Happy Trails for the Hilltop House Ruins?

HTH_FP_Befor_After_03_07_2013_11x17_PresentationFor those of you who have been following the saga  of Apple Valley’s once beautiful but now ruined Hilltop House here at Paradise Leased, which has recently come up for sale, I have an interesting update to share. My friend Steve Richard is an Apple Valley architect who has long wanted to see something done to preserve the historic 20 acre site. He even launched a Facebook page devoted to the house with much information and many pictures. When he saw how many others out there shared his interest he began formulating a plan for how this quintessential high desert landmark can once again be a credit to the community. What he came up with is quite exciting and certainly worth considering. While I still cling to the will o’ wisp that someone will come and magically bring the house back to its 1957 origins I am nonetheless most intrigued by his proposal to repurpose the property for the whole community to enjoy as hiking trail/view spots. I was even more impressed when Steve showed me the design ideas, which are far more encompassing and engaging than I at first thought. It really is an amazing concept that not only utilizes literally the whole of Bass Hill it still doesn’t overwhelm the dramatic Hilltop House ruins.



I am fascinated by this bold and exciting idea and it may be the very best of both worlds. After all, in the event someone does buy Hilltop House and let’s say, miracle of miracles, they put it back to the way it used to be, well, we can look at it from far away and be satisfied it’s there I guess. However, a much more believable scenario is that a buyer will not want to put Hilltop House back at all but rather bulldoze the ruins and in its place erect a ginormous and shiny new McMansion, something we will all have to look at from far away for a looong time. Or a big restaurant or such other garish commercial venture. Opening up the site as a public hiking trail is sounding better and better all the time!

Steve has helped put together a grassroots organization to raise the necessary funds to purchase the Hilltop House site called Apple Valley Legacy Trail Steering Committee. Be sure and check out their newly-launched website here. There’s much info/photos and details on how to contribute to make the dream a reality.

As you can see, I’ve been warming to the idea just writing about it. What do you think Newt Bass, that sly genius of a promoter of his beloved Apple Valley would think of it? More importantly, what do you think about it?

Posted in Apple Valley, Paradise Elsewhere, Paradise For Sale or Lease | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Before the Birdhouse – Some Early Mellenthin Homes

Mellenthin 16601853129_2239f41098_oIf you know anything about San Fernando Valley real estate then you know the name William Mellenthin (1896-1979) is a magic one. One of the Valley’s pioneer developers, Mellenthin was responsible for constructing literally hundreds of homes throughout Valley (and elsewhere) from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.   Like his later contemporary Joseph Eichler, Mellenthin built homes that were a cut above the standard cookie cutter tract house, homes that were high quality in both architectural design and in the materials used therein. Mellenthin knew what features to add to make a house attractive to prospective home buyers and he became renowned for his so-called “birdhouse” additions (dovecotes, to be technical) over the garage that were a hallmark of many of his structures.  Birdhouse houses became, and remain, an almost ubiquitous sight throughout the San Fernando Valley and could, I suppose, even be called the quintessential Valley home.


20_SR13023857_11_1360954450Having a dovecote as part of a house design was hardly anything new, but it was not particularly common in modern houses of the time. Mellenthin added the feature to what would otherwise be considered a traditional ranch-style house to give it a little extra pizzazz, which it apparently did based on his success and that of his many imitators. A true Mellenthin “Birdhouse” house is a hot item in San Fernando Valley real estate, particularly if one can be found in near original condition, which is quite rare. Mellenthin is so pervasive it is amusing to see “Mellenthin style” or “Mellenthin inspired” terms popping up in real estate ads for any house in the Valley with a dovecote or even just some birds sitting on the roof.


Although he was described in several 1930’s news articles as a “wealthy architect,” I haven’t been able to determine if Mellenthin was formally trained/certified in that profession. In fact, my sense is he probably wasn’t. In 1935, it was stated that he was celebrating his fifteenth year as a builder, but city, census and other records have his profession through the 1920’s as being a bond salesman. I wonder if Mellenthin dabbled in home building as a side job until the Great Depression put an end to his days as a bond dealer. That same Depression, however, should have also put an end to any ambitions as a home builder for the duration, but I find it fascinating that Mellenthin’s building success began and grew right out of the depths of the economic disaster that was putting an end to the careers of so many other architects/developers. Whether he was a “wealthy architect” or not, he assuredly must have been wealthy at least to some degree as he had the capital to invest at a time when many others didn’t. Mellenthin was able to use the downturn to his advantage and was able to buy land and materials cheaply and hire the best workmen to construct his homes.

CA Modern 1

Note how BIG Mellenthin’s name is and how small Leo F. Bachman’s, the actual architect’s, name is.

I’m also intrigued, and would love to get the answer from one of our wise Paradise Leased readers, as to whether or not the famous Mellenthin Birdhouse houses were in fact actually designed by Mellenthin himself or if he utilized the services of an obviously unsung in-house architect at the William Mellenthin Co.  Mellenthin was clearly very good at public relations and somewhere along the way the actual architect may have been lost in the shuffle. A perfect example of this are the early Mellenthin homes. There were more than 100 of them, but buried in the details is the fact they were designed by Leo F. Bachman, a competent Los Angeles designer of the period. This information should in no way mitigate the important contribution Mellenthin made to Valley development, but likewise Bachman should be given credit where credit is due on his designs, which were interesting and fairly diverse. As you will see by the below examples, the homes were generally done in what was touted at the time as “modern” California Monterey, but he got a Colonial in there as well. And…nary a birdhouse in sight. That must have been his bosses idea! So without further ado, please enjoy a sampling of pre-Birdhouse Mellenthins from 1936.

THE BARKER BROS. BUDGET HOME. 1936                                                          12018 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

Barker Bros. 1

(Mott Studios)

Mellenthin partnered up with the venerable Barker Bros. Department Store to create 1936’s “Budget House” as both a showcase for Mellenthin’s budget friendly home designs and Barker Bros. budget friendly furnishings.

Is the small home hard to furnish, difficult to make interesting and individual on a limited budget? Not at all, when regard for design, color and proportion are used in its planning, say decorators of Barker Brothers’ Hollywood who have just completed the interior decoration of a distinctive model home at 12018 Laurel Terrace Drive in San Fernando Valley.

Barker Bros. 3

(Mott Studios)

A generously sized living room is furnished in maple, with much modern comfort apparent. The color scheme comprises browns, yellow and white with tomato red for accent notes. There are off-white walls, deep brown broadloom floor covering and white Venetian blinds.

Barker Bros. 2

(Mott Studios)

A small dining-room is equally distinctive.

Barker Bros. 4

The house itself is of modern colonial style, and interior furnishings have been planned to carry out the feeling of simple informality expressed in the architecture.

This model home is attracting crowds of interested visitors daily.

12018 LT

(Google Earth)

NEILL DAVIS RESIDENCE. 1933                                                                                    2172 Moreno Drive, Moreno Highlands

Davis 1

(Mott Studios)

Although he was known for his San Fernando Valley homes, Mellenthin built houses throughout the Los Angeles area. Here is an example of one his larger and earlier homes, built for Neill Davis, State Secretary of the Building-Loan League in Silverlake. I find the design of this hillside home particularly pleasing with its L-shape creating a nice courtyard nestled into the hillside with big outdoor fireplace and other rustic elements. The second-floor Monterey balconies on both sides of the house are noteworthy.

Davis 2

2172 Moreno

Oh no! They muddled it. What have they done to the balconies? (Google Earth)

HOWARD E. HENSEL RESIDENCE. 1934                                                                12255 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

Hensel 1

(Mott Studios)

For the Hensel house, Bachman discarded California precedents for a Williamsburg Colonial example. A modest little home of just two bedrooms and one bath made larger in appearance by its steeply pitched roof. Note how Bachman raised the roof, if you will, higher for the central core. This little charmer was built for the credit manager of the Lyon Van and Storage Company.

Hensel 2

12255 LT

(Google Earth)

MARY REEVES HUNTER RESIDENCE. 1934                                                          12304 Hillslope Street, North Hollywood

Hunter 1

(Mott Studios)

Here Bachman returned to the early California ranch house precedents with board and batten walls and wide terraces opening off either side of the living room. Notice how every single principal room of the house has access to a terrace.

Hunter 2

12304 Hillslope

(Google Earth)

JOHN J. KIELY RESIDENCE. 1935                                                                                6116 Fulton Avenue, North Hollywood

Kiely 1


One of the larger Mellenthin properties, the Kiely house was built on 2.8 acres, which was landscaped in citrus trees and other lush plantings. The estate included a 20×40 swimming pool with high and low diving boards, dressing rooms and showers. There was also a three room guest house as well as complete equestrian facilities including 5 box stalls and a corral. During the late 1930’s, the estate was home to popular radio star Kenny Baker.

Kiely 2


Kiely 3


Kiely 4


In 1965, the estate was demolished to make way for the 43-unit Fulton Chateau apartments.

6116 Fulton

(Google Earth)

THOMAS F. O’BRIEN RESIDENCE. 1935                                                                  12040 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

O'Brien 1

(Mott Studios)

The O’Brien Residence was built for Deputy District Attorney Thomas F. O’Brien in 1935. The most notable feature of the O’Brien Residence is its interesting double fireplace separating the living room and sun room. Guest bedroom seems to be a very busy place, but it’s nice to have one.

O'Brien 2

12040 LT

(Google Earth)

As you can see by the current Google image, something strange has happened to the O’Brien house. It looks as if a section of the house was chopped off, a garage put up and a driveway added to another property. Guess is that O’Brien subdivided his property and cut off a section of his own home to do it. It might have been rebuilt altogether as city records show a 1941 completion date.

FLORENCE PAULSON RESIDENCE. 1934                                                                 3725 Mound View Avenue, North Hollywood

Paulson 1

(Mott Studios)

Another California Ranch, the Paulson house was part of a group of Bachman-designed and Mellenthin-built homes on Mound View. For a small, two-bedroom house, Bachman still managed to include two terraces and by stretching the house out, gave it the illusion of larger size. I think the way Bachman laid out the floor plan of this house was well done with a nice separation of public/private spaces.

Paulson 2

3725 Mound View

(Google Earth)

And for those of you keeping score at home I thought you’d enjoy a list of Mellenthin/Bachman homes from the 1933-1936 period. Unless otherwise noted, addresses are all North Hollywood (Studio City, Valley Village, etc.) And where possible I’ve added date of construction and original client. Do you have a Mellenthin original?

11923 Addison Street (1935) – Grace Mottram

505 South Arden Boulevard, L.A. (1936 Remodel of 1921 House) – Edward Sears, Jr.

4836 Ben Avenue – Pete E.F. Burns

4905 Ben Avenue (Alt. 12009 Huston) (1936) – C.A. Balch

4957 Ben Avenue (1935) – Louis Laughlin

4961 Ben Avenue (1935) – John Swallow

5119 Bluebell Avenue (Demolished) – Jack West

10717 Bluffside Avenue (Demolished) – Gertrude Michael

4516 Densmore Street, Encino (Demolished) – Ernest Pagano

4147 Dixie Canyon Drive (1934) – T.M. Bell

4147 Faculty Avenue, Lakewood Village (1935) – Melvin Diebele

4251 Faculty Avenue, Lakewood Village (1935) – Roy V. Schwab

4616 Fulton Avenue, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Southwest Development Corp.

4942 Gentry Street (1935) – C.B. Warren

4830 Gloria Street, Encino (Demolished) – Reeves Dutton

12003 Hartsook Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Francis King

12038 Hartsook Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Virginia Michael

12220 Hillslope Street (1936) – Frank Figgins

12241 Hillslope Street (1935) – Edward Churchill

12127 (12125) Holly Glen Place (1936) – Charlotte Harriss

12138 Holly Glen Place (1936) – Milton C. Brittain

11853 Kling Street (Demolished) – Chalmers O. Stout

475 La Mirada Avenue, San Marino (1936) – John Pierce

5601 Laurel Canyon Boulevard (Demolished) – Ward Groshong

12055 Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – J.D. Farquhar

12145 Laurel Terrace Drive (1935) – Isadore Gross

12180 Laurel Terrace Drive (1935) – H. Anderson

12305 Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – W.P. Esrey

12382 (12384) Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – John McKeon

11902 Magnolia Boulevard (Demolished) – Sun Record Home Beautiful

644 South Mariposa Street, Burbank (1935) – William A. Godsoe

12113 Maxwellton Road (1935) – Alice Greenfield

3743 Mound View Avenue (1934) – Arthur N. Watson

3774 Mound View Avenue (1935) – R.H. Pearsall

3781 Mound View Avenue (1935) – Ira Rohland

3804 Mound View Avenue (Demolished) – Robert Fellows

3822 Mound View Avenue (1935) – Ralph Everson

11856 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Robert W. Stanhope

11941 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Sam Bevis

12039 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Roy Culverwell

11915 Riverside Drive (Demolished) – John Ewing

12940 Riverside Drive, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Helen White

16325 San Fernando Mission Boulevard, San Fernando (Demolished) – Judge Oda Faulconer

4053 Shady Glade Avenue (Demolished) – Helen L. White

4147 Shady Glade Avenue (1932) – Roy Atwell

3145 Silverado Drive, Moreno Highlands (1936) – O.W. Dickens

6253 Simpson Street (1935) – J.A. Ernst

14310 Valley Heart Drive, Van Nuys (Demolished) – Floyd L. Knudtson

2150 Valley Oak Drive, Hollywood – A.B. Hess

5667 Valley Oak Drive, Hollywood (1936) – Walter Ward

4727 Van Noord Street, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Southwest Development Corp.

12108 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Frederick H. Starr

12123 Viewcrest Road (1934) – C. Duncan Hutton

12152 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Carl L. Sutton

12205 Viewcrest Road (1936) – Clifford R. Gard

12230 Viewcrest Road (Demolished) – Kolia Levienne

12301 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Joseph LaShelle

1200 Viscano Street, Glendale (1926) – E.F. Franklin

10503 Whipple Street, Toluca Lake (Demolished) – Roy H. Henry

7223 Woodman Avenue, Van Nuys (Demolished) – John J. Schmitz

7218 Yarmouth Avenue, Encino (1935) – Virda Mann

Penprose 1

(Mott Studios)

Posted in Architects, San Fernando Valley, Studio City, Then & Now, Valley Village | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

You’re Invited to Enjoy “The View From Santa Monica” Esther McCoy Lecture This Saturday!

MCoy1If you love Southern California’s historic modernistic architecture and you have not yet “met” Esther McCoy then you will be in for a treat. From 1950 up until her death in 1989, McCoy wrote and lectured extensively and brilliantly on the architecture and architects of California, most notably the great modernists such as Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler. Her groundbreaking Five California Architects (Greene & Greene, Maybeck, Gill and Schindler) first published in 1960 remains a must read for any serious students of California architectural heritage. McCoy was also deeply involved with John Entenza and Arts & Architecture and it was she who literally wrote the book on the Case Study houses with Modern California Houses: Case Study Houses (1962).

I just learned that this Saturday (April 6) @ 12:00 Noon, author Susan Morgan, who has done so much to honor and further McCoy’s legacy, will be giving a presentation in Santa Monica at the Montana Branch Library, 1704 Montana Avenue, on McCoy entitled The View From Santa Monica. It sounds like it will be fascinating with lots of great images and heretofore little known details. If there is still any room left I highly suggest you head over there and attend. You’ll enjoy “meeting” Esther McCoy through her brilliant chronicler, Susan Morgan.

Posted in Architects, General Announcements, Santa Monica | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Who-Dunne-It – Can You Solve the Postcard Mystery?


(Borrowed with reverence from Edward Gorey’s Amphigorey Also.)

It’s never happened before but the ladies of Paradise Leased are stumped! As you may know, these gals pride themselves on knowing EVERYTHING, but here they have hit a brick wall. I haven’t seen them this depressed since Sanjaya was voted off American Idol. This has become a real crisis here and nothing I drink seems to help. Clearly, something needs to be done and I am therefore appealing to our super sleuthing Paradise Leased readers to solve this mystery and get the girls back to work. Here’s the mystery – a set of postcards showing the homes of Wallace Beery in Beverly Hills and Irene Dunne in Holmby Hills. While no one would ever get these two mixed up in a bar their houses seem to be another matter altogether.


Dunne, Irene 2

So did they simply both live in the same house at one time or another? Swapping mansions was, and remains, a favorite sport of movie stars. A logical explanation but an apparently incorrect one. No record I’ve ever seen has connected them to the same house. And I’ve seen a lot! Well then maybe they used the same architect who was lazy and just changed the dormers? Hey, it’s happened before. Check out these postcards.

Ray, Charles 1

scan0013 (2)

A perfect copy even down to the drain pipe!

Most people assume quite reasonably that Charles Ray and Betty Compson lived in the same house, but its not true. These are postcards of two entirely separate houses! Charles Ray’s house was located at 901 North Camden Drive in Beverly Hills and Betty’s was all the way over in Hollywood at 7315 Hollywood Boulevard. Now that’s a lazy architect! The house so nice they built it twice. Charles Ray’s home still stands, in altered form, but Betty’s, which was later rented by Sam Goldwyn, has gone the way of the Dodo.


Another card showing the questionable Dunne house.

But back to the question at hand. It turns out both Wallace Beery and Irene Dunne built houses at exactly the same time. But did they build exactly the same house? In 1935, Beery built a French Colonial mansion at the corner of Alpine Drive and Sunset Boulevards in Beverly Hills and Dunne constructed a French Colonial mansion at the corner of Parkwood and Faring Road in the Holmby Hills. Aha! Well, not quite.  Here’s what they looked like as built.


Beery’s looks like the card! (LAPL)


Dunne’s doesn’t. (LAPL)

As you can see, the “Loveable Ole Cuss” Beery’s place perfectly matched his postcard, but Dunne’s…well, no so much. No lazy architect here. In fact very busy ones. The Beery house @ 816 North Alpine Drive was designed by Max C. Drebin, a prolific designer of the period while Dunne’s was designed by the venerable Sumner Spaulding of Webber & Spaulding.

Dunne, Irene 1

Could Irene Dunne have rented Beery’s house then? No! swear the ladies of Paradise Leased (and do they swear). The place was all Wally’s until his death in 1949. Dunne needed not the Beery house. She lived on Faring until her passing in 1990. Plus, if you look carefully at the two cards, they are not quite exact. There are several notable differences including the dormers and the sidewalk, etc.

So what gives? I was fairly ready to chalk this up as a trick/mistake of the post card vendor, but again, problems. The “wrong” Dunne house was printed on cards by both Western Novelty and Tichnor Art. We’re confounded, baffled, befuddled and bewildered. We need the Awful Truth here. What do you think?

Oh, and “Get a life,” has already been suggested. Thank you.

These are the kind of weighty issues that keep us up nights at Paradise Leased.

Beery Dunne

Well, they both wore similar dresses. Is it inconceivable they lived in similar houses? And who wore it better?

Posted in Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, Mystery Houses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Save the Date – April 8, 2013 for Aaroe Architectural #21

e1364320233_28Here’s your invite to the latest presentation of Aaroe Architectural’s continuing education series, this one featuring top interior designer James Anthony Magni.  There’s a book signing afterwards too!

Posted in General Announcements | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Then and Now – The Tedfords of Rexford – 1004 North Rexford Drive

Tedford 1




The area north of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills was set aside by its founders as the “estate” area and it was in this district that the largest and grandest homes were constructed including their own mammoth estates. Even the relatively smaller houses had bigger parcels of land than the “Flats” below Sunset. It was in this district that Walter G. Tedford, a successful Southern California dentist, and his wife Grace constructed a charming Spanish hacienda style home on a sizeable 30,000 square foot lot at 1004 North Rexford Drive. Completed in 1923, the Tedford hacienda was a fittingly appropriate style as Dr. Tedford was the grandson of California pioneers, the Purringtons, who had arrived in the Golden State back in the 1850’s.

Rankin 1

Elwing & Tedford’s Rankin Building is now a National Historic Landmark. (via Google Earth)

The Tedford hacienda was a family home in every sense of the word having been designed by Walter’s own brother, Clarence Purrington Tedford (1889-1977), an architect and engineer who, along with his partner Birger Elwing, had designed some of the most important landmarks built in Santa Ana and Fullerton back in the 1910’s. Two of their most well-known designs are Santa Ana’s Beaux Arts Rankin Building (1917)  @ 117 West 4th Street (which they did with George Preble) and the wonderfully Missionesque Hetebrink Ranch House in Fullerton, which Elwing & Tedford designed for John A. Hetebrink in 1914. While the Hetebrink Ranch itself long disappeared and is now the campus of Fullerton College, miraculously the Hetebrink Ranch House itself not only still survives, it remains in the Hetebrink family 100 years later and may still be seen in all its Mission Spanish glory @ 515 East Chapman Avenue.

Hetebrink 1

Safe! The Hetebrink Ranch House is also on the National Register. (via Google Earth)



In designing a new home for his brother and his family, Clarence P. Tedford showed that in the decade since designing the Hetebrink house his style had become more sophisticated. Although both homes were Spanish, the Tedford hacienda was more evocative of simple farm houses of the hills of Andalusia than those of the California Dons. Set back 50 feet from the street, the Tedford hacienda presents a simple, solid front with little exterior adornment other than a few iron-grilled windows and a beautiful rough-hewn entry door. As typical of the style, the Tedford hacienda is an inward facing house with the central core and its two wings creating a sheltering space intended to be both charming and private. Not nearly as large as some of its neighbors, the Tedford hacienda nonetheless felt like a much bigger space because of the architect’s skillful handling of the layout, from the arcaded entry hall to the high ceilinged living room to the corridor leading down the bedroom wing, which Tedford designed with a high arched ceiling and relatively narrow width that gives the illusion of greater length. All principal rooms opened out onto the wide outdoor terrace, even the kitchen and pantry. Tedford also successfully separated the public and private spaces with the bedroom wing and the service wing as mirror opposites radiating out on either side of the main living room.

Tedford 6

Although an almost unknown architect in comparison to some of the great designers of Spanish houses during the same period, Clarence P. Tedford’s charming hacienda was so well received it even attracted the prestigious and snooty New York-based Arts & Decoration, which gave it high praise and a full layout in its November 1925 issue, a rare nod to a West Coast design. Whenever it was given, the praise was usually bestowed upon the design of a much bigger California name such as George Washington Smith, John Byers, Roland E. Coate or Wallace Neff. An honor indeed and one I think was well deserved. I find the hacienda very charming and I love the little details Tedford included such as the brick and stucco living room fireplace, the interesting choice of wrought iron, diamond-paned French doors, the Missionesque arches and that great beehive fireplace out on the terrace.

20_12622853_34_1353120413Somehow this old house has survived through the decades on its original lot. As the “Now” photos will show, it has had some modernizations and is now a bigger house than originally built, but it is still largely intact…So far. In the fall of 2012, 1004 North Rexford came on the market as a “fixer” and it sold in less than two months, going for $5,750,000. A small old house on a large lot in the most exclusive part of Beverly Hills is pretty much a death sentence for the hacienda. Plus, the little-known Clarence P. Tedford is not one of the newly designated Beverly Hills “master” architects whose works they are belatedly trying to preserve. Yet he did an admirable job here. Maybe a miracle will happen and the house will be sensitively restored. In the right hands it would be a real showplace, especially with all that mature landscaping. But…it’s Beverly Hills. Houses like this have targets painted on their roofs.


In the meantime, before the inevitable cyclone fence goes up, please enjoy some “Then and Now” images with the captions from the original Arts & Decoration piece written by pioneering lady architect Gladys Ackerman.  The “Now” photos come from its recent listing through Estately.

Tedford 1

(Gladys Ackerman)

The walls of this house are hollow tile stuccoed in neutral tone with rough finish. The roof is of all hand-made tiles, different shades of terra-cotta and various sizes. A careful study of this floor plan will greatly interest anyone who is contemplating the building of this type of house , because, not only does the construction give  unusual opportunity for ventilation, but the service portion of the house is entirely separate from the sleeping  portion, although built under one consecutive roof. These two parts are held apart by the living room, terrace and hall, so that on one side there is a great saving of labor and on the other absolute rest and quiet are secured.

Tedford 3

(Gladys Ackerman)

Entrance hall of the Tedford residence; floor covered with terra-cotta hand-made tiles, put together with white joints. The furniture in this room is Spanish with a Spanish wrought iron lighting fixture and a glimpse of a wrought iron grille door through the arch.


The entry hall today looking from the living room.


Back towards the living room. Two of the three original arches have been filled in.

Tedford 4

(Gladys Ackerman)

Fireplace in the living room is trimmed with brick. The beams are of adzed wood, antique-brown finish. Interesting furniture is an imitation of good Spanish models. Either side of the fireplace are doorways with Spanish grilles.


Same view today. Terrace enclosed. Gone are the grilled doorways. Ceiling lightened, arches filled in.


Living room from opposite angle. Note the big original windows.

Tedford 2

(Gladys Ackerman)

The furniture in the dining room is all extremely good reproductions of old Spanish, upholstered with leather and carved. This furniture is oak and walnut and made to order by the Marshall Laird Co. The draperies are of velour dyed by hand to a rich cobalt blue. The electric fixtures are after Spanish models in wrought iron.


Dining room today. Original archway has been “straightened out.” Pizza Hut-esque lamp replaces Spanish wrought iron chandelier. However, studded original door still survives!

Tedford 5

(Gladys Ackerman)

The patio is surrounded by a wide cloister which has a hand-made tile floor and an outdoor chimney. In the center of the patio is a Spanish well and the planting is tropical and brilliant. In the cloister one has a glimpse of the iron grilled doorways which lead into the living room and, of course, from the sitting room is a beautiful view of the patio.


For a number of more pictures and info about the Tedford hacienda, click here for the Estately listing page.


And here’s another interesting fact about the old Tedford hacienda. It has a Texas cousin! In 1926, Clarence P. Tedford designed a $15,000 hacienda in the Alamo Heights section of San Antonio for prominent wholesale merchant Godcheaux (G.A.C.) Halff @ 301 Patterson Avenue that bears a similarity to the Tedford hacienda with the same general floor plan with two matching wings radiating out on either side of a central core.

Tedford 7

Beverly Hills Aerial (via Google Earth)

Halff Residence 1

San Antonio Aerial (via Google Earth)

Still sited in a lush setting on part of its original 19 acres, the G.A.C. Halff residence is now known as the Cathedral Chapel of Saint John as part of the Bishop Jones Center of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. There is a great set of photos of the Chapel and its lush surroundings posted online by Brad Eubanks that can be found here.


Although extensively remodeled, Tedford’s San Antonio hacienda is still a charmer! (via Brad Eubanks Picasa Web)

Posted in Architects, Beverly Hills, Then & Now | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Big Architects, Small Commissions – Gordon B. Kaufmann Does A Little Shopping (Center) in Glendale


Then – Gordon B. Kaufmann’s Italianate Chamberlain & Proctor Building.


Now – Muddled and blandly beige, but still there. (Santa Monica DeeVa)

In the acting profession there’s an old axiom that goes something like “no small parts only small actors.” The same is just as true for architects. In the hands of a talented architect even the most innocuous little building, be it a storefront, a utilitarian factory, even a gas station can become a minor masterpiece. Lately, I have been really enjoying digging into the lesser known works of some of the great architects who practiced in Southern California in days gone by and I’ve been delighted to find little gems hidden amongst the big jewels of their famous works. As such, I am hoping to start with this first post a new semi-regular series I’m calling Big Architects, Small Commissions.

Kaufmann, GB 1And who better to inaugurate this series than one of the best of the best, the legendary Gordon Bernie Kaufmann F.A.I.A. In his decades of practice, Kaufmann left an indelible impression on the built environment not only of Southern California, but throughout the entire West as well. His body of work is as impressive as it is diverse with an oeuvre that ranged from classic mansions to sleek Art Deco office blocks, factories, hotels, university halls to gigantic dams.

Beverly House1

This is the type of structure that people most likely think of when they think of designs by Gordon B. Kaufmann. Beverly House, one of Beverly Hills’ grandest estates, and it’s for rent now @ $600,000 a month. No, that’s not a typo. (via Hilton & Hyland)

Kaufmann may have been renowned for his deft handling of such enormous projects as Greystone, the 46,000+ square foot mansion for oil magnate E.L. Doheny (1925-28) and for the mammoth Hoover Dam (1931-36) among many others, but he also took on a number of smaller projects, both residential and commercial, during his long career. These more modest commissions have been largely passed over in reviews of the great architect’s works, but I think they are well worth exploring.  Two that caught my attention were a set of small commercial structures Kaufmann designed in the late 1920’s for San Francisco capitalists Selah Chamberlain and J.W. Procter. Sadly, one of them, an A & P Grocery Store branch in Hollywood @ 1638 North Cherokee Street, has been so stripped of its original elements it is presently impossible to ascertain what Kaufmann’s vision had been, a real shame because I’d love to see how he handled something as simple as a local grocery store.

1638 Cherokee 1

This is a Gordon B. Kaufmann original?! Ah, the years have not been kind to 1638 North Cherokee. (via Google Earth)

Fortunately, the second structure, known as the Chamberlain & Procter Building @ 301 North Brand Boulevard in Glendale, is in somewhat better shape. Yes, it too has been deeply muddled by “modernizations,” but enough of the original remains to show the brilliance of Gordon B. Kaufmann. Here the architect was presented with the outwardly blase task of designing what would now be called a “mini mall,” a complex of ten storefronts with adjacent parking. Today, such a building would be pushed back to the end corners of the lot with the parking lot taking center stage in front. Nothing special and not intended to be. Functional and forgettable. We’ve seen this a million times and we’ll no doubt see it a million more.  Gordon Kaufmann, however, approached the situation in exactly the opposite way and by doing so proved himself to be a genius yet again, raising a common little shopping complex into something that contributed to the beauty of the community rather than being a blight upon it.


What Kaufmann did was to place the L shaped structure at the very front of the corner lot, which not only hid the utilitarian parking lot out of sight in the back it also allowed the stores to be readily accessible to pedestrian traffic. Kaufmann had very strong feelings about the lack of privacy people were forced to endure in the city and he liked his buildings, both residential and commercial, to turn their backs on the hustle and bustle of the outside world and wrap themselves around a sheltering private interior court. The Chamberlain & Procter Building was no exception and originally there was a small but delightful garden space complete with babbling fountain nestled between the building and parking lot, a wonderful feature sacrificed today for a few extra parking spaces.


Consider if you will for a moment all the magnificent details Gordon B. Kaufmann incorporated into this modest structure.


Looking in the same general direction today. Much muddling has dimmed but not completely destroyed the building’s beauty. The grace of the finely turned wrought iron brackets versus the mass of modern pipes is particularly noteworthy. Beautiful arched entry passage is long gone. (Santa Monica DeeVa)


(Santa Monica DeeVa)

In his design of the Chamberlain & Procter Building, Kaufmann managed to transplant a little bit of the sun dappled Mediterranean right onto the corner of Brand and California in downtown Glendale. Whitewashed stucco walls juxtaposed against the ruddy mellow tones of the variegated tile roof were broken on the second floor by a band of deep inset casement windows capped by stone window crowns and framed by louvered shutters. These were alternated with stone grilled windows, which provided light yet privacy to the second floor bathrooms. At the end of the California Avenue portion of the facade, an arched entryway led to the interior court and parking lot. What a great surprise it must have been for visitors to have walked in from the busy street to suddenly find themselves in an Italian courtyard. Unlike the street side facade, Kaufmann kept the interior court walls unstuccoed, covering the natural brick surface with only a coat of whitewash. Everywhere one looked, there was some charming feature taken from Kaufmann’s favorite classical Mediterranean elements including more grilled windows, both stone and wrought iron; a graceful second story loggia and a greatly charming rustic chimney which served as the connector between the two wings. Of particular note was Kaufmann’s interesting use of brick and tile running in bands along the edges of the roof lines, different for each wing. The overall effect from without and within was pure enchantment.


(Santa Monica DeeVa)

The beauty of the Chamberlain & Procter Building was of course no accident. Kaufmann’s skill as an architect and frankly, as an artist, are apparent from every angle. Kaufmann was an exceptional translator of classic Mediterranean style with a deep knowledge of its signature elements. Born in London in 1888, Kaufmann grew up exploring the capitals of Europe, surrounded by some of the world’s greatest architecture designed by such geniuses as Inigo Jones, Charles Garnier and Andrea Palladio.  Kaufmann did not just read about classic architecture, he studied it up close and personal and that is perhaps why there is a palpable “authenticity” to his designs that set them apart from many of their contemporaries. As Jan Furey Muntz wrote, “Throughout his career he was to use these details with consummate skill and an obvious  understanding of the vocabulary rather than a superficial application of the style.”


Kaufmann loved second floor loggias and they were a regular feature in both his residential and commercial designs of the period. (Santa Monica DeeVa)

301 1Completed in June of 1929, Kaufmann’s Chamberlain & Procter Building was an important and well received addition to the Glendale cityscape. Among the original tenants were an interesting variety of businesses including the Crofton Shoe Store; The McMullen Studio of Interior Decorating; Woman’s Specialty Shop and Servel Electric Refrigerators. The anchor tenant was the Platt Music Company. Founded in 1905, Platt was a major music concern for decades before finally going under in the 1980’s. The Glendale store was to be Platt’s tenth Southland branch store.  There was an attempt by Platt to make each store unique and in Glendale they managed to score a fantastic artistic triumph that still delights today. Across the band of small windows running along the first floor of the California Avenue side of the building were added wrought iron grilles featuring whimsical music-themed silhouettes that have been credited to famed 1920’s artist John Held Jr. As great as Gordon B. Kaufmann’s design of the Chamberlain & Procter Building may have been, I have to confess that these figures steal the show. Not only are they fun and amusing, but it is truly a miracle they managed to survive 84 years and counting considering the Platt Music Co. folded its tent at that location in the 1930’s. It is unknown if it was Gordon B. Kaufmann or Benjamin Platt who was behind adding the John Held Jr. figures. Kaufmann certainly knew in advance that Platt was to be the tenant. Either way, the figures were and are a tour de force of 1920’s commercial art and an absolute treasure that continues to surprise unsuspecting strollers along Brand and California.


(Santa Monica DeeVa)






This young lady seems to be a later addition, but she’s really gotten into the spirit!


If you get the chance, drop by 301 North Brand and see for yourself this wonderful, but little known commission by the great Gordon B. Kaufmann. It remains not only as a testament to the talent of its designer, but it also serves as an object lesson of how, in the right hands, even the mundane can become magnificent.

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