Efforts to save one of the last residences completed by imaginative husband-and-wife architectural designers Arthur and Nina Zwebell took a step forward Thursday, when LA’s Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously recommended landmarking the Studio City property.
The home sold in October for $1.278 million, after longtime owner Albert Baca put it on the market for the first time in four decades. But Daveena Limonick, who owns the adjacent property, also designed by the Zwebells, tells Curbed that neighbors were dismayed to learn shortly thereafter that the home’s new owner, Kevin Schoeler, planned to demolish the quaint American Colonial Revival-style cottage.
“This house meant so much to Albert—he never would have sold it to someone he thought was going to knock it down,” says Limonick.
The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety received an application to demolish the home in January, and later that month, Councilmember Paul Krekorian asked the commission to consider landmarking the property.
The Zwebells moved to Los Angeles from the Midwest in 1921. Over the course of the next decade, the self-taught pair designed a number of celebrated courtyard complexes—including the Andalusia, Patio del Moro, El Cabrillo, and Casa Laguna—along with a handful of single-family residences.
Sadly, the Great Depression put an end to the Zwebells’ building career, and the couple subsequently turned to designing film sets and furniture. Their final architectural projects were three adjacent homes in Studio City built between 1937 and 1938—one for themselves, and the other two for Arthur’s brothers, Albert and Willard.
The property facing demolition was built for Albert Zwebell. According to the Cultural Heritage Commission report, the home “appears to be highly intact and retains a high level of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.”
The report further found that the Zwebell House successfully meets two of the Historic-Cultural Monument criteria: one, as “a notable work of a master builder, designer, or architect whose individual genius influenced his or her age;” and two, by embodying “the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural-type specimen...as an excellent example of American Colonial Revival residential architecture in Studio City.”
The three Zwebell residences along with another pair of American Colonial Revival-style houses across the street are also contributors to what’s now known as the Agnes Avenue Historic District.
As long as the home is being considered for inclusion on the city’s list of Historic Cultural Monuments, it will be safe from demolition. If landmarked, it could still be demolished, but city officials could delay tear-down for up to a year while considering options for preservation.
Limonick tells Curbed that both she and the owner of the third Zwebell residence have drawn a valuable lesson from the situation—both are submitting applications to have their homes landmarked to help safeguard their future.