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Jan. 14: 'Fantasy Island' premiered on this day in 1978

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Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Calif.

Decades before “Lost” captured America’s attention, another supernatural island captivated viewers when it first debuted on this day in 1978: “Fantasy Island.”

The popular weekly drama, which ran until 1984, centered around an island run by the mysterious Mr. Roarke, a man dressed all in white who had the power to grant visitors’ wishes. His instantly-recognizable home seen in the opening credits, however, was not actually located on any island. It’s part of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Calif.

Built in 1885, the Queen Anne Cottage, as it is known, was commissioned as a guest house when E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin married his fourth wife, Lillie Bennett.

Inside the cottage at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Baldwin was known for being quite a character himself. Said to carry a pearl-handled pistol and thousands of dollars in pocket change everywhere he went, the millionaire got rich quick in the mining business and married several much-younger women, including Bennett, who was 16 on their wedding day—Baldwin was 56.

Because the cottage was designed as a guest house, cooking and dining facilities and Baldwin’s own living quarters were in a different house on his Santa Anita Ranch property. But the cottage itself boasts stained glass windows, black walnut doors, marble fireplace mantels and a tile mosaic entry floor.

Even though the house was designed by Bennett’s father Albert A. Bennett, the couple separated before they could enjoy it (though the couple was allegedly still married when he died in 1909). After the separation though, Baldwin commissioned a stained glass portrait and an almost-life-size oil painting of Jennie Dexter, his third wife, who had died several years earlier of tuberculosis. (Incidentally, Dexter had also been a 16-year-old bride.)

Although Baldwin’s daughter closed up the cottage and sold most of its contents after his death in 1909, the home was restored in the 1950s and now is seen by thousands of people each year at the arboretum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Guests are usually only allowed to peer into the cottage’s windows, but it is opened once a year during the holidays for tours.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

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