It’s so funny, for a long time now I’ve been wanting to do a short and sweet little feature on some of the many historic homes currently for sale around the Southland and I specifically did not want to get into a lot of detail as I have a life to live and so do you, but lo and behold the very first house I highlighted on my list, that great grande dame of Windsor Square, Los Tiempos at 455 South Lorraine Boulevard, which has just come up for sale @ $11.25 million, got me going on and on. AND this isn’t even half the story. I’d love to get into the details of the fascinating Janss family and their impact on Los Angeles, but I’m going to have to restrain myself and maybe save it for later. Instead, I wanted to give just a few additional points on this history-filled estate you might find of interest. And I will try to finally do that short real estate post next tiempo!
Completed in 1913, the classically designed mansion at 455 South Lorraine was one of the very first to be built in tony Windsor Square. It is of interest to note that it was originally going to be part of a whole compound of houses planned by the Janss family and centered around the block between Lorraine Boulevard on the east and Windsor Boulevard on the West. Originally, four houses were to be built for brothers Harold Janss, Dr. Edwin Janss, their father Dr. Peter Janss, as well as Harold H. Braly, Peter Janss’ son-in-law and one of the partners of the Janss Investment Company. The property (6 lots) was purchased in 1911 for $67,000 with plans for the mansions to run about $35,000 a piece. They even later purchased a seventh lot solely for their garages and other ancillary structures so as not to mar their lawns with such things. In the center, between the four mansions was to be a truly exclusive “private park” where the Jansses could have dances. All four of the Janss mansions were to be designed by the same architect, the well-known Los Angeles architect J. Martyn Haencke, in compatible yet not identical “Renaissance” styles. Dr. Edwin Janss got the ball rolling with his twelve-room Italian Renaissance mansion at 434 South Windsor Boulevard, completed in January of 1913 and topped with green Ludowici tile.
Peter came next with his spectacular Beaux Arts mansion at 455 South Lorraine, which was also completed in 1913. But there the grand compound plans dry up. It does not appear either Harold Janss or Harold H. Braly built homes on the lots. Five years later, the corner lot at Windsor and Fifth, where another of the Janss mansions was supposed to have been built, was instead sold to James Martin who had Frank Meline build him a fine home at 454 South Windsor Boulevard that later became the home of actress Dolores Costello and some say her husband John Barrymore as well. (I’m not one of those people though. Dolores took over the house after her marriage to Barrymore officially ended in 1935.)
In March of 1917, Peter Janss gave up on the planned compound idea, selling 455 South Lorraine to aged New York capitalist William H. Russell and joining the migration of his sons to Los Feliz. It changed hands several more times until by the 1950′s it became the home of Norman Chandler of the Los Angeles Times and his dynamic wife, Dorothy Buffum Chandler. It was the Chandlers who gave the mansion the clever name of Los Tiempos. And it was the Chandlers who threw gracious soirees that were filled with the cream of society, Hollywood stars and even U.S. presidents. The Chandlers long residency lasted up past the death of Dorothy Chandler in 1997.
One thing that seems to get lost in the long history of this great estate is the fact it was also the home of that fine old character actor Lewis Stone, best remembered today as the lovable old “Judge Hardy” in the very popular Andy Hardy series of pictures made by MGM during the 1930′s. Stone liked the Windsor Square/Hancock Park area of Los Angeles and either owned or rented a number of homes throughout the district from the twenties until the fifties. Unfortunately, 455 South Lorraine was to be the last of them. On September 12, 1953, the 73 year-old Stone was watching television with his wife when they heard a commotion outside. Investigating, he discovered a group of boys had been up to no good and had thrown some of the patio furniture into the pool. Using his best “Get off my lawn,” voice, Stone attempted to chase the hooligans away, but the excitement was too much and he suffered a massive heart attack, dying on the sidewalk outside of the grand old estate.
And now here’s a question – can anyone please fill me in on how everyone (including the City of Los Angeles) has linked Julia Morgan and William J. Dodd with J. Martyn Haenke on the design of this house? I have never found anyone other than Haenke listed as designer in early records on the place. Only in the last few years have Morgan and Dodd joined the party it would seem. As for William J. Dodd, it should be noted (but apparently isn’t) that this house was already well under construction by the time Dodd first moved to Los Angeles from Louisville, Kentucky in February 1913 and as for Julia Morgan, the Janss commission doesn’t show up on any of the inventories I’ve seen of Morgan’s many designs (not that they’re complete though). This, and other information, causes Dora Doubter (Nellie Naysayer’s sister and a member of the PL staff) and I both to have serious doubts about this claim (now accepted as a “fact”) The only time I’ve been able to find these three great architects were associated together was on the Hearst Examiner Building downtown in 1914. It is known that Dodd & Haenke formed a brief partnership, but that appears to have been a year or two later. If anyone has any info. that would help educate me here and sort out my confusion I’d love it. Dora needs some convincing.
As for J. Martyn Haenke, he was quite capable of designing grand scale mansions all on his own. He did a number of them throughout Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, even as far out as Beaumont, during the early to mid 1910′s. It was he who drew up the plans for one of the great estates of Beverly Hills – Grennox, the English Tudor mansion of Beverly Hills founder Burton E. Green at 1000 Cove Way (1914). He also did the monumental gates of Fremont Place, which are still guarding that exclusive enclave.
Meanwhile, if you want a truly grand mansion with lots of history, here is your chance with Los Tiempos coming on the market at $11,250,000. The listing by Joe Babajian of Rodeo Realty may be found here. Any takers? Also, check out the recent Curbed LA post that gives some details on more recent doings post-Chandler regarding the house.