On a hill east of downtown Los Angeles in the town of Alhambra there is a grandiose structure known as the Pyrenees Castle. The castle, built in 1926 was the creation of Sylvestre Dupuy.
Sylvestre was born in 1878 on his uncle Jean Baptiste Pedelaborde’s ranch. The ranch was once part of a Spanish land grant known as Rancho Rosa Castilla. Today the property encompasses the California State University L. A. campus and the university hills community. His parents, Marie and Raymond, had immigrated to California from Pau in the French Pyrenees at the request of the uncle Jean Baptiste. He needed help with his growing sheep ranching business. Upon arrival they joined a thriving French community in Los Angeles. Within two years Marie died in childbirth while giving birth to twins causing Raymond to return to France with Sylvestre and his three other children. While growing up in France Sylvestre dreamed that he would one day build his own chateau similar to the ones he saw along the French hillsides.
At the age of 14, Sylvestre and his twin brothers returned to Los Angeles to the uncle’s ranch. Jean Baptiste must have found Sylvestre to be a hardworking, trustworthy young man because four years later he decided to retire to the Béarn leaving the management of the ranch to Sylvestre. Quickly Sylvestre acquired expansive adjoining lands. He grew barley and oats and expanded his flock of sheep. He invested ranching profits in land and oil. In 1899 he married a young Béarnaise from Lourdios named Anna Candelot.
They had 4 children, Frank, Marie, Pete and Henry.
Construction actually began on the castle in 1924 at a cost of $500,000 cash, a staggering amount in those days. Construction materials came from Holland, Italy and Central America. The castle included about 8,600 square feet with 10 bedrooms and 8 ½ baths. The 3 acre property also included tennis courts, playgrounds for children and four majestic towers. There was a vegetable garden, avocado trees and chickens roaming the grounds. Sylvestre wanted his dream castle to be the home of his children and their future families, as well as a focal point for French culture in Los Angeles. Many celebrations took place at the Castle over the years including entertaining French athletes during the 1932 Olympics. Sylvestre and Anna enjoyed entertaining. Anna became a superb chef who closely guarded her sought after recipes. Local residents and neighbors felt they were a part of something historic when visiting.
As with many, Sylvestre Dupuy sustained great losses during the Depression. He lost most of his fortune in oil investments before his death in 1936. He left the castle to his widow and his children. The children sold the castle in 1946. The buyer converted the castle into an eight-unit apartment building. Anna Dupuy lived in one of the units until her death in 1949.
Over the years the castle has had several owners and gone through several renovations. It has been the source of many mysteries and legends, the most notorious being the Phil Spector affair. The Pyrenees Castle continues to tower over Alhambra.