If you drive along Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills just past the intersection of Woodrow Wilson you’ll notice an enchanted tree on the side of the road facing the Valley. A showstopper that has grabbed the curiosity of motorists for decades, the tree is adorned with colorful objects of art donated by passers by and the family that owns it.
One of the denizens of the Hollywood Hills, Cyd Zeigler (email@example.com) published a story about the tree in a recent UpperNicholscanyon.org newsletter. Cyd has granted Nextcolumn.com permission to run his fascinating story:
It was about eight years ago that Sandy and Ed Martin realized the tree growing in front of their house was a highly flammable acacia tree. Always conscious of the safety of everyone in the hills, and perched on the well-trafficked Mulholland Drive, they didn’t want the tree to be victim of a cigarette butt tossed carelessly from a car.
Instead of chopping down the tree at the base, they decided to keep part of the stump and turn it into an art gallery of sorts for the neighborhood. Ed has been an artist all his life, creating sculptures out of plane engines, scrap metal, old foundry templates, and even broken children’s toys. He’s also a talented photographer.
“We wanted it to be a piece of art for the neighborhood,” Sandy told me. For years she has been dubbed the unofficial Mayor of Mulholland. She and Ed moved into the house in 1972, when she said “nobody wanted to live up here.” She was the neighborhood association until the Upper Nichols Canyon Neighborhood Association came along.
Since then, the decorated tree in the 7600 block of Mulholland Drive has become a neighborhood landmark. The decorations on the tree change depending on the current hot news topics, the season, or the whim of a neighbor. The tree is also home to the artwork of Glenn Fox, a local artist who was asked to donate some of his pieces for the tree. He happily obliged. They couldn’t be happier to have the work of a neighborhood artist on display. The tree has also served as a memorial.
After the death of Michael Jackson, Ed drew a picture of the King of Pop as a memorial. Sadly, a motorcyclist was killed near the tree in April. The Martins made a cross, and locals contributed silk flowers, which remain at the scene.
People from all around the neighborhood and Mulholland drop off interesting trinkets, which the Martins attach to the tree. A pair of purple shoes is one of the latest items to find a new home there. It is also a tree of life. The Martins leave a hose by the tree for hikers in need of water. And you can often find some matzo for nourishment, which Sandy says is always gobbled up.
Sandy is amused by the new parade of tour busses on Mulholland that stop in front of the tree. Standing on the other side of the fence, she’s heard them say, “These are the crazy neighbors.” She’s also heard them claim Alice Cooper lives there with snakes.
Nope. It’s just a couple who celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary last week, with a penchant for whimsical art that they happily share with the rest of the neighborhood.
The Upper Nichols Canyon Association is an organization of concerned home owners in the Hollywood Hills who address the issues of everything from neighborhood crime to environmental awareness.
Patti Pietschmann's been plugged into the LA scene for years as author of Harper Collins' best selling ACCESS travel, former contributing editor to LA Magazine and various radio gigs. She has traveled the world with her husband Richard, on assignments and for personal pleasure, has enjoyed hundreds of cruises (she and Richard started young), eaten in restaurants around the globe, spa hopped, trekked, hiked and hit the ground running. The former Teen Editor of Newsday in New York, Patti was also a co-west coast editor of Departures Magazine, and a frequent contributor to such diverse media as Cruisecritic.com, LA Times, Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Virtuoso's Voyage, Luxurydomain.com, Bel-air Magazine, Priority Magazine, dozens of in-flight magazines, and more.