge water fountain embellished the palace. The 3-acre property also included tennis courts, playgrounds for
- children and towers guarding its strategic corners.
- Dupuy made his money in agriculture, but lost most of his fortune in oil investments shortly before his death in 1936.
- Dupuy’s children sold the castle in 1946, and it was then converted into an eight-unit apartment dwelling. Dupuy’s wife occupied one of the units until her death in 1949.
- Over the years, the castle has had several owners, sheltered many residents and has been the source of fantastic legends.
According to public records, Spector purchased the castle in 1998 and was quoted in Esquire magazine as saying, I’ve bought myself a beautiful and enchant
- ing castle in a hick town where there is no place to go that you shouldn’t.
During the trial, jurors visited Phil Spector’s house and got to tour three rooms that were critical to the crime. They saw a mashup of history over the years: Spector’s accomplishments as a producer (aJohn Lennon print in the living room, photos of Spector with celebs, a baby grand white piano), contrasted with full body suits of armor flanking the foyer and grand chandeliers.
Not sure if Spector’s home will go on the market, but it will be a home with a sordid past.
- Alhambra’s Famed Pyrenees Castle
Reprinted in part from the February 2001 issue of Around Alhambra
On a hilltop, overlooking southwest Alhambra, sits a fabulous castle. The dense walls of the Pyrenees Castle embrace much history. In 1926, Sylvester Dupuy’s dream of building a castle had come true. The Pyrenees Castle was the
n of his childhood dream to build a replica of a beautiful chateau he had admired when growing up in Southern France.
Dupuy came to America and made his fortune in agriculture. When the time came to build his castle, he hired architects and workers to plan and build, and artisans were brought from Europe to complete the interior.
nms with Italian marble floors, a game room, a breakfast room, an office, dens, service and utility rooms, a large basement, an extensive balcony, covered patios and a large wine cellar in which the Dupuy family made its own wine.
Magnificent chandeliers, crystal sconces, gorgeous wood paneling, beautiful hardwood floors, a marbled center hall and a courtyard with a huge water fountain
embellished the palace. The 3-acre property also included tennis courts, playgrounds for children and towers guarding its strategic corners.
“There were many parties held at the castle over the years,” longtime Alhambra historian Mildred Harrigan said. “I met Dupuy’s daughter, Marie, through the Ramona Convent alumni group, of which I am a past president. We both graduated from Ramona Convent.”
“Marie told me about the parties and how her parents loved to entertain friends and relatives who came here to visit from the French
colony in which her father grew up. When I first visited the castle, I felt I was in something historic!”
Landscaping of the grounds was never completed, however. Dupuy lost most of his fortune in oil investments shortly before his death in 1936. He left the family home to his widow and his children: Marie, Henry and Frank. His children sold the castle in 1946, and the new owner converted the castle into an eight-unit apartment dwelling. Dupuy’s wife occupied one of the units until her death in 1949.
Personal Recollection of the Pyrenees Castle
1700 S Grandview Dr Alhambra, CA 91803
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By Alhambra Resident Fame Rybicki
The Dupuy Chateau has received a good deal of prominence lately but few people in Alhambra know about it. In the last few weeks, so many people have asked me where it is because the many deodar trees have now hidden it from plain sight.
Mr. and Mrs. Sylves
ter’s daughter, Marie, and I became good friends when our daughters were attending Ramona Convent. One day, Marie said to me, “I used to look down at your house and wished that I could live there.” I was shocked because as I told her, “I used to look up at your house and wish that I could have lived there.”
My parents, Giles Edward and Evelyn Ratkow
ski, bought the Oriental house at the corner of Fremont Avenue and Valley Boulevard in 1926, a few months before Mr. Dupuy completed the construction of his chateau.
During the building of the chateau, Mr. Dupuy kept a goat on the property, and it took a strange attachment to Mr. Dupuy’s cement mixer. Wherever the mixer was moved, the goat moved along with it. When my father asked Mr. Dupuy if he could borrow his mixer, Mr. Dupuy agreed but warned my father that the goat would probably go along with it. Sure enough, as my father pulled th
e mixer down the hill, the goat followed and stayed with the mixer. A few days later, when the mixer was towed back up the hill, the goat followed it home.
Sylvester and Anna Dupuy came to Southern California from the Pyrenees area of France in the 1870s, and joined a colony of French immigrant sheepher
ders. Their 80,000 sheep ranch covered most of South Alhambra and some of Monterey Park. The Dupuy’s first house stood at the base of the hill, where California State University, Los Angeles is now located. In 1900, the family that had included three sons and a daughter, moved to a two-story Victorian house on Edith Avenue, Alhambra.
Mr. Dupuy, however, dreamed of building a French chateau similiar to those in the Pyrenees mountains. In 1924, he hired architect John Walter Stuart to design a 15-room chateau (with garages which weren’t in vogue yet at that time) on three acres on Alta Vista Avenue, on the hill south of Valley Boulevard and west of Fremont. The walls were reinforced concrete, the roof tiles came from Holland, and imported Italian marble covered the main floor and all the
bathrooms. He purchased the chateau’s maple wood flooring from the Alhambra School District after the second Alhambra High School on Main and Third Street, had already been demolished in 1923. The “castle” as it became known, was finished in March 1926, at a cost of $40,000. Surrounding the chateau, he planted a grove of Himalayan deodar trees, which now hide the castle.
Mr. Dupuy died in 1936 and Mr. Dupuy sold the castle in 1947 to race car enthusiast-turned-realtor, E. T. Bondurant, who converted it into eight apartments. Then, R. W. Wilson owned the mansion for about 20 years. In 1985, the new owner, Chinese industrialist Todd Hsu, restored the castle to a single family dwelling filled with Oriental ebony, teakwood, Chinese silks and satins. He exhibited the
transformed French chateau at an Open House for the community.
For a time, the castle was occupied by the Lotus Engineering firm, who also rented Ratkowski’s Oriental House at Fremont and Valley Blvd. to house engineering students from China, who attended California State University and USC. Following that, the chateau became the property of a Hong Kong bank. It stood empty for many years, before it was purchased by Phil Spector.
The Top 10 Weirdest Phil Spector Moments
1. The guns, explained.
While on tour with his first act, The Teddy Bears (“To Know Him Is To Love Him”), the 18-year-old Spector is accosted in a men’s urinal. Short and unprepared to defend himself, Phil is urinated on by four street toughs. The incident so mortifies and frightens Spector that he keeps a bodyguard around him (and a gun on him) from that day on. (1958)
2. The violence towards women, possibly also explained.
Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King bring Phil a new song, written about their babysitter Eva Boyd (who, as Little Eva, would also become lead singer on another Goffin-King song she inspired, “The Locomotion”). Abused by her boyfriend, Eva tells Carole that the violence only proves how much he loves her. The resultant 45, “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss),” would get a deadpan version of Phil’s “Wall of Sound” treatment. The group who record it, The Crystals, hate it, and so does America, with public outrage causing the single to be pulled almost immediately. (1962)
3. Let’s dance the WHAT?!
Embroiled in legal battles with label co-owner Lester Sill, Spector delivers the new song he’s still contractually obligated to produce: a six-minute “dance” 45 by the Crystals called “(Let’s Dance) The Screw.” The chorus consists mostly of Spector intoning the words “dance the screw” slowly over a spare, monotonous beat, with the same thing on the other side’s “Part Two.” Legend has it that Spector wanted to “screw” Sill out of his obligational hit record. A copy of the record is hand-delivered to Sill. (1963)
4. Two lost weekends.
During sessions for John Lennon’s (also contractually obligated) oldies covers album, Rock And Roll, Spector and Lennon out-drink each other, spar verbally, and scream at each other over the din of Phil’s wacked-out production. Samples from this infamous session can be heard on Lennon’s Anthology box set and on bootlegs. During these sessions, Spector is also seen to wave a handgun around, threatening longtime Beatles roadie and associate Mal Evans with it and eventually shooting it into the air. A frazzled Spector soon disappears with the session tapes, which took Lennon months to retrieve. (1973)
5. How not to keep a wife, Part 1.
Having married Ronnie Bennett, former lead vocalist ofÂ The Ronettes, Spector has a glass coffin, like the one inÂ Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, installed in the basement of his mini-castle estate in Los Angeles. He leads Ronnie’s mother Beatrice to it, telling her it’s where Ronnie will lie if she ever tries to leave him. (1971)
6. How not to keep a wife, Part 2.
Insane with jealousy, Spector locks Ronnie inside his mansion and refuses to let her leave the premises for months. The technical kidnapping ends when a barefoot Ronnie, assisted by her mother, somehow slips past the barred windows, barbed-wire fences, attack dogs and bodyguards. (1972)
7. Producer Phil… Ramone?
While working with punk rock legends The Ramones, Spector forces the band to play the same opening guitar chord over and over again for eight solid hours, mixing it into the song “Rock And Roll High School” until he gets it just the way he wants it. At one point, the frustrated band attempts to leave, but Phil pulls a gun on the group and forces them to play his 1963 hit by the Ronettes, “Baby I Love You.” (1979)
8. A lifetime achievement.
Spector is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stuns the awards ceremony when he enters with three bodyguards, all with their hands on their guns. He proceeds to make a long, rambling, nearly incomprehensible acceptance speech, then falls off the stage. (1989)
9. Maybe it was the castle…
Time Europe reports that Phil walks around his new estate in Alhambra, CA every day, in complete darkness, wearing nothing but a Batman costume. (1999)
10. Tabloid hell.
Spector’s sons Gary and Donte relate Ronnie-like tales of forced isolation in the late Seventies to London’s Daily Mail, and go on to accuse the famous producer of blindfolding Gary and then molesting them both. (2003)