The Casa de Cadillac


we first noticed the wonderful Casa de Cadillac, on Ventura Boulevard at the north end of Beverly Glen, in the music video of Tom Petty's Valley anthem, "Free Fallin'." Designed by architects Randall Duell and Philip Conklin, whose office was not far east on Ventura, ground was broken in October 1948, the complex remaining largely as it was opened as a branch of Don Lee Cadillac the following May. Its Southland Spanish nomenclature came in 1950, with its cornice-top script derived from the chrome lettering on the front fenders of Coupe de Villes. It is nothing short of amazing that the building—which, now at 75 years old, probably about the median age of Cadillac buyers—has survived the heinous General Motors automotive styling and engineering of the 1980s, the distinct lack of cool of the brand, and the near collapse of GM to be selling its original marque all these years later. The owners seem to understand iconic design and its value as advertising at a major intersection just over the mountain from Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. It is remarkable that they were not even inclined to remove the original script sign or replace it with Cadillac's later, more curlicue design. It is doubly remarkable that they have been able to resist change in the age of factory-dictated dealership conformity; the Casa must sell a lot of Cadillacs. Even General Motors would respect that.

In the showroom when it opened were 1949 Cadillacs, a Fleetwood Sixty Special at right

From left, 1959, 1960, and, in the showroom, 1961 Cadillacs

Old and new Cadillac scripts, 1966

Apparently there were never anything so tacky as "used-car" departments at Cadillac dealers.
Before Fleetwoods were "previously owned," they were offered for "resale."

In addition to their preservation prescience, the clever hombres of the Casa de Cadillac proved influential in terms of other businesses at the intersection of Venutra and Beverly Glen. The Casa de Petrol, a Chevron station that replaced a smaller Mobil outlet in 1960, stood just east of the showroom; a little farther down Ventura was the Casa de Cascade car wash—a dirty DeVille would never do. The Casa de Petrol office, which housed a flower shop in later years, was demolished in September 2016. A Whole Foods Market stands on the sites today.

"Free Fallin'": Tom Petty evokes the Valley in his 1989 music video. See it here

On the day of his death, September 30, 1955, James Dean fills up with ethyl at the predecessor of the
Casa de Petrol
.  Also seen in the picture is Dean's trailer-towing '55 Ford Country Squire, which
was following him from Hollywood north to his date with the reaper in Cholame.