Located just south of Runyon Canyon, Wattles Mansion was designed in 1907 by architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, whose illustrious projects include the Huntington Library, the Rose Bowl, and the now-gone Ambassador Hotel. The Mission Revival-style residence was the winter home of Nebraska banker Gurdon Wattles, who played a major role in the development of Hollywood. The Wattles family owned the estate until the late 1960s, when they sold it to the city of Los Angeles for $1.9 million.
During the late seventies and early eighties, the Gilded Age estate and its lush gardens became a magnet for punk rock squatters and vandals, falling into an increasingly dilapidated state. Restoration efforts began in 1983, when the preservation group Hollywood Heritage assumed supervision of the property, but relations between the nonprofit and the city eventually turned sour, and LA's Department of Recreation and Parks wrested back control of the estate in 2009. But without the funding necessary for proper upkeep, time continued to take its toll on the landmark mansion, so this year the Department of Recs & Parks got creative, offering designers from the Pacific Design Center and the American Society of Interior Designers the opportunity to turn Wattles Mansion into a design showcase house.
Working with the theme "Hollywood, the First 100 Years" as inspiration, 17 design firms volunteered their blood, sweat, tears, and capital to make over the two-story mansion. "The amount of restoration donated by the designers was incredibly generous," Tracy James, who works in the office of Joe Salaices, the Superintendent of the Department of Rec & Parks' Griffith Region, tells Curbed. Designer Victoria Reitz, who produced the showcase, estimates the home received about $80,000 worth of restoration work. "Cracked tile was replaced, sinks were reglazed, new pipes and electrical wiring were installed, walls were painted, and hardwood floors were polished with beeswax," she reports.
Though the showcase has just wrapped up, there are still more restoration plans in the works for Wattles. Says James, "We are hoping to do this again next year, even bigger and better."
Take a look at the freshly revamped mansion, which can be rented as a venue for weddings and other events, in the attached gallery. Photos are by Elizabeth Daniels unless otherwise specified.