The Pacific Palisades estate of Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann, once referred to as "the house that Death in Venice built," is for sale, and is marketed as a tear-down. Mann connection aside, the Los Angeles Times reports the house is of great architectural importance, having been designed by architect J.R. Davidson—a Neutra contemporary who designed three Case Study Houses, and who, like Mann, was a German transplant to Southern California.
But it’s the involvement of both men and how they worked together on this house that makes this residence especially significant, says the Times:
"It is not just the house, in other words, where Mann wrote 'Doctor Faustus' and 'The Holy Sinner'; it is also a portrait of his artistic temperament and a measure of his relationship with Southern California — and with architecture’s modern movement."
Unfortunately, that portrait happens to sit on almost an acre of flat, "park-like grounds" in the posh Riviera neighborhood. According to the listing, the property presents an ideal opportunity to, "Create your dream estate or remodel and expand the existing home." It’s asking $14.995 million.
In case there was a hint of possible salvation for the house, listing agent Joyce Rey tells the Times she has a hard time believing that anyone’s going to buy the house because they’re interested in preserving its history. "The value is in the land," Rey said. "The value is not really in the architecture, I would say." (Stephen Apelian shares the listing.)
The house, which was built in 1941, is pretty hard to see, even from above. Aerial shots from the listing don’t really offer a clear look at the exterior, and the brief glimpse that does appear via a single listing photo shows much of the exterior apparently covered in some kind of climbing vine.
Inside, there have been additions made throughout the years, as seen in photos from 2012, when the house was up for rent for $15,500 a month.
The uncertain future of the Mann house is another sharp "reminder of how unusually fragile the cultural patrimony of Los Angeles remains, since so much of it is contained not in public spaces or civic and academic buildings but in the private realm," the Times says, leaving many important structures, "vulnerable to the whims of their owners."
- Thomas Mann house by midcentury great J.R. Davidson: L.A.'s next big teardown? [LA Times]
- 1550 San Remo Dr, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 [Joyce Rey and Stephen Apelian]
- The House That Death in Venice Built in Pacific Palisades [Curbed LA]