Not many people can boast that they own a house designed by legendary California architect Wallace Neff. Even fewer could rightfully claim to have owned three Neff-designed homes — and all at the same time! But Arthur K. Bourne could.
Bourne, an heir to the Singer sewing machine company empire, was born in New York in 1877. As a young man, he and his first wife moved to California, where the family found they preferred the sunny West Coast lifestyle over the Big Apple’s harsher climate. Bourne’s first marriage ended in divorce; in 1921, he married his second wife, Emily Miller, and commissioned a 20-something-year-old architect named Wallace Neff to design him a mansion in posh San Marino, Calif. That house, a fabulous Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure that spans nearly 13,000 square feet and remains gorgeous today, was completed circa 1925.
Perhaps the two men bonded over their similar upbringings. Like Bourne, Neff was a wealthy heir, the grandson of publishing magnate Andrew McNally. In any case, Bourne apparently loved his Neff-designed home so much that he soon re-hired Neff to design him another mansion, this one in the city of Glendora — only about 18 miles east of San Marino. That house, a genteel traditional reminiscent of a Southern plantation-style estate, was completed in 1932 and sat on 44 acres. By that time, Bourne — who’s perhaps unsurprisingly been described as a “playboy,” was married to his third wife, Alberta McCune.
Almost as soon as the Glendora paint had dried, Neff was already putting the finishing touches on yet another house designed for real estate-crazed Bourne, this one a massive Spanish Colonial mansion in Palm Springs. Completed in ’33, that place boasted a separate guesthouse and chauffeur’s quarters, though decades later the estate was subdivided and fell into a sad state of neglect (though the house still stands and was restored in recent years.)
Bourne was also one of the original developers of Lake Tahoe, where he owned yet another estate, this one not designed by Neff. In summer 2020, for what it’s worth, that vast Tahoe property was sold for a whopping $38 million to Nevada businessman Pat Willis, a childhood friend of Bourne’s grandchildren.
Although he would eventually sell off the Neff trio of houses in San Marino, Glendora and Palm Springs, Bourne continued living in the Glendora house until at least the mid-1950s. In subsequent decades, that estate was subdivided and fell into disrepair and neglect, though the various structures on the property’s main parcel somehow survived intact; in the early 2000s, the estate was painstakingly restored and renovated.