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Design Notes

What Money Looked Like in Southern California, Circa 1920


"Southern California's Ar-chitecture and Design Legacy: Past to Present" could be "an Architecture 101 for novices of California architecture," says Rochelle Dynes Mills, director of Los Angeles' Architours. "We start with early houses and then go through all the major genres, like art deco, modernism, ranch, contemporary. The stipulation is that every talk has to be in an architectural setting."

To begin the series, Robert Winter, architectural author and historian, will speak Dec. 1 on "Masters of Early California Architecture" in a kickoff dinner-and-lecture event in the living room of the 1926 San Marino estate designed by architect Wallace Neff. The house is currently owned by Violet Dobbins, who has lived there since 1967.

"Early Neff houses were significant because they were built when the Pasadena area was in its heyday," Mills says. "In the 1920s, wealthy Easterners came to California during the winter and built houses by architects like Neff. The images of these houses became synonymous with California for the East Coast."

Neff also designed houses for many Hollywood celebrities, including the Marx Brothers. His minimum for a house was $50,000, so he worked only for the wealthy.

"Neff basically defined what old money should live in for the new money here," Mills says. "Before that, people were borrowing styles from the East Coast, like Victorian. Money wants to be recognized as having money, so Neff's houses became status symbols." The homes often had Spanish red-tile roofs, stucco walls, wrought-iron work, archways and clean lines.

For the event, Glabman's Furniture is furnishing the living room in the period of the house. "We want people to see that it's possible to live in a historic home in comfort," says Mills.

Architours, which organizes and conducts art and architecture tours throughout the U.S., organized the series in conjunction with the Assn. of Women in Architecture, which is using it as a fund-raiser for its scholarship fund.

The lecture begins at 5 p.m., followed by cocktails, a live auction and tours of residences. There's a holiday dinner party at 8 p.m. Cost of lecture and cocktails is $30; dinner only, $50; lecture and dinner, $75. Dinner only for students, seniors is $40; lecture/dinner for students, seniors is $70. For more information, call (323) 294-5821. For tickets, call (310) 222-6282.

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