Alfred Hitchcock Found Contentment in SV
By Marion Dale Pokriots

Not long ago, high on a mountaintop and deep in the redwoods near Scotts Valley lived a very famous film director. He was a native of London and was well known for his thrilling, suspense-filled movies. His pretty little wife, Alma Reville Hitchcock, a talented film editor, and his daughter, Patricia, lived with him.

The Hitchcock's left England in 1939 for America to direct David O. Selznick's REBECCA. Eventually, the Hitchcock's decided to remain in the United States, and Alma went house hunting. She found a "snug little colonial" on Bellagio Road in the Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air.

The Hitchcocks met the parents of Joan Fontaine, the star of REBECCA, who resided in Los Gatos. When Hitchcock expressed his desire to own a piece of property where he could pursue his interest in viticulture and keep riding horses, the Fontaines suggested the Vine Hill area near Scotts Valley.

On August 31, 1940, Alfred and Alma Hitchcock purchased a two hundred acre tract, known as "Heart o' the Mountains", from Bruce and Helen Cornwall. It was this "second home" that pleased the Hitchcocks the most.

The Cornwalls had owned the property east of the Glenwood Highway since the 1880s. It was a summer retreat for the San Francisco based Pierre Cornwall family. Mr. Cornwall, a young man with many irons in the fire, presided over the California Electric Light Co., the Black Diamond Coal Mining Co., the Mechanic's Institute, the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Co., and the Bellingham Bay Improvement Co. Pierre Cornwall had arrived in California from his home state of New York in 1848. He was a member of the first California State Legislature and was the twelfth president of the Society of California Pioneers. He and Mrs. Cornwall had four children, one of whom was Bruce.

Bruce Cornwall, a senior partner of Cornwall, Caldwell and Banker, was a lawyer and real estate broker. In the 1930s Bruce built a nine room California-Spanish style house on his Scotts Valley mountaintop above his parent's old fashioned two story Victorian. It featured arched doorways, a red-tiled roof, hand- hewn beams and a million-dollar view of Monterey Bay and the gorgeous surrounding countryside.

When the Hitchcocks bought the property, the inventory included a farmhouse with caretaker and family, three cows, one horse and thirty chickens, besides the two houses already mentioned. When Bruce Cornwall informed caretaker Giuseppe Chiesa that he had sold the place to Alfred Hitchcock, Chiesa was not impressed. The Chiesa family did not attend movies and had no idea who Hitchcock was.

While the Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, and Chiesa's daughter, Ann, became friends, the Hitchcocks started extensive renovations on the house and grounds. They added a solarium off one end of the living room and a glassed in 'outside dining room' with a heated tile floor. They had the kitchen renovated for his German cook, who often traveled with them. The master bedroom had a sun deck and look out. An outside tower with fireplace served as a guestroom.

The front door, made of a wine cask, was approached through an entrance court. In the courtyard was displayed a Jacob Epstein bust of their daughter. One living room wall was lined with bookcases. Paintings by famous Twentieth Century artists were hung throughout the house and it was furnished with pieces designed by Pat Frankel.

Hitchcock was a connoisseur of fine food and fine wines. There was a wine cellar on the premises. Fresh dover sole, and steak and kidney pies were flown over from England. Hume Cronyn, who spent the weekends working with Hitchcock on a script in Scotts Valley remembered Hitchcock as a perfect host who "took a marvelous, malicious delight in seeing his guests fall apart with all those vintage wines and liquor he'd force".

The gardens were kept immaculate. Roy Rydell, Pacific Garden Mall landscape architect, was hired by Hitchcock. Rydell would send photos of the gardens to Hollywood for Mr. Hitchcock's approval. The house which went off at all angles had several patios. At the end of the rose garden was a twelve-foot mosaic by Georges Braque, the father of cubism. Unable to bring Braque to Scotts Valley for the installation, mosaic was installed by others and dismantled when the house was sold. In a sun-drenched section of the property delicious oranges and grapefruits were grown. Huge redwood trees towered over four landscaped acres.

As proud property owners, the Hitchcocks invited many notables to their mountain top retreat. Ingrid Bergman, her husband, Peter Lindstrom, and their daughter were guests, as well as the Jimmy Stewarts, Kim Novak, playwright Arthur Laurents, and of course, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco with their children. It is said that Hitchcock re-oiled the near mile long drive to his property before the arrival of Princess Grace.

For these Scotts Valley holidays, the Hitchcocks would fly to San Francisco, where a chauffeured black limousine was on hand and they were quickly whisked down the Peninsula and over Highway 17 to their Scotts Valley estate.

The family spent Christmas of 1950 in Scotts Valley, and on this occasion, Hitchcock negotiated the sale of his first grape crop. In August of 1956, after an extensive trip abroad, the Hitchcocks arranged to have a party in Scotts Valley to celebrate their homecoming and birthdays. It was a large gathering. On other weekends that summer, Alfred, Alma and their cook drove from Los Angeles to their retreat; the cook in the back seat, Alma at the wheel and Alfred in e front passenger seat. Alfred did not drive.

The were also in the area on June 9, 1960, when he was given an honorary doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, for "magnificent accomplishments in the world of cinema".

His sixtieth birthday visit was saddened by the death of his little dog, Philip of Magnesia. Philip had run in front of a florist truck which was delivering a gift. The Hitchcock's last visit to their northern California home was in 1972. After a burglary, they became fearful and had all their priceless paintings replaced with copies.

Scotts Valleyites did not usually see their celebrated neighbors, but Tove Hauge recalls waiting on Mrs. Hitchcock and her daughter at Ye Old Danish Inn on two occasions. Electrician and Lockewood Lane resident, Irving Mack, received a note of appreciation for his work on the Hitchcock greenhouse. Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock were thrilled with his work. Matchbooks with his profile on the cover were handed out, recalls Jacque Mack Rowland.

In 1974, after twenty-four years of ownership, the Hitchcock's decided to give up their comfortable and secluded mountain eyrie and the property was sold to the James Scoppetones.