Nov 6, 2010

Lee and Mary Blair's 1939 Los Angeles Home On the Market: (UPDATED)

I can think of an awful lot of people who are going to enjoy this.

The Hollywood Hills modernist home designed in 1939 by architect Harwell Hamilton Harris for Disney artists Lee and Mary Blair is for sale, listed at $725,000.
Harris worked for two of the greatest talents of the age and area, Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler, before starting his own firm in 1933.

The realtor's listing describes it as three levels "incorporating an entry, open plan living/dining area, bedroom, bath, and studio or 2nd bedroom and bath at the top". I think we know what the Blairs used the top floor for, and it wasn't a bedroom.

It's a wonderful space in a wonderful location, just what one would imagine for a couple like this. And it looks today much as it must have when they moved out, thanks to its current owner who obviously appreciated its value-sadly, not often the case in southern California.

Edited to add: an excerpt from Lisa Germany's book "Harwell Hamilton Harris"(2000):

Mr. and Mrs. Lee Blair were directors for the Walt Disney Studios who had been interested in a house by Harwell Harris since 1937. He had, in fact, designed a house at that time that was canceled due to an uncertainty in their work(of the five Disney clients Harwell had during these years only two would see their houses reach the construction stage). In 1939 they returned with a new lot and he started over again. This lot was extremely steep and Harris designed the tiny, one bedroom house with three stories sheathed in horizontal redwood siding. Each of the three blocks of the house rose another step up the hill. At its rear, each floor rested on the natural level of the ground and at its front it rested on the rear edge of the block below it. Thus, the second story used the roof of the first story for a roof terrace, and the third story used the roof of the second story for its roof terrace. So high, in fact, was the studio that the clients had a spectacular view of Los Angeles and even of the cowboy and indian movies being filmed at Fox Studios.
The Blair house followed all the rules of Harris' nine-point plan. The same finishes--grass matting, plywood walls and Celotex ceilings--were used thoughout, and each room had one wall of glass opening into a garden or terrace. This allowed not only for a more generous display of the floor but also showed the Alvar Aalto chairs and Harris-designed couch and dressing table to their full advantage.

A correction, and a note: the Blairs were not "directors" at Disney's in 1939. The Blairs' unbuilt property that fell through in 1937 was on Beech Knoll Road in Laurel Canyon.

Fellow Dreamworks story artist and author/illustrator Scott Santoro (who lives near the Blair's former residence and has seen the exterior) writes:
"It's the first time the house has been on the market since 1955. The lot is large, steep and rangy with a switchback stair to the front door. I'd hate to move things in and out of there, though it does have a funicular [probably what's more often called a hillevator-ed]. The garage sets into the slope and has a grass roof."

The images above are from the sale listing and are recent. Below are photographs taken both in the Blairs' time and today. The circa 1939 color photo of the living area features what looks like a watercolor by one of the couple near the fireplace. The chairs in the Blairs' living room are are by Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto

Here are some views from the street of the Blair residence garage, the "hillevator" and exterior taken on November 6, 2010 by Scott Santoro. Thanks again, Scott:


Steven Hartley said...

Looks really nice - how long did they live there for?

Jenny Lerew said...

Steven-I don't have John Canemaker's definitive book next to me to check, but I'd assume in the late 40s whe the family moved to New York. As you probably know, Mary continued working long distance on Disney's films for some time after that; in the late 60s both Blairs relocated to Northern California.

Robert said...

What an amazing dream home!

Check the that flat roof for leaks before you buy, though.

Tracy Mark Lee said...

Me want!

Vincent Gorman said...

I'll take it! It's nice to see animation artists have a great job, but can also make enough money to live a comfortable life...and have a hillevator.

Luke said...

Wow that is a beautifull house! Does anyone else feel wierd seeing a color photo from the thirties?

Anonymous said...

Lee and Mary were here from late 1939 thru mid 1946. By late 1946 they were in New York.

Note: Lee and Mary Blair weren't the only Disney artists who lived in this house -- Retta Scott (Worcester) lived here with Mary while Lee was in the Navy!

Anonymous said...

My son happened to run across this blog entry and I had to comment! We have had many wonderful meals here and house-sat this castle many times. It is being offered for sale by the owner, who my husband's uncle.
The art of a truly brilliant architect simply takes your breath away, and that this place was occupied by great artists as well adds to the magic.
-Melody Pena

Smackmonkey said...

"And it looks today much as it must have when they moved out, thanks to its current owner who obviously appreciated its value-sadly, not often the case in southern California."

Forgive the late comment but I don't really agree with your assessment here. It looks like all the interior wood surfaces were irreversibly stained to mach the occupants low end danish modern furniture. Hopefully I'm wrong and it's just the effect of age, lighting, and different film stocks. I am glad (but surprised) they didn't paint over the brick fireplace as well.

Whimsy said...

What a neat post to fall upon. The homes looks to be well cared for and maintained for the most part. The exterior could use a little work. I especially like the original exterior shot, all those lovely windows!

Sean McLaughlin said...

Looks like it sold for $675,000.....I'd say thats a deal!{scid=hdp-site-map-bubble-address}

Anonymous said...

The full restoration of the Blair house was just completed, check it out!

Anonymous said...

I lived a few houses down from this one. It's situated deep up in the hills.

Anonymous said...

Having lived a few houses down from this one, I can tell from the exterior it has been changed but it has been restored nicely. Interesting how everything is modern but the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

The hillevator came in later.