What’s the deal with Burbank’s gigantic castles? We have answers
At least eight turrets. Stained glass windows around a medieval-looking door. Sneering stone gargoyles.
These fantastical features could all be found gracing the exterior of 3320 N. San Fernando Blvd.
Hop into Google Maps Street View and see it for yourself.
A second castle — strikingly similar in style — is just around the corner on Lima Street. Home to Lincoln Beer Company, patrons can sip on the brewery’s “perfectly pineapple” fruited wheat pints within sight of the building’s towers, reaching nobly into the Southern California skies.
Less than four miles away is another palatial building, tucked behind an Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Victory Boulevard. Appropriately enough, it’s home to L.A. Castle Studios, a TV and film production company.
So, what’s the deal with all the random castles in Burbank?
This question, winner of one of our latest reader polls, was posed on the #AskLosAngeles subreddit.
After taking a look at some property records with The Times’ research library staff and making several calls, I discovered the man behind Burbank’s mysterious castles.
He was intensely creative, not content to simply dot Burbank’s streets with bland, box-like commercial buildings. Instead, he aimed to leave a legacy behind in a city he loved.
But before this developer built castles, he made a fortune doing something slightly less whimsical: supplying specialized parts and hinges for the aerospace industry.
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Gary Bandy, who died at 80 from cardiovascular problems in October 2021, transformed his family’s Burbank-based business “from a million- dollar-a-year company into a $14-million-a-year company,” said Brett Bandy, one of Gary’s 11 children.
He was “a very charismatic guy,” Brett said. “He knew how to get people to work for him and to realize his vision.”
Over the years, Bandy reinvested profits into real estate development. He built various residential, industrial and commercial buildings — dressing some of them up as castles along the way.
“His buildings add fun and flair where others chose drab and predictable; factories and office buildings featured towers and turrets,” reads Bandy’s Seattle Times obituary.
But where did Bandy’s castle inspiration come from?
His upbringing in L.A. County certainly played a role, said Greta Bandy, Bandy’s widow. Born at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Bandy was “a California boy through and through.”
“He was a very romantic individual, and I think Hollywood has so much to do with that,” she said. “The whole idea of Camelot really stuck with him.”
Bandy also longed to leave a tangible mark on the Burbank community. “Burbank brought him wealth, Burbank was a spot where he found joy, where he was successful. And so he wanted to...leave some sort of legacy,” said son Garrett Bandy.
Given Burbank’s significance in the film industry, “He thought, ‘Why don’t I [build] these castles?’” Garrett said.
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Conveniently, building castles doesn’t need to cost significantly more than constructing your average building — at least not the way Bandy and his team approached it. “You only needed to modify walls a little bit and put on some extra characteristics that weren’t that much more expensive than a regular block building,” Brett said.
One by one, Bandy — along with close collaborators, such as general contractor Henrik Okland — brought the castles to life.
“My dad built literally only for Mr. Bandy for about 17 years,” said Erik Okland, Henrik’s son, who spent time with his father at construction sites for Bandy’s at times unconventional buildings.
“Mr. Bandy would say, ‘This is what I want,’ and my dad had the ability to just build it.”
Bandy’s imaginative approach to real estate development continues to pay off today.
“We hold a pretty much zero vacancy rate across Burbank in any of the buildings that we own that are in the castle style,” Garrett said. The aesthetic “really appeals to anybody that wants a creative spot to have their business.”
One of those people is Tim Pipher, owner of L.A. Castle Studios, who appreciates the contrast between the interior and exterior of the building he rents for the production facility.
“I love the Old Hollywood feel from the outside, and then inside we’ve got a very high-tech place,” he said. “Put it all together, and it’s a really cool spot.”
Bandy’s flair extended beyond Burbank city limits.
In the 1970s, Bandy purchased Vasquez Paradise Park, a 20-acre property with swimming pools and ponds in the shadow of Vasquez Rocks in northern L.A. County.
“I thought it would be a nice place to raise my kids,” Bandy told the Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise in August 1975. “I saw the potential.”
After buying the private recreation park, Bandy set about transforming it to his “personal decorating taste,” the Signal reported.
But instead of constructing castles, Bandy went full “Wild West” in style.
It’s virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of many words. But it’s safe to say who popularized ‘Cali.’
“A visitor...first notices The Howling Wilderness Saloon, built similar to the first saloon by that name in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1868, but serving only food, soft drinks and beer,” the Signal reported. “If it is Sunday, Bandy will probably be posted at the ticket booth, which resembles a railroad depot.”
Bandy’s real estate development efforts — and penchant for palaces — also extended north to coastal Washington.
In 1989, the Kitsap Sun reported on “Troll Haven,” a sprawling property along the coast of Discovery Bay in Washington.
“On a misty day, the gray stone castle with purple — purple! — trim has an unreal shimmer,” reported Julie McCormick in September 1989.
Statues of giants and trolls dotted the property, much to the delight of visitors who sought out the castle.
Not everyone was charmed by Troll Haven, however.
“It’s called Bandyville by neighbors who don’t like the tourists and occasional tour buses — and the fact that since 1979, Bandy has bought up about 200 contiguous acres at Gardiner,” wrote McCormick.
When some locals complained about the castle’s violet hue, Bandy decided to repaint.
“He painted it all the colors of the rainbow so it stood out even more,” Greta Bandy said. “He was a bit of a fighter.”
It can take a fighting spirit to bring a project like Troll Haven to life — and in some cases, a developer’s offbeat vision gains more appreciation over time.
When tourists see Angelenos acting “so L.A.,” it may say more about the expectations they bring with them.
Today, Troll Haven still stands sentry on the Olympic Peninsula — just as Bandy’s Southern California castles continue to amuse and bemuse Burbank residents and workers.
“It’s cool,” said Gayane Movsesyan, owner of Tonir Cafe on North San Fernando Boulevard, a block away from one of Bandy’s castles. “You just wonder, ‘What is this? What’s going on in there?’”
Pipher says clients are frequently charmed by his company’s royal-feeling location.
“We constantly get comments along the lines of ‘I’ve been driving by this place every day for years. I never knew what was in there.’ And then when they come in and see what it is, they seem to be very excited.”
The castle, which Pipher began renting after relocating the company from Florida to Burbank, left an undeniable mark on the production studio — right down to its name.
Initially, “we weren’t called anything to do with castles,” Pipher said. “But we thought, when we saw the building, it would be natural to rename our business to reflect that castle theme. So we became L.A. Castle Studios.”
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Times library director Cary Schneider and news researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this story.
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