Monday, August 31, 2009

Book of the Year

Just got my copy of Realtor® Jeffrey's Hyland's stunning new book, The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills.

I'm not sure whether I'm gasping more from lugging the boxed 20-pound, 428-page tome upstairs, from its jaw-dropping production values, or from the estates themselves.

A must read.

The impeccably researched book includes myriad historic photos but, unlike some similarly-themed volumes, also includes plenty of full-color contemporary pictures of these places. Westwood native Hyland, whose father was a screenwriter and literary agent, has Hollywood's power elite on speed dial and is a principal in Hilton & Hyland Real Estate. The extensive bibliography will appeal to those of a scholarly bent. (Guilty!)

Carolwood Drive estate.

The $250 (list) price tag is worthy of a Rodeo Drive boutique, but the book can be had at a hefty discount at . . . well, you know where you shop.

By the way, don't confuse this new book with the 1989 volume that Hyland wrote with Charles Lockwood, The Estates of Beverly Hills. The older book, even though published to spur sales of estate properties in Beverly Park,
s a fine work in its own right and worth owning. As of a couple of years ago, it could still be obtained from Hennessey + Ingalls but is no longer listed on their website.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Raze of hope

There was finally some real knock-down, drag-out progress on the much-anticipated (and much-blogged-about) demolition near the corner of Western and Hollywood Boulevard today. I snapped this around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. Now's the time to put your bid in for those mystery gates.

Gone and pretty much already forgotten.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crime(s) of the Week

There seems to be a rash of these curiously street-shunning multi-unit buildings in South Los Angeles, built on elongated lots.

Both of these were constructed in 2005.

Their architectural naïveté is more excusable than is their clausterphobic inhumanity.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bungalow aid

A friend asked for some Photoshop help in visualizing what to do with the front of this cute but previously neglected Hollywood bungalow.

I came up with a couple of different ideas, using art snipped from various sources.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cool Tool

Architecture and urban development fans will find the Los Angeles Times "Mapping L.A." project useful.

Started early this year and updated in June based on user feedback, the neighborhood-by-neighborhood look at L.A. contains information on population, ethnicity, income, education, housing and other factors.

Click the map to go to the Los Angeles Times "Mapping L.A." project

It's obviously an ongoing project that will benefit from continued refinement. The best thing about the interactive map may be just knowing where you are in the vastness that is Los Angeles.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crime of the Week

This faux-baroque joke on Greenleaf in Sherman Oaks is "back on the market," according to the sign out front.

"Keep the hell out, peasant!" —H.S.

This defensively gated 3-bedroom eyesore, built in 2005 on a shady suburban street a couple blocks south of the boulevard, sold for $3,043,000 in January. But evidently its new owner got an advanced case of the heebee-jeebees, complicated by second thoughts,
arrière-pensées, and buyer's remorse and is now trying to unload it. Or maybe he or she just got in over his or her head.

If you're interested, here's who to call:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collegiate gothic in Los Feliz

When I was a kid, I loved the '60s television show Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus as a young, sensitive high school English teacher.

A year ago, while exploring Los Feliz, I came across the building (at 3939 Tracy St.) that served as the exterior establishing shots for the series: John Marshall High School.

John Marshall High School, 1931

The collegiate gothic structure was closed from 1975 till 1981 for retrofitting, following the earthquake of 1971.

Establishing shot from Mr. Novak, 1963

The original ornate tympanum over the front doors, as well as the doors themselves, have been replaced by a more modern security entrance, but otherwise the building looks remarkably similar.

A very young Walter Koenig, later Chekov in the original Star Trek series, played a Russian immigrant youth in this episode of Mr. Novak. Still gripping after all these years.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pyramid scheme

Would you buy a house from this outfit?

Sphinx Realty Co., early 1920s

The sensational discovery of the tomb of "King Tut" (Tutankhamen) in 1922 sent the world into an egyptological frenzy. This savvy operation at 537 N. Fairfax [corrected, per Los Angeles Public Library records] cashed in on the craze.

A quick Google search turns up modern-day Sphinx Realty companies in Atlanta, Chicago, and Worcester, MA.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuscan in Sierra Madre

Under the Tuscan sun, or so it seems. But this isn't the outskirts of Florence. It's Sierra Madre.

Villa del Sol d'Oro, Wallace Neff, 1924

In 1924, after an inspiring trip to Italy, prominent tuberculosis physician Dr. Jarvis Barlow commissioned Wallace Neff to design a two-thirds replica of Villa i Collazzi, southwest of Florence, for himself and his wife. The original is sometimes attributed to none other than Michelangelo. (Unfortunately, Diane Kanner's otherwise excellent book on Neff mistakenly pictures a very different-looking villa on Lake Como as the model.)

Villa i Collazzi outside Florence [via Flickr user aldoaldoz]

Neff evidently felt comfortable editing the supposed Michelangelo masterwork, scaling down the overall size while emphasizing the windows, doors, loggias and courtyard. The mottled color was achieved by mixing pigment into the wet stucco.

The Barlow house is now part of the campus of Alverno High School, a private Catholic girls school. (Thanks to Alverno for the links to the photos.)

The school grounds are open on weekends and the building's exterior can be studied at length in situ—just watch out for frequent wedding parties. It's cheaper than a flight to Italy and as close as you're likely to get to a Wallace Neff without being nabbed by security guards.

Crime of the Week

Evidently, these residents of the Hollywood Hills are unaware that all trash containers "must be placed at the curb by 6:00 a.m. on the day of collection, and removed no later than 8:00 p.m. on the day of collection," according to L.A. Bureau of Sanitation regulations.

Blocking the sidewalk 24/7.

These trash and recycling container are left on the sidewalk 24/7 by residents too inconsiderate—or just too lazy—to bring them back onto their premises after collection.

If you have this problem in your neighborhood, the Bureau of Sanitation will send an inspector out if you call this number: 1-800-773-CITY (1-800-773-2489) and provide the address.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Splendid and spiritual in West Adams

I took a short drive down to West Adams and rediscovered the magnificent MacGowan mansion at 3726 West Adams Blvd. This is the kind of endlessly fascinating house that I have dreams about—full of nooks, crannies, alcoves, hidden staircases leading to secret rooms, and perhaps a madwoman in the attic.

3726 West Adams Blvd.

The house, Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #479, was designed in an Apline Craftsman style
in 1912 by architects Hudson and Munsell for Dr. Grandville MacGowan. A vigilant Los Angeles city health official, MacGowan had proposed in 1889 a law that would make the sale of opium illegal without a prescription, noting that "the servant girls are getting to use it."

The MacGowan house was purchased in 2002 by the organization of baby-faced spiritual guru and relentlessly best-selling author John-Roger, fka Roger Delano Hinkins: the spiritual conversion he experienced in 1963—thanks to a kidney stone—evidently caused Hinkins to drop his original name for the catchier and more marketable hyphenated moniker.

The house now serves as an adjunct facility for the spiritualist's Movement of Inner Spiritual Awareness, which has its headquarters two blocks east in a much more formal 1910 Beaux Arts mansion, also by Hudson and Munsell (
Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #478).

3500 West Adams Blvd.

This splendid edifice, which wouldn't look in the least out of place in St. Jean-Cap Ferrat, was originally the home
of 19th-century Central Valley grape mogul Secundo Guasti. In Hollywood's heyday of the late 1930s it was owned by choreographer Busby Berkeley. Just imagine the parties . . . .

Friday, August 7, 2009

Le Corbu lite

"It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned."
—Oscar Wilde

Just plain silly.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Elegance in Mid-Wilshire

The way it's supposed to be.

Someone just plunked down $645,000 (at least that was the asking price) for this rather nice 1800-sq.ft. 2-bedroom, 2-bath, 3-car-garage condo in the Chateau Chaumont on Serrano at James M. Wood Boulevard (fka 9th Street) in Mid-Wilshire.

I've admired this building for several years, not only for its build quality and Italianate poise but also for its impeccable upkeep.

The once-genteel neighborhood is a bit rough around the edges, but just kitty-corner is Leland Bryant's delightful St. Germaine, and there are many other fine examples of L.A. traditional multi-family architecture in the immediate area, some with chickens running around in the front courtyard.

A proper foyer.

The apartment (if anyone refers to this as a "unit" I will personally slap him or her silly) has a semi-oval foyer that welcomes you gently instead of opening onto a makeshift dining area, as in many a contemporary condo. And check the sheen on those hardwood floors.

There's actually a real, honest-to-Zeus dining room, in addition to a working fireplace in the living room.

Real living, real dining.

Architects in past decades managed to put the kitchen—a service area, after all—toward the rear of the apartment, instead of making it the first thing you see when you enter. A lost art. Perhaps in the near future the laundry room will serve as the showpiece of one's dwelling?

My congratulations to the buyer of this piece of Los Angeles heritage. Here's the listing, which may or may not still be available.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bucolic in the Valley

No, those aren't extras from Brokeback Mountain. It's a sheep ranch on Whitsett Avenue in what is now Studio City, circa 1890s.

How green was my Valley.

You can find more gems like this in the Oviatt Library Digital Collections of Cal State University Northridge.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Crime of the Week

This Sotheby's listing reports "No expense spared on this gorgeous [sic] remodeled home in Prime Bel Air location."

Note to Sotheby's: A pig with lipstick is still a pig, and a dingbat with "custom hardwood and slate flooring throughout, gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, stone fireplaces, remodeled baths, recessed lighting and french [sic] doors"
is still a dingbat. Sorry.

A dingbat with lipstick.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Los Angeles in motion

Thanks once again to Bobolini of Fahrenheit Studio for turning me on to this amazing stop-action video of L.A. by photographer/visual artist Michael Marantz. It's obvious from watching this that Los Angeles has just as much energy as New York; it's just spread out over a much greater surface area.

Los Angeles: in motion (larger version)
from Michael Marantz on Vimeo.