Posted: Wednesday, April 5, 2017 – 6:03 PM
By Victoria Talbot
The Wattles Mansion is a legendary piece of history that holds its value as an historic icon of the turn of the century. As a Design Showcase, it is a superb venue that offers a titillating glimpse into a by-gone era.
This year’s theme is perfect, focusing on “Hollywood History: The New Classics.” As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again,” participants will include noted designers who bring their talents to reinterpret the contemporary lifestyle through the Hollywood experience.
The Wattles Mansion was built in 1908 for financier Gurdon Wattles as a summer home. Wattles called the estate “Jualita.” The 49-acre estate today it is the last remaining intact Hollywood mansion from the pre-film industry era. It was sold to the City of Los Angeles in 1965 by Wattles son.
Built by Master Architects Myron Hunt and then-partner Elmer Grey in the Mission Revival style, the property featured formal botanical gardens on a hill overlooking Hollywood Boulevard. Hunt and Grey also designed the Ambassador Hotel, the Rose Bowl and the Huntington Hotel and Library. Locally, they designed the building that currently houses Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.
The Wattles Mansion is designated as City of Los Angeles Cultural Monument No. 579 and is surrounded by Wattles Park, representing gardens influenced by his trips to Mexico and Japan, representing America, Italy and Japan as well as a formal rose garden.
Gurdon Wallace Wattles (May 12, 1855 – Jan. 31, 1932) is said to have “bankrolled” Hollywood. However, he was also a clever businessman in his home state of Nebraska. A lawyer and a banker, he was involved in many agricultural enterprises.
Wattles relatives arrived on the Mayflower, and his pedigree was impeccable. But it was his business sense that made his fortune and thrust him into politics.
Wattles sealed his future when he became the organizer and chairman of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition and Indian Congress, an event that brought 2.6 million people to Omaha to view the 4,062 exhibits during four months. He rode in the grand parade with his friend William Jennings Bryan, who ran three times unsuccessfully for President. He was friends with Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover.
In Nebraska, the Wattles House was built by Thomas R. Kimball, a noted Omaha architect. It is listed as an Omaha Historical Landmark and is on the NationalRegister of Historic Places.
Wattles Mansion designers showcased include Melinda Ritz and May Brunken on behalf of the Set Decorators Society of America; Patrick Dragonette; David Dalton; Ryan Saghian; Winslow & Cohen; Kym Rodger; Nicole Gordon; Fernando Diaz; Woodson & Runnerfield’s House of Design and many others.
This is the second year the Wattles Mansion has hosted a designer showcase. Managed by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the home continues to be a preserved and restored as a fine turn-of-the-century estate of Hollywood. Open through April 16 Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., admission is $40 per person. For tickets visit reitzhausproductions.com or wattlesshowcase.com.
The house is located at 1824 N. Curson Ave. Los Angeles CA 90046. The Wattles Mansion Design House Showcase will benefit No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLAO, Save Iconic Architecture Projects (SIA) and the Los Angeles Parks Foundation.