Arts & Entertainment

Fans seek to preserve sci-fi legend Forrest Ackerman's last abode as a landmark

"Mr. Science Fiction", Forrest Ackerman, stands with the reproduction of the female robot Ultima Future Automation from the 1926 German film "Metropolis" in his home in Los Angeles, on Oct. 31, 1979. The robot is surrounded by Ackerman's extensive collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia.
AP Photo/ Reed Saxon

Forrest Ackerman — literary agent to sci-fi writers including Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and inspiration to generations of writers and filmmakers including Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro — was also a collector of the highest order.

"Uncle Forry," as he was known, stored up to 300,000 items of sci-fi, fantasy and horror memorabilia in his 18-room Los Feliz home.

Known as the "Ackermansion," it functioned for more than half a century as a private museum. Every Saturday it was open to visitors who were invited to wander among its wonders, free of charge.

In 2002, Ackerman was broke. He he couldn't find a home for the entire collection, so he sold off most of it piece-by-piece and moved to a smaller home about a mile away.

This modest Craftsman bungalow, located at 4511 Russell Avenue, became known as the "Acker Mini-Mansion." It also functioned as a private museum with the same schedule as the previous house.

Although Ackerman's collection had been greatly diminished, he retained some key pieces: the cape Bela Lugosi wore in "Dracula" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," a replica of the Robotrix from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and hundreds of paintings, photos and books.

Ackerman remained here until he died in 2008 at age 92.

Now, according to a group called Concerned Citizens of Los Feliz, developers want to tear down the Acker Mini-Mansion and replace it with a parking lot.

Screenwriter Alexandra Kondracke, who lives with her partner across the street, is among the neighborhood residents fighting to prevent the house from being torn down. She learned about the proposal about a year ago, at a meeting of the planning and zoning committee.

"The entire neighborhood ... found out that this house, which was kind of like a badge of honor for the whole neighborhood, was going to be knocked down and turned into parking lot," Kondracke said. "Then everybody kind of just went to work and said we can't let this happen. This is part of Hollywood history, and our history, and Los Feliz history." 

The group has posted a petition requesting that the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission declare the house a cultural landmark. The designation would prohibit the property's owner from making any exterior or interior changes to the structure without a review by the CHC. It would also give the CHC 180 days to object to a demolition permit.

Commenting on the online petition, Turi Meyer wrote, "I don't want to see a part of Los Feliz and Hollywood's past bulldozed to create a parking lot for yet another bank. It's a historical building that will be lost forever if this is allowed to go forward. Forrest Ackerman's legacy is worth honoring."

Receiving "cultural landmark" status is a lengthy process with many hurdles.

On January 13, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council's Planning, Zoning & Historic Preservation committee will meet and make a recommendation that the full Los Feliz Neighborhood Council may take up at its January 19 meeting.

The neighborhood council will, in turn, pass along a recommendation to the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, which meets on February 4. If the CHC supports the application, it will move on to City Council, which then has 90 days to act.

The city's Central Area Planning Commission will also meet on February 23 to discuss the Russell Ave. property.

For Joe Moe, who started out as Ackerman's friend and became his caretaker, the potential preservation of Ackerman's abode is well worth the hassle.

"It was never about the stuff," Moe says. "The magic of the houses, and particularly the Russell house, was that it was the hub where some of the most important people in Hollywood congregated, like a Mecca, to visit their mentor. I was there when Steven Spielberg called his kid over and said, 'Son, this man and grandpa are the reason I make movies.'"