West Hollywood resident David Meyers remembers when he first laid eyes on the model of the Garden of Allah.
The model, a remarkably detailed recreation of the famed apartment complex on Sunset Boulevard between Crescent Heights and Havenhurst, had long been displayed in the Lytton Center, built on the storied site after the Garden of Allah was razed in 1959.
Sixteen years ago, the Lytton Center, which had become Great Western Bank, was remodeled and the Allah model was relegated to a yet-to-be-leased space on the property.
When Meyers, a hair stylist, decided to open a salon in the space, he saw the model sitting in the middle of the room.
“It was completely gray from dust,” Meyers said. “I thought I should have bought stock in Q-tips.”
Meyers, unaware of the storied Hollywood inn with surrounding villas, decided to take it home and “kick it around a little,” he joked.
“I called the owner the next day and said ‘You know the model you had in the salon? I took it home. Do you mind if I make a table out of it?'”
The property owner told him to keep it.
Today, the model, nearly unchanged and carefully encased in glass, still sits in the middle of Meyers’ living room in his West Hollywood apartment on Westbourne. It indeed acts as a table — and quite the conversation piece for guests.
Meyers, who manages the property and still occasionally styles hair in his apartment, has since learned plenty about the famous Spanish-Moorish complex that became notorious for the wild parties held there by the openly lesbian actress Alla Nazimova.
The story behind the model’s construction remains a mystery to Meyers, however.
During the 1920s through 1950s, actors, performers and writers called the Garden of Allah home, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Benchley.
The model includes the original mansion constructed as the home of Nazimova in 1919, and the 25 villas constructed around the main building in 1927.
According to Meyers, only five things are missing from the original model: two cars, a paperboy, waiter and little girl.
Meyers says he has come to treasure the model, and while many of his salon clients are too young to know anything about the Garden of Allah, some have recognized it.
A little more than a year ago, a friend visiting Meyers even tried to sell it at an online auction, going as far as to post a YouTube video.
“I had to send him back to Wisconsin!” Meyers joked.
While the video was unwanted, it did make Meyers a star in the LA County Sheriff’s Department office in West Hollywood.
“It’s funny, but a sheriff’s deputy was over and saw it and said ‘You’re David.’ I said ‘Is my name all over that station?’ Every time they come over they want to take pictures.”
The famous property is again in the news as developer Townscape Partners has proposed to demolish the strip mall, including the bank, to build a mixed-use project.
“We believe our project is fitting of a site of such prominence,” said Townscape Partner’s principal Tyler Siegel. “Our project will stand as modern gateway to Hollywood and the Sunset Strip.”
Included in the plans is a plaza and 10,000 square feet of open space.
Gabe Kramer, a communications consultant for Townscape, says a dedication to the Garden of Allah will be considered.
“These guys are committed to bringing interest back to the site. They want to do that in a respectful way, whether that be anything found under the pavement brought to light, or a dedication to the Garden of Allah,” Kramer said.
Below, check out photographer Jon Viscott’s shots of the model.