For almost a year now, Canadian entrepreneur Richard Wernham has been trying to unload his stunning oceanfront home in the Woods Cove neighborhood of Laguna Beach. But with no takers — despite it having the added cache of serving as the onetime home of legendary actress Bette Davis — the historic French Normandy-style estate has undergone a couple of price chops during the past eight months. Now the Toronto-based global wealth manager and his wife Julia West are seeking a substantially reduced $17 million for the place, a whopping $3 million less than the original ask.
If Wernham and West do get anywhere near the reduced ask, it will still be more than the $13.5 million they paid in 2004. During their tenure, though, the couple made significant updates to the home’s eight bathrooms and two kitchens. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the structure also will transfer with a 10-year Mills Act contract, meaning homeowners are eligible for reduced property taxes in exchange for preserving the historic house.
Built way back in 1929, and designed by noted local artist and architect Aubrey St. Clair, the house originally belonged to newspaper mogul Charles H. Prisk, owner of the Pasadena Star-News and Long Beach Press-Telegram. Davis purchased the home in 1947, and the two-time Oscar winner lived there with her third husband, artist and former boxer William Grant Sherry, and their daughter Barbara until 1950. According to listing agent John Cain of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty, signs of the late star remain to this day in the form of a stained-glass crest featuring the letter “D” on a glass door and another wrought-iron “D” gracing a chimney.
Perched high atop a bluff overlooking the rugged Orange County coastline, on a 0.16-acre parcel surrounded by walls and accessible via a gated street-side entrance, the white stucco structure sports an exterior adorned with decorative half-timber framing, green-trimmed windows and a shingled roof.