One of the best things about our neighborhood is discovering a fabulous house hiding in plain site. This week a story about a Lloyd Wright house for sale in Wilshire Park came across our screen and we couldn’t resist checking it out. Who even knew there was a Wright original, intact, in the neighborhood.
The Weber house was built by Lloyd Wright in 1921. But careful research by the current owner, screen writer and author Stephen Rebello, who was kind enough to speak with us about his adventures in the house, revealed the residence may have actually been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, considered one of the greatest American architects, in collaboration with his son Lloyd, whose name appears on the original building permit. Historic papers, including construction correspondence that Rebello found, clearly show that Frank Lloyd Wright was involved in all the details of the design. Rebello told the Buzz he suspects the elder Wright designed the home, but Lloyd Wright supervised all the finishing touches.
Lloyd Wright was working in Los Angeles on several significant projects, including Wayfarers Chapel, the Samuel-Novarro House, and the Sowden House—which is returning to the market, according to Curbed LA. He frequently collaborated with his father on other now famous projects including Ennis House and Hollyhock House, and Freeman House.
Lloyd Wright was a very interesting architect in his own right (pun intended?) noted local architect John Kaliski, who lives in Windsor Village and sits on the Wilshire Park, Windsor Village, Country Club Park and Oxford Square HPOZ Design Review board and of course, knew of the Weber house. According to Kaliski, Wright had an office in Grand Central Market at one time and a studio in West Hollywood had likely wanted to leave the Mid-west and the controversy surrounding his father after the murders at Taliesin estate in 1914 and build his own body of work. His son, Eric Wright, also an architect, is still practicing in Malibu.
The reason the Weber house is so rare is that it was built near the waning end of the popularity of the Prairie Style (1893-1920), according to Kaliski. Also, the Prairie Style was never as popular in Southern California which by then had developed the Arts and Crafts or Craftsman style bungalow.
Rebello, a former Larchmont Village resident, purchased the home in 2001 and became immersed in historic research about the house and its previous occupants who, thankfully, had hardly altered the house over the years. The built-ins are all intact and the Juana Costa wood, a now extinct species, has never been painted.
“I learned so much from the neighbors, who knew the house and then spent a great deal of time at the archives of the Los Angeles Times society pages,” where Rebello explained he learned that Charlie Chaplin’s first wife Mildred Harris had lived after her divorce from Chaplin. Neighbors corroborated that with additional stories of sitings of Chaplin in the neighborhood.
“I was so interested to know who’d been here and how they lived here?” said Rebello, who also saw his role as owner and caretaker of the house.
“I wanted to leave it better than when I found it,” explained Rebello.
His successful efforts to landmark the house as a Historic Cultural Monument, along with the Wilshire Park HPOZ ensure that it will remain in tact for others to enjoy.
The house is situated on an odd pie-shaped lot, one of the largest and deepest in the neighborhood. There’s a large, ancient Chinese Elm with sprawling horizontal branches that pre-dates the house.
“There’s a fantastic serenity, a zen quality and warmth to the house that has been really conducive for hatching creative ideas and bringing them to fruition,” said Rebello who has written 2 books in the house and has three more on the way. He’s best known for his nonfiction books “Reel Art” and “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” —which was adapted into the 2012 film “Hitchcock,” starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. But it’s time for Rebello to move on and pass the house on to another caretaker.
Fortunately, there is great interest in the house. The house went on the market on Monday and it’s now in escrow with offers above the asking price of $1.35 million. Rebello reported to the Buzz that he’s found fantastic, historic home-savvy new owners and expects continuing sensitive restorations of this wonderful property.