Monday, March 30, 2015

"LA COLLINA", ESTATE of BENJAMIN R. MEYER, ESQ., BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA

Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills
"IN SOME FORTUITOUS INSTANCES, an estate becomes legendary not only for its fine architecture and handsome grounds but also because it reflects a major turning point in a community's history, in larger architectural or landscape trends, or in the owners' goals for these showplace properties.



'La Collina' is one of those skillfully designed estates that represented those turning points. The national architectural press and Los Angeles media applauded 'La Collina' upon its 1924 completion. Flattering articles praised its owner, banker Benjamin R. Meyer, young architect Gordon B. Kaufmann, and landscape architect Paul G. Thiene for their vision." 

Houses of Los Angeles Volume 2
"La Collina", was Kaufmann's  first major residential project with the architectural firm of Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate.  Planning for the house began in 1920 and it was built from 1923 to 1924. The garden was one of the earliest  hillside gardens in the Mediterranean style of the 1920's.
   
Los Angeles Times - May 27, 1923 "A year will be required to finish the house which Ben R. Meyer, president of the Union Bank and Trust Company, is building in Beverly Hills - To insure a magnificent setting for his new home, Mr. Meyer purchased several acres of ground before he started work on the house." 

    They lived at their estate well cared for by a butler, two cooks, two maids, a masseur, three groomsmen, and three gardeners. Through his wife, Rachel Cohn Meyer (1872-1970), Meyer became a member of Los Angeles Jewish community and was responsible for many of the city's successful early philanthropies. He and his wife had no children. Rachel Meyers father, Kaspare Cohn (1839-1916) founded the Kaspare Cohn Commercial & Savings Bank, which became Union Bank & Trust Company after Meyer, as president assumed control shortly before Cohn's death. Similarly, Kaspare Cohn founded and financed the Kaspare Cohn Hospital, of which Meyer was an officer of the board. It became the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

PLOT PLAN
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
     WHILE "La Collina", the Beverly Hills Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Esq., consists of slightly over seven and three-quarters acres, the frontage of this property is only 260 feet, while the total depth is about 1319 feet. As the property is so very narrow and long, the problem to be solved is interesting. In addition the grounds rise very rapidly, the Northerly line being 215 feet above the entrance at the South line of the property.

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
     The main approach is dignified with high walls along the street turning in with a graceful curve to deeply recessed, wrought iron gates guarded to the right by a two story gate lodge. At the beginning the main entrance drive with its long, sweeping curves is bordered on either side by an orchard and approaching the house winds its way through a strong mass planting.

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    An existing row of olive trees gave the keynote for the location of the house, appearing as if built on a natural, untouched California hillside. In order to give the house the proper support a wall was built following the olive trees and encircling them. At the foot of this wall is a bleached walk. All walks are paved with flagstone and softened with grass joints and clusters of Portulaca, Sweet Allysum, Sedum, etc.

    The leveling of the building site left a bank on the uphill side of approximately 30 feet. Three terraces with steps, walks, pergolas and planting made a very effective background for a site for the house and changed the unsightly hillside into a spot of beauty. 

GATEHOUSE
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    The main entrance had its own Italian-style gatehouse. The driveway wound up the hillside, through several hundred feet of olive groves. Where the driveway neared the house more formal gardens were planted including heavily foliaged trees and blooming shrubs and flowers.


APPROACH
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
APPROACH
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
FORE COURT
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    The driveway ended in a paved motor court with a central fountain in front of the L-shaped mansion.
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
FIRST FLOOR PLAN
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    Kaufmann designed an entrance court in front of an L-shaped stucco villa so that the gardens stepped downhill directly from the living-room terrace to a pool pavilion and rose garden. An enclosed service stairway in the courtyard and an octagonal breakfast room on the garden facade created transitions between the formal central block housing the owners living spaces and the more rustic service wing with an open second-story patio. Known for his enthusiasm and ability to persuade clients to spend lavish sums. Kaufmann selected and designed the furnishings, supplied by the Los Angeles decorating studio Marshall Laird, and he purchased tapestries and Oriental rugs from the city's leading carpet dealer, John Keshishyan. All at substantial expense to Mr. Meyer.

HALL
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
STAIR HALL
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
HALL STAIRWAY
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
LIVING ROOM ENTRANCE
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    The living room, library, and dining room opened onto terraces and formal gardens overlooking Beverly Hills to the south, and the distant Pacific Ocean. Kaufmann placed steps at the entrance to the living room and library to accommodate changes in ceiling height.

    Unlike William Randolph Hearst, who had looted Europe for Spanish and Italian bell towers, ironwork, and doorways, Ben Meyer insisted that "only materials manufactured in California or native to the Southland be used." Los Angeles Times - May 27, 1923


LIVING ROOM
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects

BREAKFAST ROOM
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    The breakfast room was set back from the main block to preserve the symmetry of the house facade when it was viewed from the garden below. Kaufrnann commissioned the acclaimed Italian decorative painter Giovanni B. Smeraldi (1868-1947) to paint the Pompeian details of the breakfast room walls and ceiling. Smeraldi’s work can be seen in many historic public buildings in the United States, mainly on the ceilings, and he considered the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel to be his finest work in this country.

DINING ROOM
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects

LIBRARY
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects

CORNER of LIBRARY
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects

"ROAD OVER HILL"
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills

Dedrick Brandes Stuber (1878-1954)
    Upstairs, the mansion included four bedrooms, a sitting room, and servants' quarters, with a servants' sitting room and covered porch. 
SECOND FLOOR PLAN
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    "La Collina" was one of the first and most regarded Beverly Hills estates to have a professional landscape architect, who maximized the opportunities presented by the site, and who worked in tandem with the architect to make the property enhance the mansion, and vice versa. Paul G. Thiene and his assistant Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright designed and planted the property before the house was complete. 
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
   In designing the pool the idea of giving the appearance of a reflecting pool of water rather than a swimming pool was carried out. Therefore, a border of Iris and other flowers was planted around the pool, softening the coping and gracefully hanging over the edge of the water. A vine covered pergola at the other end of the gardens complements the pavilion and affords facilities for garden parties. For convenience in such parties a kitchenette was built into the pavilion.

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    An old pepper tree on the hillside was supported by a wall and so a very interesting outlook was created which opens to the swimming pool garden, entrance to which is gained through an intermediate grass terrace thence to the pool garden. Directly ahead of the pool is a pavilion. Back of this are ten dressing rooms.

GARDEN POOL AND HOUSE
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect

GARDEN POOL AND HOUSE
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect

Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect

CASINO
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    A tunnel connecting with the pergola on the second terrace leads into the casino, a large room nestling into the hillside with a comfortable terrace in the foreground affording a view of the entire valley. Provisions have been made to connect the second floor of the house with this tunnel.

POOL
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    
ROSE GARDEN
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
    Directly below the pergola is the rose garden. From here one enters through wrought iron gates into the theatre court. The theatre, itself is built directly underneath the pergola and is equipped with a complete projection room. It has a maximum capacity of 65 people. However, it is so arranged that large, comfortable chairs may be placed on the various platforms for smaller parties. Underneath the projection room the heating and ventilating are located as well as a pump to lift the water from the swimming pool to an irrigating reservoir.

ROSE GARDEN
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
Paul G. Thiene, Landscape Architect
      A very complex lighting system has been arranged throughout the entire grounds. Provisions  ave been made in various places for percolator connections. All lamp standards are so arranged so as to be able to plug in streamers. An intercommunicating telephone system is installed in various parts of the grounds.

STABLES
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    A stable group nestled into the canyon above the house will be a picturesque group of buildings. Meyer was an amateur horseman who raced heavy harness ponies.

    The garages are conveniently located behind the hill near the house. The garage court walls will be slightly concealed by planting from the main drive and this cope will afford an interesting spot of architecture.
RIDING RING
Estate of Benjamin R. Meyer, Beverly Hills
 Johnson, Kaufmann & Coate, Architects
    For the domestic water supply a reservoir has been established in the highest part of the property, in the Northeast corner, and camouflaged by a pergola. From this site a view of the surrounding country is obtained.


Winston Churchill, Ben R. Meyer, Captain Monte Foster and a Marlin swordfish caught by Winston Churchill, taken at Catalina Island, 1929 SOURCE
    "La Collina" became a landmark of good taste in architecture and landscape architecture and provided a model for many future estates in 1920's. Awarded Certificate of Honor, American Institute of Architects. When Edward Laurence ("Ned") Doheny Jr. and his wife, Lucy, decided to build their Greystone mansion at the Doheny Ranch, they quickly selected Kaufmann as their architect. Why? "Because he did the Ben Meyer house, and I liked it," said Lucy Doheny years later.

    In 1941 they sold the estate to a investment group. In subsequent decades, the estate was subdivided into building lots for smaller homes. The long driveway became a new street. Although much altered, "La Collinas" main house, featured in the TV series Entourage, and gatehouse remain today as independent private residences. Last sold: June 2004 for $9,690,096.

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1 comment:

  1. A lovely California-style estate. A shame it has been carved up, but it looks to have survived better than its cousin, the Milton Getz estate, designed by the same team.

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