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Neutra's Chuey House, once a bohemian haven, up for landmark status

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Will it save the midcentury residence in the Hollywood Hills from redevelopment?

Exterior view of Chuey residence
Built in 1956, the Chuey House is still in fairly original condition (though the reflecting pools seen above have been filled in).
Photos courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

The Los Angeles Conservancy is trying to spare Richard Neutra’s Chuey House in the Hollywood Hills from potential demolition.

The home hit the market in August for the first time since its construction in 1956, billed as “a truly unique development opportunity.”

“This is an urgent issue,” says Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the conservancy, which nominated the property as a Historic-Cultural Monument last week.

Fine says the residence is a somewhat unusual example of Neutra’s work, in that the architect worked closely with the clients—poet and spiritualist Josephine Ain Chuey and her husband, painter Robert Chuey—while designing the home.

It was engineered for social gatherings and frequently hosted poetry salons, art showings, and other gatherings. It was specifically designed to accommodate the couple’s bohemian lifestyle, with windows positioned to maximize light and an artist’s studio incorporated into the floor plan.

View into the house from outdoor patio

According to the Conservancy’s application, one of Robert Chuey’s students once described the guests at such events as “these sort of beatnik type people” who would “smoke pot, and talk about shit that I didn’t know anything about.”

Josephine Chuey, whose first marriage was to architect Gregory Ain (a disciple of Neutra), wrote or called Neutra’s firm “almost daily” while the house was being planned, the applications says.

If the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission agrees to consider the application (which seems likely, given its architectural pedigree), the home will be protected from the wrecking ball while the city reviews the nomination.

For now, that measure of security doesn’t appear necessary; listed for $10.5 million, the home has yet to find a buyer, and no applications for demolition permits are on file with the Department of Building and Safety. Moreover, promotional material advertising the home has been updated to reflect its history and architectural significance.

Still, should an unscrupulous developer enter the picture, landmark status for the home would allow city officials to block demolition for up to a year while options for preservation are explored.

Chuey House at night Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

The application indicates that the midcentury modern residence is in very good condition, with very few significant alterations to Neutra’s original design having occurred over the last 61 years.

Josephine Chuey resided in the home until her death in 2004, when it was passed down to family members now selling the property as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

Located directly above the Sunset Strip, the home sits on 1.5 acres and boasts stunning views across the city. It’s asking $10.5 million.

“We’re still very hopeful that a preservation-minded buyer will step forward,” says Fine; someone “who appreciates, understands, and loves the house as much as Josephine and Robert Chuey did.”