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Two Classic L. A. Estates Now Open for Public View

September 26, 1987|ANNE Z. COOKE

Two mansions never previously seen by the public highlight the West Adams Historic Homes Tour today and Sunday.

The tour of 13 turn-of-the-century homes and estates--the fifth to be organized by the West Adams Heritage Assn.--includes five recently refurbished homes and the mansions: the Busby Berkeley Estate, also known as the Guasti Villa, and the Ramsey House/Durfee Estate. Both belong to private foundations and are normally closed to visitors.

The three-acre Durfee Estate, a 42-room, 10,000-square-foot Tudor mansion with a Craftsman interior, was designed by Frederick Roehrig and built in 1908. The house was closed to outsiders from 1927 to 1976 by owner Nellie Durfee, a reclusive widow. Now owned by the Brothers of St. John of God, the interior remains as it was in 1927. The walls, built-in cupboards, beams in the entry hall and the living room are paneled with mahogany and in some places, secured with large pegs. An oversize fireplace has black marble facing and a mahogany mantle. Several large bay windows look over the garden.

Above the staircase are amber yellow, brown and green leaded-glass windows with an art nouveau design. In the dining room, William Morris-style hand-painted fabric, mounted on panels, has been cleaned revealing the original colors.

The Berkeley Estate, owned by the Prana Theological Seminary, was designed by Hudson and Munsell and built in 1913 by Secondo Guasti. In keeping with the Italian Renaissance style, a wide marble staircase leads to the front door. The main hall has a floor of inlaid marble and is paneled in oak. A large recessed oval in the ceiling frames a painting of nymphs picking grapes.

On the second floor, above a circular staircase with an oak-and-bronze railing, is a round, concave ceiling with hidden lights. A semicircular sun porch with three banks of windows curves behind the stairs.

The Donavan House is the site of a Victorian Faire, with food and gifts for sale, and of an exhibit of antiques from the American Arts and Crafts period. The Staples House will have an exhibit of Victorian clothes and accessories, some from the Betsy Bloomingdale Costume Collection.

The West Adams District is between Figueroa Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, and Pico and Jefferson boulevards. The tour hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Tickets are $10.

The tour begins at the school at Gramercy Place and 24th Street, south of the Santa Monica Freeway near the Western Avenue exit. Tickets are good for both days and include unlimited rides on five buses shuttling among the five clusters of homes.

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