On March 22, 1934, Hilda Weber purchased what would become Casa Encantada for $100,000—an astonishing sum in the Depression. Some of the greatest estates of the 1920s—like twenty-two-acre Dias Dorados and Frances Marion and Fred Thomson’s twenty-two-acre Enchanted Hill—had languished for years on the market at that price.
In 1935, Hilda hired Benjamin Morton Purdy as landscape architect. A year later, his crews started grading the property, planting full-grown trees and preparing the gardens, which would stretch for hundreds of feet behind the mansion.
On March 17, 1936, Hilda hired James E. Dolena as architect. He started working drawings on April 29, 1936, in a Moderne-influenced Georgian style, or what he described to his client as “modern Georgian with Grecian influences.”
Next, Hilda hired Peterson Studios of Santa Barbara and T. H. Robsjohn- Gibbings to design and manufacture custom-made furniture, carpets, and fabrics. Many of Los Angeles’s “best families” purchased pricey reproduction furniture from department stores for their homes. Not Hilda Weber.
On May 15, 1937, Hilda Weber—and her architect, landscape architect, and contractor—laid the cornerstone for the mansion.
Construction proceeded quickly on the 40,000-square-foot residence and its outbuildings. On December 17, 1938, the mansion was finished, and all furnishings were installed. A few days later, the Webers moved into their estate, which had cost more than $2 million, a significant portion of Hilda’s net worth.
Unfortunately, like so many who become suddenly wealthy, Hilda Weber was always careless about money. First, she had spent $2 million building and furnishing Casa Encantada. Then, she gave away one of Santa Barbara’s prized estates. Her day-to-day living expenses were enormous. Her household staff reportedly totaled twenty-one, and she employed another twenty-one full-time groundskeepers and gardeners.
In 1948, she reluctantly put Casa Encantada up for sale. The original asking price was $1.5 million—less than the estate and its furniture had cost ten years earlier. No takers.
Finally, in 1950, hotel magnate Conrad Hilton purchased the estate— including its furniture, art, and silver—for $225,000.
For Conrad Hilton, Casa Encantada lived up to its name, and he lived there in grand style until his death in 1979. In those four decades, Hilton made almost no changes to the mansion, its furnishing and art, or its grounds. The mansion was an extraordinary time capsule of high-style 1940s taste.
After Hilton’s death, the family sold the estate for $12.4 million—the highest price for any single-family home in the United States at the time. The new owners redecorated the mansion with the finest antiques.In 2000, Casa Encantada was sold to its current owner for $94 million—setting another record for the most expensive home in the country.