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Nestled within the winds and folds of Woodrow Wilson Drive in the Cahuenga pass, is a peculiar row of small mountain cabins known as the Boathouses.

Built in 1958 and 1959 by Architect Harry Gesner, these homes are stilt houses that reside on ‘unbuildable lots’.

a view of foundation underneath

Ronald Buck purchased the group of lots and asked Gesner to do something with them. Gesner loves a good challenge, and so he agreed.

See this great interview with Harry Gesner by another local realtor Jimmy Bayan:

Gesner, drawing on his Scandinavian heritage decided to construct the boathouses out of wood. He hired a crew of Norwegian ship builders who had just moved to the US. This crew built Stave Churches in Norway too which are beautiful but don’t share any resemblance architecturally to the boathouses.

Stave Church


Gesner said that the shipbuilders shaped the timbers with very sharp hand axes, sometimes working suspended sixty feet in mid air. Incredible!

I think these boathouses look like an overturned boat, but some people say they resemble a treehouse.

The boathouses are cozy and range in size from 800 square feet to 1,200 square feet and are 1 bedroom 1 bath or 2 bedroom 1 bath. The larger size 2 bedroom boathouses are the most common and have a two story floor plan with the Kitchen, Living Room/dinning room and balcony upstairs, bathroom a half flight of stairs down from the main level, and the two bedrooms on the lower level.

The best part about these boathouses is the living room. The living room has floor to ceiling glass to reveal wonderful views of the San Gabriel Valley and the trees. The very quirky Trapezoid ceilings give an altered perception of space when inside. It’s a must to paint the ceilings white, or the house would be really dark. Most owners choose to stain the exposed beams with a natural wood finish. One negative of having Trapezoid walls is that there are very few places upstairs to hang art.  The living room connects to a outdoor patio.
A centerpiece of the living room is the retro wood burning fireplace. This fits right in with the cabin motif. You will get that lovely campfire smell when you burn logs.
The kitchen isn’t much to shout about but it’s adequate. Some boathouses have had the kitchens upgraded with a dishwasher but this wasn’t standard equipment when they were built.  Laundry Machines are usually installed outside underneath the carport overhang. Room for two car parking.

There is a lot of wood in the interiors and hidden built ins.

The lots are about 2,500sqft so there is no yard (nor yard maintenance). This street in the Hollywood Hills is very pet friendly. A lot of home owners on Woodrow Wilson walk their dog each day.

The location is close to the 101 Freeway and the studios. An interesting neighbor is the tile house up the street.

These boathouses are wonderful to live in- at a going price of $600,000 they are a great starter home and an affordable way to live in the Hollywood Hills. Boathouses sell at comparable prices to two bedroom condos in the area.


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