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'Fantasy Island' House Open to Public

December 15, 1985|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

"Fantasy Island," the (1978-1984) weekly TV program starring Ricardo Montalban that ran from January, 1978, to August, 1984, regularly pictured the exterior of the Queen Anne Cottage at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia, but few people get to glimpse inside.

To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the Victorian house will be open today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for visitors to view the ornate furniture and Baldwin family mementos normally visible only thorough the windows.

E. J. (Lucky) Baldwin--called "the most flamboyant, forceful and unconventional character in California's history" (he made $10 million in the Comstock Mine in Nevada, carried a pearl-handled pistol and thousands of dollars on him wherever he went, shot tigers in India, did business in Japan, owned some of the top race horses in the United States and about 51,000 acres in the San Gabriel Valley)--built the house in 1885.

It was supposed to be a honeymoon home for his fourth wife, Lillie Bennett, but the house wasn't completed until after the pair was married and separated. (It was a short marriage.) Then Baldwin dedicated it to his third wife, Jennie Dexter, who died of TB. Jennie and Lillie were both 16 when they married Baldwin, who was 47 when he married Jennie and 56 when he married Lillie.

Lillie's father, Albert Bennett (who was state architect when the Capitol building was completed), designed the Queen Anne Cottage, which has been open to the public only on special occasions, every other year or so, until now. Sandy Snider, the Arboretum's historian, said, "It's a lot of trouble to get the house ready and maintain it while it's open, but we're thinking about doing it once a year." This is the second consecutive year that it has been open.

Docents will lead tours through the cottage, which will be decorated with Christmas trees and antique toys, and an 1890 depot and coach barn (exhibiting farm and domestic tools used a century ago) will also be open at no extra charge. (There is a $1 fee to go inside the Queen Anne Cottage, and there is also a $1.50 admission--75 for seniors and children--to the Arboretum, at 301 N. Baldwin Ave.)

The former MGM backlot--where scenes from "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone With the Wind," "Ben Hur," "Mutiny on the Bounty" and the "Andy Hardy" series were filmed--is nearly completely occupied now by home owners.

First move-ins for the final, $8-million, 31-home phase are scheduled today, and only three houses remain for sale (prices: $275,000-$280,000.)

The 181-home project, known (appropriately) as Studio Estates, is a development of Goldrich & Kest Industries, which began construction there six years ago. The streets are named for stars who worked on the lot. Among them: Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Katharine Hepburn.

Here's an idea that would make many a brave man sweat. As Bob Brogger, an Orange County publicist, describes it:

"What Bob Kodl did is enough to make your bones turn dry, your blood run cold. He defied the unwritten law that is as American as hot dogs and apple pie. Few others have done it and lived to tell about it." Kodl bought a house this fall for himself and his wife without her seeing it!

Before moving to Southern California from Illinois, Kodl, now Southern California division sales manager for American Savings & Loan, bought the house at Akins Development's Woodbridge Garden Estates in Irvine (prices: $148,900-$203,900) while his wife, Debby, was still in the Midwest. He did it, Brogger said, "before you could say, 'I'd better check with my wife first." Fortunately, Debby Kodl liked the house. The Kodls have been married for 32 years.

Despite reports to the contrary, the luxury residential market in New York City is still strong, says Richard E. Lamondin, director of marketing and head of the 74-year old, Manhattan-based real estate firm Douglas Elliman-Gibbons & Ives Inc.

As proof, Lamondin points to sales this fall in the 267-unit Museum Tower, which rises 52 stories above the new wing of the Museum of Modern Art just off Fifth Avenue at 15 W. 53rd St.

Six "condo apartments" in the tower went for about $4 million in a two-week period, and since these sales, two more condos sold, bringing the total for October and November to more than $5.5 million!

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