My Two Cents Worth on an $11,250,000 Mansion

Los Tiempos, a quaint little bungalow in Windsor Square. (all new photos via listing/Joe Babajian @ Rodeo Realty)

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!

455 South Lorraine as up for grabs in 1932.

A cropped news photo of the Janss brothers that bears an unfortunate resemblance to a “line up” photo. Well…they were developers.

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.

The Dr. Edwin Janss home at 434 South Windsor Boulevard well underway in late 1912. Note the similarity to his father’s house.

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.)

Dorothy Buffum Chandler with her Pavilion.

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.

The elegant and talented Lewis Stone. (via http://www.hollywoodheyday.blogspot.com)

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.

Lewis Stone’s first house in the area was at 212 South Wilton Place where he resided from 1921-1928. He then built a home of his own on June Street. Other houses and apartments followed until he wound up on Lorraine about 1952.

Dora Doubter says “Sounds like some Haenke Panky’s going on here.”

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.

Haenke designed Grennox, at Lexington and Cove Way, built between 1912-1914. It is almost surreal to believe it, but the house is still there today. Highly remodeled, but still there.

Haenke also designed one of the very first estates in Beverly Hills – the Harry Lombard house at 1006 North Crescent Drive in 1911 even before the Beverly Hills Hotel was finished. Stunningly, it’s still there too!

Dora took this snapshot of her friend Herbert in front of the Lombard house in 1922. Naughty-looking Herbert appears to be up to no good. Is he about to throw a rock at the house? Dora doubts it, but that’s what she does as we know.

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.

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19 Responses to My Two Cents Worth on an $11,250,000 Mansion

  1. Patrick McGrew says:

    I’d definitely have to go with Dora on this one…nice work!

  2. John Jones says:

    Might it be that because many of the Windsor Square houses were designed and built by Morgan, Walls and Morgan, including the Van Nuys home, that using Julia’s name has become accepted? You would have thought that this sort of nonsense by a realtor is exactly what the historic society in Windsor Square should be watching out for?

    • Steve says:

      Hi John: Very interesting theory. It’s quite possible with all the Morgans floating around. However, somebody probably saw that Haenke had worked with Dodd and Morgan around the same time (within a few years) and made the leap that all three were involved in this one. If it were a just a realtor saying such a thing in their copy it would be one thing, but this has been disseminated and stated as fact by official city sources and in books and magazines. It is NOT stated as such in any book about Julia Morgan that I’ve seen and there’s a reason for that. Did you notice in the Los Angeles Times article you were kind enough to forward the newspaper stated “[Los Tiempos] was designed by associates of trailblazing female architect Julia Morgan.” NOT Julia Morgan per the LAT, but no one saw that, I guess. Thank you SO much for the comments and e-mails, John!

  3. Allison A. says:

    Wow what a fascinating read this morning Steve!

  4. Well, Steve, Nellie, and Dora–as if by clairvoyance you have answered two really-not-all-that-nagging questions that came up for me just a few weeks ago. Who lived at 212 South Wilton, and why is there a photo of it on the LAPL’s website? I have now been able to put it all together. Please see http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?p=5678849#post5678849, or, if it has disappeared behind newer posts, http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?p=5678849&postcount=7488 .

    • Steve says:

      Ha! That’s great to hear. I’m presently trying to dig up the architect on 212 S. Wilton and will let you know. Thanks Duncan and thanks for the kind shout out on the always fascinating skyscraper page forum!

  5. Betsy Booth says:

    I’m sorry, but for the pain and suffering for having to endure photographs of that HIDEOUS bathroom (etched glass is unforgiveable), beyond-tacky hotel-lobby round sofa in baby blue, harp, blond wood floor, and gilt angels–the price must come down to a mil. And there must be some sort of historical marker on the lawn where Judge Hardy died. And I wonder if the urchins who caused his demise were ever spanked by their parents with large hairbrushes?

    • Steve says:

      Well, what I wonder is what does the cowhide smell like after getting wet from the shower? Does the bathroom smell like wet cow?

  6. E.W. says:

    One of the more interesting facts about the house, is that the Chandlers made some significant changes during their tenure. The music room and dining room are not original to the house. The Chandlers were amongst (I surmise) the last of a cadre of americans to travel abroad and purchase entire rooms from european castles/palaces and install them in their homes. This is the case of the two aforementioned rooms.

    The music room, was original the home’s ballroom and had a large replica of a Raphael Madonna on the ceiling. The room they installed after they moved in was purchased from some austrian (I believe) castle, and was built in the 18th century specifically as Mozart’s rehearsal/performance room. I’m not sure but, the dining room may have come from the same castle.

    • Steve says:

      Very interesting info. Thanks! You know, when I was looking at the realty pictures it made me wonder if any of that great panelling had been imported. I was thinking by the Jansses though. I never thought about later owners like the Chandlers, but that would surely have been possible. What castle I wonder? I wonder if any new details will pop up. Hope so. Thanks for the comment!

  7. People get romantic notions, and start flinging facts about—they sound good, and before one knows it, new urban legend is created. Same thing happens here in the east—-houses suddenly acquire extra architects, and true history gets snarled. People get very invested in what they want to believe, scholarship be damned.

    Great post, as always.

    • Steve says:

      That’s good to know. I always feel this is a west coast phenomenom but then I think about how beds I’ve slept in that George Washington slept in too! (Of course, not at the same time). Thanks for the great comment AND congratulations on your great new book!!! Please let me know when it’s coming out. I’ll put up a blurb here. I can’t wait to read it!

  8. PS. I daresay that Haencke was inspired by John Russell Pope’s Jacobs cottage at Newport RI in the design of this house—slightly differing composition, but not much, with some identical details:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YxKhrnerjxU/T2m9BcPPLEI/AAAAAAAAMYk/TQ5do3F8sjo/s1600/Jacobs%2B1.jpg

  9. Great post. The old photos of the home reminded me of the McKinley Mansion that once stood on the SE corner of 3rd and S. Lafayette Park Place. While not an exact match, the two stately white homes had green tile roofs, and a similar scale and sensibility. That street was a popular filming spot for Harold Lloyd and many other silent comedians, because the street was extremely wide, allowing a camera car to track easily beside the actors in their car, and because the street was only two blocks long, with a dead end at each end, so there was little through traffic to diverge when filming there.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true. It is a very similar design. And did you see the comment by the Down East Dilettante showing an East Coast mansion by John Russell Pope that also looked similar? A classic.

    • Dave V says:

      I thought of the exact same thing when seeing the photos. I lived about 4 doors down from the McKinley Mansion on the other side of 3rd (1952 to 1965) and it is sad to know that all of those grand homes were torn down to make way for apartment buildings. I never knew that about Harold Lloyd. I’ll have to revisit some of his movies and take a ride down memory lane.

  10. Pingback: A Peek Inside the Chandler Mansion and Its Story | Larchmont Buzz

  11. I’ve enjoyed visiting your webpages on Hollywood and LA architecture. Regarding William J. Dodd , I can offer these two facts, and these two don’t contradict your assertion about the design of Los Tiempos: 1) Dodd is already practicing his profession in LA in mid 1912 with Martyn Haenke; this is supported by historical building permits and 2) Dodd moves his family from Louisville KY (not St. Louis MO) to LA in February 1913 as is documented in the LATimes. I can be reached by e-mail: christopher.white@louisville.edu

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