For those of the children who just can’t bear silly discussions about the seemingly capricious real estate activities of a pregnant reality star with a Texas-sized backside and an annoyingly supercilious baby daddy Your Mama offers y’all something altogether more architecturally edifying and decoratively edumuhcational…
Last week Your Mama relayed the delicious—and entirely unconfirmed—Platinum Triangle real estate rumor that telecom tycoon Gary Winnick might be willing to part with his epic Bel Air estate, Casa Encantada, if some deep pocketed buyer comes along with $225 million.
Casa Encantada—sometimes referred to nowadays as the far more prosaic Bellagio House—was built in the late 1930s by a wealthy widow named Hilda Boldt who had the Hollywood Regency meet Georgian style mansion designed by premier architect James Dolena and decorated by the legendary T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings who created hundreds of custom pieces of furniture for the nearly 30,000 square foot main house and its various outbuildings.
Your Mama was recently informed by a kind and academically inclined gent we’ll call Willem Wantsyoutosee that in December 1939, not long after Casa Encantada was completed, The Widda Boldt had the mammoth mansion and its extensive grounds photographed for posterity by the legendary but too little lauded architecture and garden photographer Maynard L. Parker.*
Fortunately for all us architecture, real estate and day-core obsessed looky-loos, an exquisitely preserves cache of 73 of Mister Parker’s pictures of Casa Encantada in all its James Dolena dignity and and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings glory are available to view online courtesy of the Huntington Library on The University of California’s Calisphere site.
The photos show grandly proportioned public rooms wrapped in exquisite boiserie and furnished with streamlined upholstered pieces and dozens of eccentric—even campy—tables, consoles and a even white grand piano perched atop carved sphinxes, griffins and dragons. The photos also show soaring ceilings with heavy duty wedding cake moldings, fluted columns galore and plaster pilasters by the dozen, numerous marble and carved stone fireplace mantels, elaborate pediments over interior doorways and barrel vaulted corridors.
As we discussed last week and is well documented in both Jeff Hyland’s pricey 2008 coffee table book The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills and Michael Gross’s dishy 2011 non-fiction exposé Unreal Estate, gambling debts and bad investments forced The Widda Boldt to sell Casa Encantada in 1950 for the bargain basement price of $225,000 to hotelier Conrad Hilton who bought and kept most if not every bit of the spectacular Robsjohn-Gibbings furnishings.
Mister Hilton lived at Casa Encatada until he died in 1979 at which point the property passed to billionaire David Murdock who paid $12.4 million for the property and who retained much of the mansion’s architectural detailing but sold off most of the custom Robsjohn-Gibbings pieces to make way for his own collection of 18th century English furniture. It was Mister Murdock who sold the property to Mister Winnick in the early Aughts for around $94 million in cash and property. Mister Winnick proceeded with a massive renovation, restoration and expansion of the property that, we’ve been told but can’t confirm, honors and respects if not exactly cleaves to the original designs of both James Dolena and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings.
*In addition to Casa Encantada, from the late 1930s through the 1960s Mister Parker snapped the Los Angeles homes of just about everybody who was anybody in Tinseltown including but far from limited to Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Ira Gershwin, Judy Garland, Mary Pickford, Fanny Brice, Edith Head, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, Tyrone Power, Alan Ladd, Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck, Eartha Kitt, Loretta Young, Jerry Lewis, Vincent Price and on and on and on…