When I was a reckless youth roaming the midnight streets of Hollywood there were many places on the Boulevard that thoroughly intrigued me. One was the dilapidated old wooden Victorian house that belonged to the mysterious Janes Sisters.
It was located on 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, which was way up on the dreary west end, away from the centralized touristy glitz. I used to love walking past it late at night because it looked exactly like a haunted Halloween house. It seemed so out of place on the Boulevard, a curious relic stubbornly remaining from a by-gone era.
A few dim lights glowed eerily from the windows, and every once in a while one of the ancient sisters would peak out from behind curtains and glare at me. It was almost as though I could actually feel her annoyance. Annoying them was never my intention. I was merely fascinated.
I had heard a few sketchy stories about the sisters and their peculiarities. I'd even heard that the house was haunted. I didn't learn the truth until many years later.
The only resident "ghosts" were the four siblings who lived there for many years: Mabel, Mary, Carrie, and Donald Janes. By the time I became fascinated with the house, Mary and Donald were dead. Only Carrie and Mabel remained.
The Janes House as it looks in recent years -
a far cry from the creepy haunted house that I remember.
The house was built in 1902. Herman and Mary Janes lived there - along with their four children (the aforementioned Carrie, Mabel, Mary, and Donald). In 1911, the women of the household opened a school in the house. It was known as the Misses Janes School of Hollywood. Their pupils included the children of such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, and film producer Jesse Lasky.
After Mr. and Mrs. Janes died, the school fell upon hard times. It closed in 1926, but the four Janes siblings continued living in the house. Donald opened a gas station in the front yard, known as Janes Auto Service.
Rare interior photos
After Mabel died in 1978, Carrie moved into the kitchen and slept in a makeshift window box bed. Carrie is the one who would peer out the window at me. In 1982 Carrie was moved to a nursing home in the valley, where she died the following year at the age of 94.
Fortunately the Janes House didn't suffer the fate of demolition, like so many other historic Hollywood buildings. It was purchased in 1985. The new owners had the entire house moved to the back lot, away from the street. After extensive renovations it was used as a Visitor Center, then it became a restaurant called Memphis, and later a nightclub. So far as I know, it's now a 1920's style speakeasy.
Although the radical transformation of the house has served varied (and mostly unsuccessful) purposes, it is at least securely preserved for posterity. The Jane sisters would certainly be amazed - and perhaps pleased.
The house is almost unrecognizable from when I knew it. It somehow looks smaller and benign, rather than like the foreboding, decaying street-side oddity that it once was.
Here's a very interesting fact - and one that had actually crossed my mind long ago:
The Janes House inspired author Harry Farrell to write a novel entitled Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It later became a 1962 hit movie (and a cult classic) starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
The name of the main character in the book, Baby Jane Hudson, was derived from the surname of the Janes sisters - and the name of a nearby street, Hudson Avenue.
Only in Hollywood.