The story of Blondeau’s Tavern


Blondeau’s Tavern — where it all began…





By Allan R. Ellenberger


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first motion picture studio that was established in Hollywood-proper in a run-down tavern at the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. This is the first in a series of articles over the next several months that celebrates the movies birth in Hollywood. Today is a look at the very beginning and the family that established that tavern – Rene and Marie Blondeau.



Blondeau’s Tavern stood at the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. This hostelry has a place on history’s pages, in that the Blondeau’s were friends with artist Paul De Longpre and boosters who persuaded him to locate there. The old tavern also became Hollywood’s first film studio in 1911.


Rene Blondeau was born in 1839 near Normandie, France. In 1855, at the age of 16, young Blondeau arrived in New Orleans where he set up business as a perfume importer. In 1870, Rene returned to France for a visit and met twenty-year-old Marie Lousteau and married her the following year.  Rene took his new bride to New Orleans where they set up house.


In February 1875 the couple had a son who they named Rene Hyacinthe Blondeau. Sadly, the child died less than two years later. After the death of their son, the Blondeaus visited the principal cities of South America, and, while in Chile, adopted a daughter, Louise.  Before returning to New Orleans with a small fortune, in Argentina they assumed the responsibility of bringing up a half-orphan French-born boy who they called Louis.


The Blondeau’s had friends in California who owned a road house in a sleepy little village called Hollywood, just a few miles outside of Los Angeles. Martin Labaig was the proprietor of the Six-Road House on the northeast corner of Sunset and Gower. Labaig convinced Blondeau to relocate to Hollywood, so in 1889 they came across the Isthmus to Los Angeles and to Hollywood. There, Harvey Wilcox, the founder of Hollywood, sold Blondeau six acres of land for $2,000 across from the Labaig’s.


In 1892, Blondeau built an addition to his home and applied for a liquor license and began serving meals, calling his establishment, Blondeau’s Tavern. Two years later, Blondeau bought five acres across Sunset Boulevard at the southwest corner from Senator Cornelius Cole for $300 per acre.


In 1899 Blondeau was instrumental in bringing the well-known French painter, Paul De Longpre, to the Cahuenga Valley. De Longpre built Hollywood’s first tourist attraction – his home and flower gardens – at Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard) and Cahuenga. De Longpre died in Hollywood in 1911 and has a street and park named after him.


Blondeau’s Tavern prospered over the years, feeding and quenching the thirst of countless travelers passing through the Cahuenga Valley. Shortly after the turn of the century, Rene began to suffer from complications of several diseases. On January 20, 1903, Rene Blondeau died at his home adjacent to the tavern. He was 63 years old. The funeral services were conducted by Father Cota of the local Catholic Church and interment was in Hollywood Cemetery.





Less than a year after Rene’s death, Hollywood became a prohibition town, voting to only allow the sale of liquor from a registered pharmacist, on the prescription of a physician. The ban of liquor ate into the profits of the local eating establishments, including Blondeau’s. Suffering from the drought induced by Hollywood’s liquor ordinance, Marie reluctantly was forced to close the tavern not long afterward and sat empty for several years.


The Blondeau’s adopted son, Louis, became a farmer when they first moved to Hollywood. He later dabbled in oil before investing in Hollywood real estate and becoming the town’s first barber with a shop near his father’s tavern. He eventually became what many have called a notorious landlord operating three buildings near Hollywood and Cahuenga. He was married and divorced, and died at age 57 at his Hollywood home at 1243 N. Laurel Avenue. He was entombed in the Foyer of the Abbey of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.



In late October, 1911, Frank Hoover, a local photographer with a studio at the southeast corner of Hollywood and Gower, introduced Mrs. Blondeau to David Horsley, who had just arrived in town looking to rent space to make motion pictures. She rented him the closed-up tavern for $40 dollars a month; as a result the Nestor Company opened the first motion picture studio in Hollywood on the site of a deserted tavern.


Marie and her daughter Louise moved to their new house on property she owned a block away at 6123 De Longpre Avenue. It was here that Marie died forty years after her husband on April 9, 1943. She was buried next to Rene at Hollywood Cemetery.





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6 Responses to “The story of Blondeau’s Tavern”

  1. Excellent, Allan! I always knew about the Blondeau Tavern being the site of the first studio, but I did not know the story of the Blondeaus or where their graves were located. I do know that David Horsley is also at H4E and have visited him there. I am very excited to see more in the coming series of centennial posts. Thank you!!
    Thanks Steve for all your support. I appreciate it.

  2. Scatter says:

    Allan, you’re really in my wheelhouse now!! The formative years of The Industry, the Town, and the Stars have become my obsession!! Even so, I knew nothing about the Blondeau family until this excellent post.

    Many thanks for doing what you do my friend!
    you’re welcome I’m glad you enjoy it.

  3. Jim Lacy says:

    Allan, I didn’t know the Blondeau family details either, so reading these stories always makes for a wonderful education. Are you planning to do a story on pioneer Hollywood director Francis Boggs later in your centennial series, since he was shot and killed in October, 1911?
    Hi Jim, Boggs was actually killed on the same day that Horsley rent the tavern — weird. I may eventually do a story on him. I believe a biography is being worked on at the moment on Boggs. — Allan

  4. Roger Hampton says:

    I thought the ‘De Mille’ barn, at the southeast corner of Vine & Selma, was the first official studio in town. Paramount.
    No, DeMille didnt arrive in Hollywood until late 1913 when he rented that barn and it eventually evolved into Paramount.

  5. Eloise M. Rosenblatt, Esq. says:

    Thanks, Allan for your interest in my family history! As the eldest great granddaughter of Rene Blondeau (he has 22, mostly in California) I have some data that may help clear up this story.
    The most important is that Louise E. Blondeau, our grandmother, was the biological daughter of Rene and Marie Blondeau. She was born in Tacna, Chile (now Peru) May 13, 1886, and her baptismal record can be found on line, as Luisa Elsa Blondeau, where her parentage is stated.

    Another detail concerns Rene Blondeau’s arrival in the U.S. The manifest from the ship he took from Bordeaux, France, arriving in New Orleans on March 19, 1869, has him listed as Rene Abelar(d) Blondeau, age 30. His younger sister, age 21, Eugenie Honorine Blondeau, arrived at the same time. I recovered this record in New Orleans earlier this year.

    Rene Blondeau met Marie Loustau, a native of Pau in France, in New Orleans. Their marriage certificate in New Orleans is dated May 1, 1871.

    Rene Blondeau became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., according to the certificate of the Second District Court in New Orleans, on October 1, 1874.

    Their son, Rene Hyacinthe Blondeau was baptised in New Orleans. He died of tubercular pneumonia on November 30, 1876, at about two years of age, according to the death certificate.

    The public library in New Orleans offers a wealth of information about the French community, and its city directories from the 1860’s, 1870’s are on microfiche rolls. I have not exhausted all the research about Rene Blondeau and Marie Loustau that is possible to do there.

    Other details about Rene Abelard Blondeau’s history are more accessible than a trip to New Orleans! They can be found in the biographical entry on line in Guinn’s History of California and an Extended History (1907).

    Louis Calvez was “taken on” and raised by Rene and Marie Blondeau when they were in Cordoba in Argentina, before coming to Tacna. Though he went by the Blondeau name as an adult, he was never formally adopted. According to other records I have, he had difficulty in the 1920’s establishing that he was a U.S. citizen.

    The chronology of Rene Blondeau’s travels, prior to his coming to Hollywood, still needs to be worked out. He was a man of many talents, who set out to see the world and find his place in it. He found that place at the end of his travels to be early Hollywood. The house that he built further back on the property, which I remember living in as a child, seemed to have faced Gower, though the address was listed as De Longpre. In the 1900 census, the location was listed as Cahuenga Township…which alludes to one of the other names of “Blondeau Tavern”–Cahuenga House. The name Rene Blondeau gave his establishment was Blondeau Station.

    I would welcome persons who have data and records about the family history to let me know through this web-site. Congratulations, Hollywood Film Industry on your 100th birth year!

  6. Mike Summers says:

    This some great information. My great great grandfather was Martin Labaig! His son’s were Emile and Martin. That property across from the Tavern, became a drugstore years later and is now a small strip mall location. Emile stayed in the Hollywood area while Martin moved his family to Glendale. This is great information. If anyone would like to share any information regardind the Labaig’s please let me know .

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