The Munchkin House: A small piece of La Jolla history

street view looking straight in front of the munchkin house in La Jolla
The Munchkin House. Photos courtesy of Compass.

Known locally as “The Munchkin House,” the home at 7477 Hillside Drive is often dwarfed by rumors about supposed former inhabitants and its scale. Join lajolla.ca for a larger-than-life look inside the storied house.

The two-bedroom, one-bath home and its 1,176 square feet have stood atop Hillside Drive for nearly 90 years will now be going to a new owner: the house is in escrow six days after being listed for sale.

The Munchkin House is designated historic under San Diego’s adoption of the Mills Act Agreement, due to its being designed by famed architect Cliff May. 

May designed that home and three others on Hillside Drive in 1935 for a developer, according to current listing agent Eugenia Garcia.

These were among May’s early works, Garcia said. “He developed homes throughout California and was known as the father of the California ranch [house].”

“The home does have notoriety and it’s somewhat of a legend that there was a group of ‘Munchkins’ from [the 1939 movie] ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that lived in this ‘Munchkin Land,’” Garcia said.

Details within the rumors about the house – and the land around it – vary, from the homes being built by the Munchkin actors with their film earnings to the actors being placed there by the film studios during filming.

The rumors have generated creativity among La Jollans nurturing the lore, even encouraging the imagination of some who took to drawing maps of “Munchkin Land” showcasing dozens of tiny houses hidden in the hills above The Village, maps lajolla.ca found in the files at the La Jolla Historical Society. 

“High schoolers seem to have played a major role in the perpetuation of the tales,” Matthew Alice wrote in a 1988 San Diego Reader article. 

However, the rumors “are not accurate,” Garcia said, adding there is no “concrete evidence” that the Munchkin actors ever occupied the house.

The home’s nickname, then, likely resulted from its appearance as an optical illusion.

May “was one of the originators of building slab on grade,” Garcia said, noting he carved into the steep hillside until he struck material that prevented his digging any further in a method not used then as commonly as it is now.

The house was then built mostly below the street, “adapted to the contours of the property” with a “low-pitched, red-tile” roof making the house seem smaller than it is, according to the Reader article.

Though the front door is small – a standard of its 1935 design – “when you walk into the property, … you can see it’s a high ceiling and everything else in the home is standard height,” Garcia said.

One of the other three May homes is still standing, one was relocated to La Jolla Scenic Drive and not much is known about the fourth.

The Munchkin House is “a house that everybody seems to really adore and appreciate because of its history, and the legend behind it,” Garcia said.

“It brings up fond memories for people. It’s nice to see it’s pretty special.”

Those in escrow to purchase the home have indicated they intend to preserve it, Garcia said.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Follow & Subscribe

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Enjoying our content?

Your contribution helps support our small local team of journalists in continuing to bring you quality content and news about La Jolla.
ADVERTISEMENT

Recommended Posts

Most Popular

Follow & Subscribe

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Enjoying our content?

Your contribution helps support our small local team of journalists in continuing to bring you quality content and news about La Jolla.
ADVERTISEMENT

Most Popular

What's new in La Jolla?

Stay connected with regular updates on all things La Jolla, CA

Join your fellow La Jolla enthusiasts and get the latest local news stories, exciting events, inspiring roundups for the top things to do, the best eats in town, new businesses, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.

Get the latest local news stories, see upcoming events, top activities and restaurants, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.

Join your fellow La Jolla enthusiasts and get the latest local news stories, exciting events, inspiring roundups for the top things to do, the best eats in town, new businesses, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.