Catalina Connection

The strange past of Catalina Island’s Holly Hill House

AVALON — Mt. Ada, the once home of the Wrigleys, might be one of the best tourist attractions on Catalina Island (they offer a delicious lunch with beautiful views and five-star stays), but another notable home looming over Avalon’s harbor is Holly Hill House. Its history is quite strange and captivating.

You cannot miss the Queen-Anne-style Victorian house as you enter Avalon, which began the building process in 1888 and saw completion in 1890 before the Banning Brothers, who developed the island, turned Catalina into a burgeoning tourism destination. With its eye-catching turret and horse weathervane, the house commands attention as one of the oldest in Avalon. Walking along Avalon’s coast, and nestled below Mt. Ada, one can even see the structural work that has gone into preserving the home over the decades.

Holly Hill House wasn’t always known by that name. When it was first built by a civil engineer by the name of Paul Gano, who hailed from Ohio, the house was formerly known as Lookout Cottage.

With a bizarre and slightly cringe-worthy plotline, Gano’s love decided she was not as crazy about the house as he was and that relationship soured. It has been stated through multiple sources that Gano would not allow any woman to enter the house afterwards and he posted signs warning any ladies in the area they were not welcome at Lookout Cottage.

Gano lived in the stately Victorian until 1921 (coincidentally when the Wrigleys built Mt. Ada) when his failing health took him back to Pasadena for his final days.

In the following years, another family resided in the home and changed its name to Holly Hill House as homage to the many holly vines that grew around the property.

Holly Hill House, in the 2000s, was listed for sale by Catalina Realtors and reportedly sold for over $6 million. The Log contacted the real estate agency, but no immediate commentary was available at press time.

Though at this time, Holly Hill House does not provide tours open to the public, sometimes visitors can get lucky enough to view the home at the annual Avalon Home Tour, according to Catalina Island Company.

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6 thoughts on “The strange past of Catalina Island’s Holly Hill House

  • Klaus Mendenhall

    This is a truly a treasure. Would really like to be one of those fortunate to be part of a future home tour. Just leaving a stay at Mt. Ada.

    • Robert Tschombor

      Hi Klaus…several tours are available on Youtube.

  • Catherine Salazar

    I toured there years ago, but oddly enough, I don’t remember much about it!
    — Cathy Salazar

  • Janice Warner

    this was the most fun we had over 40 years ago i traveled here. i will never forget the ride on the ferry boat over to this beautiful place. Can’t wait to go back. And do more touring while there.

  • I love coming to the island. So beautiful & peaceful. Love to be able tour the Holly Hill House sometime. Would be such an honor, I would cherish respectfully



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