No Place Like Home with The Architectural Digest, 1925, Part Two

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The second part of this post diving into the pages of a 1925 issue of The Architectural Digest picks up with a fairly modest single-story residence owned by Dr. George Watson Cole in Pasadena, very close to the California Institute of Technology and the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens, where Cole was librarian for nine years, leaving that post just prior to publication of the magazine.

Cole (1850-1939), a native of Connecticut, first went into the legal profession, but was encouraged by a mother-in-law to go into library work given his intense interest in the subject. He was a student in the first library science class taught by Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal system used in the profession, and, after graduation in 1888, went to work for the Newberry Library in Chicago, followed by a stint in Jersey City, New Jersey.

After he married a wealthy woman in 1894, Cole was able to travel and pursue his bibliographic passion which yielded a well known published catalog of the famous library of E. Dwight Church in New York City. Cole was hired by Henry E. Huntington, the real estate and streetcar titan and book, manuscripts and art collector, to oversee his library several years before the Huntington institution was created and, for his life’s work, was named, in 1999, as one of a hundred librarians in the United States who transformed the field.

The architects of the Cole dwelling were Myron Hunt and Harold C. Chambers, whose partnership began in 1920 and continued for over a quarter-century. Hunt, in his previous partnership with Elmer Grey, was well-known for his work for the Huntington mansion on the grounds of the estate where the library, art museum and botanical gardens are today, the Huntington Hotel, a wing of the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Occidental College campus, the Rose Bowl and many other prominent structures.

As for the Cole residence, the two images show the L-shaped Spanish-Colonial Revival-style dwelling and a detail of courtyard enclosed by a low wall, providing a delightful outdoor space., while a large lawn bordered by shrubs and bushes was set to the side. As in many other of the examples in the magazine, some of the contractors are listed, including Hammond Lumber Company, Gladding, McBean & Company and California Stucco Products Company.

Four pages are devoted to the Hancock Park house of John C. Leavitt, which borders the Wilshire Country Club. Leavitt, a native of Ohio, had the benefit of a financial windfall from his father, a successful merchant from the Youngstown area in the eastern part of the Buckeye State, and the younger Leavitt, a graduate of Ohio State and Harvard universities, was involved in some large real estate deals during the period, including two lots at the southwest corner of Exposition Park next to the Coliseum and the southeast corner of Larchmont Boulevard and Beverly Boulevard in Larchmont Village, very close to the residence.

The architect was Jack Donovan, who was unique among those profiled in the journal in that he was an actor in Hollywood, with some success, but also parlayed his involvement in the film industry into his sidelight in designing houses for movie industry figures and, interestingly, repurposing film sets and props in some of his projects. How Donovan was hired to design the Leavitt house is not known, but the blog Paradise Leased has a multi-part series about him that would be well worth a read.

The spread in The Architectural Digest includes two pages of exterior views, including one from the street, showing the expansive dwelling behind a wall with an arched gates entry, a detail of the entrance area, a view from an adjacent portico looking toward the gate, and a shot of the portico and second-floor balcony with the country club property in the distance. The pair of interiors include spaces with large vaulted ceilings, a substantial fireplace, stairs with a wrought-iron railing and other notable details. Fans of the 1997 film, L.A. Confidential, will recognize the house as that of main character Lynn Bracken, played by Kim Basinger.

Frederick E. Potts, a native of Lincolnshire, England, who came to Los Angeles during the great boom of the 1880s and then spent some years in Chicago before returning to the Angel City was a plaster contractor and occasional architect. He employed William W. Ache, who worked for the prominent Parkinson brothers architectural firm, to design a house that has Spanish Colonial elements and which is in the Mid-City area near Crenshaw and Adams boulevards. An exterior shows the front door with a beautiful grille as something of a screen door, while a part of interior views show a well-appointed dining room and a view from there into a living room.

After a page devoted, as noted in the first part of this post, to a fine outdoor photo of the Thomas Ince House in Beverly Hills, designed by Roy Seldon Price, who was then hired to complete the Temple family’s La Casa Nueva at the Homestead, there are five pages featuring the O. Nicholas Gabriel residence in the Oak Knoll Park section of San Marino, situated adjacent to the western edge of the Huntington Library.

Oscar Nicholas Gabriel was born to a German family living in the oft-disputed Alsace-Lorraine region that is now part of France and was a 34-year old real estate broker, who’d previously worked for a merchant in Atlanta and then a real estate company in Akron, Ohio. Coming to Los Angeles first in 1913 when he worked by the Guy M. Rush Company and then again in the early Twenties as there was yet another boom underway in the region, Gabriel’s second stint began with work in industrial real estate with the firm of Metcalf and Ryan.

Gabriel then moved into exclusive residential work with the J.B. Ransom Company in such places as Bradbury, the gated community at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains next to Duarte. He then was placed by Ransom to be the sales agent for the Oak Knoll Park subdivision, where he built his home and followed this with work with Gainsborough Heath. In fact, the Homestead’s collection has a 1928 publication penned by Gabriel for that tract, formerly the Dewdrop estate of Luther H. Titus, whose adobe ranch house was still standing, and we’ll look to share that promotional piece in a future post here.

The Gabriel house was designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style by Roland E. Coate, whose work on the Benjamin R. Meyer home with Gordon Kauffman and Reginald Johnson was featured in part one of this post. Among the quintet of photos in the spread is a view from the street of the house behind several trees and accompanied by first and second floor plans and listings of contractors; a detail of an entrance near a rounded tower; a view of a courtyard with a fountain; an interior of a curved staircase with a simple iron railing; and a view of the arched entrance to a living room with the doors somewhat reminiscent of those in La Casa Nueva and a beautiful tile panel over the fireplace.

Edward W. Visscher was one of the few homeowners profiled in the magazine who was not a full-time resident of the area. He was a descendant of some of the earliest settlers of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, which became New York, and was born in Albany, the state capital, where he was a prominent banker. Designed by Wallace Neff, whose own home was featured in the first part of the post, the Spanish Colonial Revival Visscher house, situated very close to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, is depicted in a view from across the street, as well as a detail of a portico with cast-iron fates leading out to the yard.

Anna Desmond was a rare woman owner of a house in the issue and she was the daughter of Daniel Desmond, a native of Ireland who came to Los Angeles in 1862 and opened a hat store, one location of which was in the Temple Block. Desmond’s grew into a department store and, after being in several locations and then sold to Ralph Huesman, it moved, in 1924, to Broadway and 6th Street. A chain of locations was gradually developed and the brand continued until recent decades.

Desmond hired the brothers Pierpont and Walter Davis, sons of a prominent Baltimore architect, to design her fairly modest (by the standards in the magazine) dwelling, of which a view of the front elevation an a detail of the entrance, along with plans of the first floor and basement, are provided. It appears she built the dwelling to rent out and her family, including her widowed mother and siblings built other residences in this area above Hollywood Boulevard and east of Nichols Canyon with the “Courtney Desmond Estate,” built in 1926, declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1989.

There is bit of a mystery with the two-page feature of the Henry Schultz house, said to be in Pasadena and designed by Neff. The expansive Spanish Colonial Revival structure includes a broad view of the front elevation, a detail of a walk approaching the rounded entrance, and a shot of the living room and open front door, but the question is where the building was (and is?) because a Henry W. Schultz, who was a paper box manufacturer in Chicago is said to have been connected to a house on Allen Avenue in San Marino, close to the Huntington Library, while the 1930 census lists him in a more modest single-story house on Santa Anita Avenue in that city. If anyone can identify this impressive home (see the accompanying photo), please leave a comment (UPDATE, 16 August 2023: Thanks to Christos Rellas for confirming that the Schultz house is still on Allen Avenue in San Marino as surmised above.)

Paul G. Hoffman (1891-1974) was a 34-year old Studebaker car dealer, who’d started working as a salesman for the make at twenty and his two-story home, designed by John C. Hillman, is shown in the magazine in a view from the street with a walkway winding to the entry. Hoffman went on to become president of Studebaker from 1933-1948 and, during the World War II and postwar years was chair of a federal Committee of Economic Development.

In 1948, President Truman chose Hoffman to head the Marshall Plan through the Economic Cooperative Administration concerning the rebuilding of much of Europe. This was followed by a stint as head of the Ford Foundation, a return to Studebaker and its merger with Packard, and work as managing director of the United National Development Program. Just before his death, Hoffman was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard M. Nixon.

One of the more modest homes in the magazine was the single-story Spanish Colonial Revival residence, now apparently where Interstate 10 runs not far from the dwelling of Fred Potts, west of Crenshaw Boulevard between Washington and Adams boulevards. Its owner was Jesse A. Martin, the 46-year old owner of a furnace manufacturing firm in the Angel City and the view shows the house with a large living room window at the front, a courtyard bounded by a low wall and the entry covered by a massive striped awning with spear-shaped posts.

On the other end of the spectrum from the unprepossessing Martin dwelling is the mansion of William C. Hay, owner of a plaster contracting firm. The hilltop residence with commanding views of the city to the south is situated in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles very close to the well-known Los Feliz Heights Steps below Griffith Park. A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Hay hired Charles H. Kyson to design the structure and Kyson, who changed his surname during the First World War from “Kysor” to avoid unpleasant associations to the German kaiser, had an interesting pedigree.

The architect was the son of Ezra F. Kysor, the first professional architect to practice in Los Angeles, with his surviving work including the Pico House hotel, St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, the Mount Pleasant (Perry) Mansion, and, it has been said, but not verified with evidence, the remodeling of the Workman House at the Homestead. Kysor got his start working for his father and then the successor firm of Octavius Morgan and John Walls, a major Los Angeles firm for many years.

A dramatic shot of the Hay residence with views of the city below; the front entrance, with a plaster bas relief above the door and below a second-floor door or window; and four interior views showing the ornate work undertaken in the den, music room, and living room attest to the immense amount of detail Kyson brought forth for his client. Also included are the plans for the lower, main and upper floors of the house, which has an unusual shape and configuration. Take a look at the Redfin page for the structure and see some modern photos that can be compared to the ones in the magazine.

Dr. Edward F. Nippert was a German-born physician and surgeon in Los Angeles and his residence, which is not Spanish Colonial Revival, but which is hard to discern in style because the image is a detail of the front entry with part of the garage and a second floor balcony in view, is also in Los Feliz neighborhood, specifically in Ponet Terrace next to Griffith Park and the Fern Dell entrance.

Lastly, as we bring this second part to a close, is the substantial Fremont Place mansion of Benjamin Harwood, a Mississippi native who moved to Los Angeles as a child and graduated from Los Angeles High School and then the University of California. After finishing at the latter in 1905, he was hired by the local Llewellyn Iron Works, which provided much of the structural steel and other elements for commercial building construction in the Angel City’s rapidly expanding downtown business district.

Harwood, who was also on the board of directors of the powerful Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association and a director of the National Trust Company, hired the recently formed firm of Harley G. Corwin and Everett H. Merrill to design his residence, situated just a short distance east of his alma mater, Los Angeles High, in the Fremont Place tract. Moreover, Harwood commissioned the architects to build two other houses in the subdivision as investments and you can read more about this in the Fremont Place portion of the Historic Los Angeles blog.

The three pages of the magazine highlighting the dwelling include a view from the corner of Fremont Place West and 10th Street with floor plans; a detail of the brick-facing and landscaping along the house; a rear view, a detail of the front entrance and living room section; and a detail of the side where the dining room and service quarters and kitchen were situated. In all, a very impressive grouping of images for an imposing structure.

Tomorrow, we return with part three, so join us for that!

2 thoughts

  1. The Henry Schultz House by Wallace Neff was incorrectly listed as located in Pasadena . . . it is located at 670 South Allen Avenue in San Marino.

  2. Hi Christos, many thanks for the confirmation about the location of the Schultz House and the post has been updated accordingly.

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