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The Hottest Property

The weekly column takes a spin through 125 years of celebrity transactions.

April 30, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer


Isaac Newton Van Nuys, entrepreneur and member of the homesteading Lankershim group, has built the San Fernando Valley's first wood-frame house, its curb appeal immediately driving up prices in an area of adobe structures.

Van Nuys' house, which is eye-catching for not being adobe, is on a sizable lot: a 60,000-acre swath of farmland purchased for $115,000 by a consortium including wheat-farming visionary Isaac Lankershim. The home boasts views of grazing sheep and convenient access to the intersection of Ventura and Lankershim -- well, eventually.


Missouri native and local developer L.C. Brand has built a summer home in the Glendale foothills. The five-bedroom home, dubbed El Miradero and built for $60,000, is on 10 acres of land and features a miniature lake with goldfish and fountains.

The Brand home boasts a pastoral setting with Basque sheepherders, orange groves and horse-drawn carriages doing 20 mph, among the highest speeds that will ever be recorded on the 101.

1902 Walter R. Wheat, vice president of the Bank of Venice, has sold a nine-room house to a local investor. The modern home, at 1400 Alvarado Terrace and part of a $15,000 land deal, is east of downtown in a neighborhood for wealthy Angelenos off Alvarado near Bonnie Brae Street.

Rumors abound that Wheat, who has become a player in the development of Palms, is abandoning downtown for the Westside, signaling an exodus that will continue for the next half a century.


L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," has built Ozcot, a two-story frame house and magical retreat in a hamlet of citrus groves, otherwise known as Hollywood, at 1749 Cherokee Ave.

The house has a long, enclosed porch with a view of the mountains, a sunroom for Baum's considerable green thumb and a large cage with hundreds of exotic songbirds, none of which have to compete with music being blared from passing SUVs.

1913 Famed city planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. has completed plans for what will become Torrance, incorporated in 1921. The city's earliest homes are bungalows in the Craftsman and Mission traditions; the 1922 Sammons Mission Revival home features an arched entry and an arch over its driveway.

1914 Chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. has bought a 22-room estate on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena for $170,000. The grand mansion, designed in 1906 by architect G. Lawrence Stimson, sits along a stretch of mansions known as Millionaires Row.

The route of the Rose Parade -- started 24 years earlier by Pasadena's moneyed Valley Hunt Club -- passes by Wrigley's front door. The parade has already become a tradition that lets the locals celebrate Southern California's winter sunshine and encourages other folks to move west.

Some 115 years later, longtime locals pray for rain.

1914 Socialist leader Job Harriman establishes Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony, a Utopian commune in the Antelope Valley, 45 miles north of Los Angeles. The colony boasts 600 residents led by attorney Harriman, who lost mayoral elections in 1911 and 1913 and also defended the McNamara brothers, labor unionists accused of attempting to blow up the Times building.

The short-lived enclave is based on egalitarian living, i.e., dairy farming, orchard cultivation and putting out publications -- until its undoing when a fault line diverts much of the water supply, and Harriman and company unsuccessfully try to get area land barons to sell access to a new supply. Later, Aldous Huxley moves in.


Los Feliz -- named for Jose Feliz, soldier and co-founder of the Los Angeles pueblo -- the neighborhood encompassing Griffith Park, is becoming an upscale residential haven for the likes of Cecil B. DeMille and W.C. Fields .

DeMille's Spanish estate, purchased in 1916, combines two properties totaling roughly 12,500 square feet in the Laughlin Park area and is connected by a pergola designed by Julia Morgan. The number of physicians residing in the area also prompts a new nickname, "Pill Hill," which in today's terminology translates to "Plastic Surgery Place."

1920s A nerve center in L.A.'s rich Central Avenue jazz scene, the Dunbar Hotel is home to greats Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. It originally opened as the Hotel Sommerville (named after its owner, John Sommerville, who along with his wife, Vada Watson, were the first African Americans to graduate from the USC School of Dentistry). Sommerville sold it after the 1929 stock market crash, and the hotel was renamed the Dunbar in honor of poet Paul L. Dunbar.

1924 The Freeman House, Frank Lloyd Wright's textile-block house, has been built for $23,000 on Glencoe Way in Hollywood. It will go on to become renowned for salons hosted by its owners, with regulars Martha Graham, Xavier Cugat, Clark Gable and Richard Neutra.

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