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Few houses in Hancock Park can claim the distinguished pedigree of this spectacular specimen of the Mediterranean Revival Style. This home is notable for not only being the work of the distinguished and prolific architecture firm Hunt & Burns, but also for its connection to Alta California and the ranchos of early Los Angeles. The house was commissioned by Patrick J. Watson (1876-1930), a scion of the Watson clan, whose substantial land holdings derived from the marriage of Colonel James Alexander Watson of Scotland and Maria Dolores Dominguez, one of the six heiress daughters of Manuel Dominguez of the Rancho San Pedro, among the largest Ranchos in colonial and Mexican (Alta) California. It encompassed much of the modern day cities of Torrance, Wilmington, Compton, Carson, San Pedro and the South Bay area of Los Angeles. P.J. Watson served as a vice president of the Watson Land Company, but later sold his share of the property to Pan American Western Oil Company, owned by another powerful Los Angeles clan, the Dohenys. Following the sale, P. J. Watson and his wife Mary (Mamie) Eulalia Farrell, of San Francisco, decided to move off the original rancho lands and retire to the fashionable and developing central Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park.
For his new home Watson chose the society architecture firm of Sumner Hunt & Silas Burns. From 1910 to 1930, Hunt & Burns were the go-to firm for the elite of Los Angeles. They produced such works as Los Angeles Public Librarv-Vermont Square Branch, Wilshire Country Club, Automobile Club of Southern California headquarters, Ebell clubhouse, and Los Angeles Tennis Club.
With this home, Hunt & Burns designed a sophisticated Mediterranean Revival style mansion, with the grandeur of an Italian Villa yet the warmth and comfort of a hacienda. What is particularly unique is how Hunt & Burns integrated Rancho style elements in the entrance hall, and even installed Judson glass windows depicting P.J. Watson’s ancestral home, Rancho Dominguez. The house was built by Swedish born contractor C.J. Nordquist, another name familiar in Hancock Park whose firm was responsible for numerous residences and public buildings in Los Angeles. Once complete, the house would contain beautifully proportioned and scaled public rooms on the main floor and four large en-suite family bedrooms upstairs. Also on the property were maid’s quarters, a full guest house and 3-car garage with chauffer’s quarters. The lushly landscaped grounds of the estate included private gardens with swimming pool and a “pool shelter” as it was referred to on the original Hunt & Burns plans. The original pool has been converted to a Koi pond with fish that have been lovingly maintained by the previous three owners of the house and are in excess of 45 years old.
The house was fully restored in 2011 by Joseph Guidera, principal of the design firm Ron Wilson Interiors. Guidera also re-landscaped the property, retaining and enhancing the original features and outbuildings.
text by Brian Curran
Bret Parsons is an award-winning real estate professional who represents buyers and sellers of exceptional homes, often termed “architecturals,” throughout greater Los Angeles. In addition, he’s the founder and executive director of the Beverly Hills-based Compass Architectural Division, where realtor colleagues and the general public are educated about notable contemporary and traditional homes. In 2016, with architect Marc Appleton, Bret co-created the “Master Architects of Southern California” book series, which has compiled monographs, profiling the finest residential architects in the region’s history.
Eleanor Schrader is an award-winning architectural and interior design historian who lectures worldwide on the history of furniture, decorative arts, architecture, and interiors. She has been named a Distinguished Instructor at UCLA Extension, where she teaches history of architecture, interior design, furniture, and decorative arts. She is also Professor Emeritus of Art and Architectural History at Santa Monica College. She has done graduate work in fine and decorative arts at Sotheby’s Institute in London and New York and has served as a Design Review Commissioner for the City of Beverly Hills. She serves on the Board of Directors of the John Lautner Foundation.
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Brett Parsons, Eleanor Schrader