These days, Brentwood is better known for glitzy new mansions and flashy celebrity residents like Travis Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger and LeBron James, but the area still has plenty of historic charm — provided you know where to look. Witness this magnificent Spanish Colonial Revival estate, now nearly 100 years old and still well-preserved. Built in 1927, the sprawling home is known as El Sueno, or more commonly as the Milton Sills Residence in honor of its first occupant, 1920s Hollywood film actor Milton Sills (“The Sea Hawk”). In addition to his acting work, Sills was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
According to archived records, the property was designed by Hollywood set designer Stephen Goosson, a good friend of Sills. Goosson is also probably one of the only practicing architects to have ever won an Academy Award; at the 1937 Oscars, he took home the Best Art Direction trophy for his Streamline Moderne set designs in the film “Lost Horizon.”
Sills, whose mother was a multimillionaire banking heiress, lived at El Sueno with his wife, silent film actress Doris Kenyon, the couple’s young son and Kenyon’s elderly mother, plus five live-in household employees — two full-time gardeners, one Finnish cook, one butler and a secretary, according to 1930 census data. At that time, the Brentwood estate was valued at $300,000, a huge amount of money in those days.
Unfortunately, Sills didn’t enjoy his lavish lifestyle for very long. In late 1930, the Chicago native died on El Sueno’s tennis court after suffering a sudden heart attack, barely three years after the house was completed. Over the past 90-odd years, the property has changed hands only a handful of times. The most recent sale occurred in the early 1960s, when the house was acquired by Evis Coda, a prominent child psychiatrist, and his wife Rosemary, a nurse.
The Codas raised their 13 children at El Sueno, and the entire family was photographed at the property for a 1970s L.A. Times article. After six decades in residence, Rosemary died at the house in 2020. Evis passed the following year, at age 100.
Though the house was never publicly listed for sale, those 13 children (and 23 grandchildren!) floated El Sueno as a pocket listing; it quickly sold for $11.5 million to local businessman Samuel Fisher. A managing partner at his family’s investment office and a USC grad, Fisher is also a grandson of billionaire Doris Fisher and her late husband Don, who founded the Gap apparel chain in 1969, and a son of billionaire Bill Fisher.
If you’re an astute real estate watcher and the Fisher name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because the family put their longtime main residence up for sale last year, asking $100 million. Located in the affluent Silicon Valley town of Atherton, Calif., the eight-acre compound would easily rank as the city’s most expensive home ever sold — should it sell for anywhere near its asking price. (The vast estate remains available.)