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Star From Bygone Era Returns to the Limelight

Former Bay Area resident ignites effort to save a neglected home with a storied past.

September 11, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The sudden interest in the old house has left current owner Maria Kushko perplexed and angry, according to her son, who is overseeing the property.

"My mom's ready to have a heart attack. She's 71," said Ted Wojdyla. "The property has dropped out of escrow because of this -- they've cost me my sale."

Wojdyla immigrated from Poland in 1981 -- "back when communists were communists," as he put it.

He said his mother's late uncle, Anthony Zilenakas, purchased the old house in 1948 from one of James Toberman's heirs, Mary Drake Toberman. In 1952, Zilenakas built eight apartment units behind the old house.

Wojdyla said his goal is to sell both the house and the apartments for the highest price possible. The combined asking price is now $1.7 million and the buyer can save or demolish the structures, he said. "They can make it a Disneyland. I'm not the sentimental type. I don't care."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 11, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 71 words Type of Material: Correction
UC branch -- A Sept. 11 article in the California section on the former residence of James R. Toberman, a Los Angeles mayor in the late 1800s, mistakenly said that a branch of the University of California was established in Los Angeles during his time in office. Los Angeles State Normal School, the forerunner of UCLA, was established then, but it did not become part of the UC system until 1919.

He doesn't care much for Monks, either.

"I'm done with Hollywood. I want to get out of Hollywood, period," he said.

Preservationists say they are trying to be fair to Kushko and Wojdyla while honoring the old house and its history.

"We want the seller to be happy and to be something of a community hero as he's leaving," said Kay Tornborg, president of Hollywood Heritage.

Offenhauser said she is still willing to buy the house, although she is not interested in the apartment units in the back. "This is a case study of how a historic organization can approach people in a helpful way."

Monks agreed. No matter whether the city or a private party eventually acquires Mayor James Toberman's old place, it's important that bulldozers be kept away, he said.

"It's one of L.A.'s great houses," said the man from San Francisco.

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