Castle Gate Opens for Charm Tour


By Donna Furey | LB Indy

Pyne Castle will open to the public for the first time during May 18’s Charm House Tour
Pyne Castle will open to the public for the first time during May 18’s Charm House Tour

A special treat awaits patrons of Village Laguna’s annual Charm House tour; a chance to see inside the historic Pyne Castle in North Laguna.

The huge mansion has always drawn attention and speculation, but has never previously opened for a public tour as it will on May 18.

Built in 1928, its owner, Walter Estel Pyne, originally christened the structure Broad View Villa but to locals it became known as Pyne Castle.

Pyne, a piano salesman and tuner whose family owned music stores in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, purchased 3.8 acres of scrub in the hills adjacent to Boat Canyon with money that gushed from the discovery of oil in his Yorba Linda orange groves, according to Merle and Mabel Ramsey’s 1967 book, “The First 100 Years in Laguna Beach 1876-1976.”

Construction of the 18,300 square foot Normandy Revival estate spanned seven years and cost $200,000, the equivalent of $2.8 million today. Upon completion, Pyne, his mother Lucretia Pyne and their housekeeper, Marie Hannon, moved into the 62-room mansion. Pyne was briefly married, but after his death in 1945 the housekeeper inherited the mansion.

In the 1960s, new owner, David Young, obtained a variance to redevelop the property as rental units. There have been four subsequent owners prior to its most recent purchase in October 2012 for $6.5 million, says the real estate website Planners of the Charm House tour say the current owner is making historically sensitive renovations to the interior.

Visitors will see the conical turrets from the motor court, step inside the formal entry to view original moldings, ornately detailed ceilings, sweeping staircases and the grand ballroom. Outside the grounds are lushly planted with palms and feature fountains and a swimming pool.

A John Fowler-designed bungalow is also on the tour.
A John Fowler-designed bungalow is also on the tour.

Also on the tour are five other north Laguna homes, including a mini-manor in the English country style created by John Fowler and recently remodeled.

City Council members Toni Iseman and Steve Dicterow, who lives in North Laguna, will serve as hosts aboard shuttle buses that begin ferrying tour goers at noon from the Festival of Arts’ grounds. There, parking will be available to tour patrons for $3. The tour, which continues until 3 p.m., cannot accommodate children under 12 or the disabled.

Ticket purchases are not a charitable contribution, but tour proceeds help fund Village Laguna’s mission, which has evolved since its start in 1971 to battle proposed high-rise development on Main Beach. Now its members aim to preserve Laguna’s small town atmosphere, open space and marine reserves as well as assist some local non-profits.

Village Laguna “give(s) thousands of dollars to civic and charitable organizations every year; in election years we support candidates and initiatives,” said board treasurer Richard Pichney.

In its latest campaign filing on Jan. 7, Village Laguna reported a balance of $17, 461, reflecting revenue since last July 1 and virtually no expenditures.

The group awards an annual $1,000 scholarship to a LBHS senior that contributes to environmental protection. This year an additional scholarship named for the late Jeanette Merrilees will also be awarded.

Tickets for the 42nd Annual Charm House tour organized by Village Laguna are $50-$60, and can be obtained by writing to: P.O. Box 1309, Laguna Beach, California 92652 or visiting

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