Long before Katy Perry set her sights on owning a Los Feliz convent, the property on Waverly Drive was a canvas for a Hollywood set designer turned interior decorator named Harold Grieve. The year was 1927, and local radio station and SoCal Packard dealerships owner Earle C. Anthony hired Grieve to decorate his recently built Bernard Maybeck-designed estate. "I think Grieve's work on the Anthony house was some of his best," says L.A. House Histories founder David Silverman, a former Sony Pictures attorney who writes custom books about pedigreed houses for such clients as art-book publisher Benedikt Taschen. "It was definitely the most unique and distinctive work I saw of his."

The swimming pool at the 8.5-acre convent in Los Feliz, in the 1920s.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

More recently in 2015, Katy Perry agreed to buy the Waverly Drive property from the Archdiocese, contingent on her finding a replacement for use by local clergy.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
 

Silverman's curiosity yielded these never-before-seen photos of the house, which he came into while researching a book about a Holmby Hills property purchased by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen in 2017 for $41 million, which Grieve also had decorated more than 70 years ago. Silverman set out to learn more about the designer who was married to silent film actress Jetta Goudal and who had designed the costumes for the first Ben Hur, as well as residences for Hollywood luminaries like James Stewart, Norma Shearer and Bing Crosby. Grieve's former accountant offered Silverman a treasure trove of photos, sketches and memorabilia from the 1920s onward — packed in boxes inside an Anaheim storage unit for decades. Silverman needed two cars to transfer all the boxes from Orange County to his home in Brentwood.

The fireplace in the Harold Grieve-designed house built in 1927 by radio station owner Earle C. Anthony, who was instrumental in bringing the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

The chapel room with original fireplace used by the order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2015.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
 

In 2015, a nun with Dana Hollister outside L.A. Superior Court, where they battled Perry and the local Archdiocese over the right to buy the property.
AP Photo/Anthony McCartney
 

Grieve would go on to a successful career as an award-winning interior designer, but ironically, it was another former film studio employee — an actor named William Haines — who would overshadow Grieve and emerge as the defining interior decorator of the era.

The original spiral staircase as designed by iconic architect Bernard Maybeck for Anthony in 1927.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

Another view of the staircase as it was used by the sisters in 2015.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
 

During the 1950s, the Waverly house was sold to Sir Daniel J. and Countess Bernardine Murphy Donohue, then was gifted in 1971 to an order of Catholic nuns known as the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Exterior view of the arches on the estate, for which Perry’s $14.5  million option to purchase expired in August. The L.A. Archdiocese is still open to the deal, should a replacement property for local clergy be found.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

Stone arches shelter a sculpture at the Los  Feliz convent.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
 

Enter Katy Perry more than 40 years later. In 2014, the pop star struck a deal with the L.A. Archdiocese to buy the 8.5-acre property for $14.5 million. But shortly thereafter, Silver Lake businesswoman Dana Hollister engaged several of the sisters to make a separate deal. A drawn-out, bitter legal battle ensued (one of the nuns actually died in court during a hearing).

Perry
Amy Sussman/Getty Images
 

The dispute hinged on whether the court thought the Archdiocese or the three nuns had the authority to sell the property. In 2017, Perry and the Archdiocese prevailed over Hollister, who was forced to pay $6.5 million in damages for attempting to sabotage Perry's deal.

But the saga still isn't over. The pop star's agreement with the Archdiocese requires that she find a replacement for the convent's House of Prayer, which still is in use by local clergy. So far, a replacement has eluded Perry. At one point, a solution presented itself in the 3-acre Chateau Emanuel in Eagle Rock, but that deal fell apart. Now it's an open question whether Perry can pull off finalizing the transaction. In August, Perry's option to pay the $14.5 million for the Waverly property expired. But a spokesman for the church says they're still open to a deal. A lawyer representing Perry declined to comment.

During the design phase, the Anthonys traveled extensively in Europe gathering photographs of Gothic castles, stone from Caen, roof tile from Barcelona, as well as fabric samples.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

Anthony and his wife, Irene, often entertained local luminaries and Hollywood celebrities at their home including Leo Carrillo, Hal Roach and Walt Disney.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

The home’s living room, also known as the Great Hall, features oak floors, beamed 35-foot-high ceilings and windows measuring 8 feet wide and 18 feet high recessed in French limestone.
Fred R. Dapprich
 

 

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.