At least eight towers. Stained glass around a medieval looking door. Mocking stone gargoyles.
These fantastic features can be found gracing the exterior of 3320 N. San Fernando Blvd.
Jump into Google Maps Street View and see for yourself.
A second castle, strikingly similar in style, is just around the corner on Calle Lima. Home to the Lincoln Beer Company, patrons can savor the brewery’s “perfectly pineapple” pints of wheat with berries within sight of the building’s towers, reaching nobly for the skies of Southern California.
Less than four miles away is another palatial building, hidden behind an Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Victory Boulevard. Appropriately, it is the home of LA Castle Studios, a film and television production company.
So what’s the deal with all random castles in burbank?
This question, winner of one of our latest reader polls, was posed in the Subreddit #AskLosAngeles.
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 with simply dotting the streets of Burbank with bland, boxy commercial buildings. Instead, his goal was to leave a legacy in a city he loved.
But before this developer built castles, he made a fortune doing something a little less whimsical: supplying specialized parts and hinges for the aerospace industry.
Gary Bandy, who died at age 80 of cardiovascular problems in October 2021, transformed his family’s Burbank business “from a million dollar a year company to 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 realize his vision.”
Over the years, Bandy reinvested the proceeds in real estate development. He built various residential, industrial, and commercial buildings, dressing some of them as castles along the way.
“His buildings add fun and flair where others chose drab and predictable; factories and office buildings featured spires and towers,” reads Bandy’s Seattle Times. obituary.
But where did the inspiration for Bandy Castle come from?
His upbringing in Los Angeles 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 kid through and through.”
“He was a very romantic person, and I think Hollywood has a lot to do with that,” he 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 place where he found joy, where he succeeded. And so he wanted to … leave some kind of legacy, ”said his son Garrett Bandy.
Given Burbank’s importance to the movie industry, “he thought, ‘Why don’t I (build) these castles?'” Garrett said.
Conveniently, building castles doesn’t need to cost much more than building your average building, at least not in the way Bandy and his team approached it. “I just needed to tweak the walls a bit and add a few extra features that weren’t that much more expensive than a normal block build,” Brett said.
One by one, Bandy, along with close associates like general contractor Henrik Okland, brought the castles to life.
“My dad literally built just for Mr. Bandy for about 17 years,” said Erik Okland, Henrik’s son, who spent time with his father on construction sites for Bandy’s sometimes unconventional buildings.
“Mr. Bandy was saying, ‘This is what I want,’ and my father had the ability to build it.”
Bandy’s imaginative approach to real estate development continues to pay off today.
“We have a virtually zero vacancy rate in Burbank on any of the buildings that we own that are castle-style,” Garrett said. The aesthetic “really appeals to anyone who wants a creative place to have their business.”
One such person is Tim Pipher, owner of LA 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 have a very high-tech place,” he said. “Put it all together, and it’s a really cool place.”
Bandy’s style spread beyond the Burbank city limits.
In the 1970s, Bandy purchased Vasquez Paradise Park, a 20-acre property with pools and ponds in the shadow of Vasquez Rocks in northern Los Angeles County.
“I thought it would be a good place to raise my children,” Bandy told the Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise in August 1975. “I saw the potential.”
After purchasing the private amusement park, Bandy set out to transform it to his “personal decorating liking,” Signal reported.
But instead of building castles, Bandy went “Wild West” style.
“A visitor… first notices The Howling Wilderness Saloon, built similar to the first saloon of that name in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1868, but serving only food, soft drinks and beer,” Signal reported. . “If it’s Sunday, Bandy is likely to be located at the ticket office, which resembles a train station.”
Bandy’s real estate development efforts, and his penchant for palaces, also extended north to the Washington coast.
In 1989, the Kitsap Sun reported on “Troll Haven,” a sprawling property along the shoreline of Discovery Bay in Washington.
“On a misty day, the stone castle gray with purple, purple! — the trim has an unreal sheen to it,” Julie McCormick reported in September 1989.
Statues of giants and trolls dotted the property, much to the delight of visitors seeking the castle.
However, not everyone was delighted with Troll Haven.
“Neighbors who dislike tourists and the occasional tour bus call it Bandyville, and the fact that since 1979, Bandy has purchased about 200 contiguous acres in Gardiner,” McCormick wrote.
When some locals complained about the castle’s purple hue, Bandy decided to repaint.
“He painted it all the colors of the rainbow to make it stand out even more,” said Greta Bandy. “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 recognition over time.
Today, Troll Haven remains a sentinel on the Olympic Peninsula, just as the Bandy Castles of Southern California continue to amuse and mystify Burbank residents and workers.
“It’s great,” 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 that customers are often delighted with the actual location of his business.
“We constantly get comments like ‘I’ve been driving by this place every day for years. I never knew what was 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 moving 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 related to castles,” Pipher said. “But we thought, when we saw the building, that it would be natural to change our business name to reflect the theme of the castle. So we became LA Castle Studios.”
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Times Library Director Cary Schneider and news researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this story.