Samuel Goldwyn Estate
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The Samuel Goldwyn Estate at 1200 Laurel Lane in Beverly Hills, California was designed by Douglas Honnold and George Vernon Russell and completed in 1934 for the film producer Samuel Goldwyn and his wife Frances Howard. The house was owned by the Goldwyn family from its construction until 2015 and was subsequently purchased by Taylor Swift who has restored it.
The house was designed by Douglas Honnold and George Vernon Russell in the Georgian Revival style. It was Honnold and Russell's first commission. The pair subsequently designed the Dolores del Río House for the actress Dolores Del Rio and her husband Cedric Gibbons in Pacific Palisades. The house is set over 11,000 sq ft (1,000 m2) on two storeys made of brick and rendered in stucco. A large foyer leads to the ground floor public rooms. The dining room had a table that could seat twenty guests. The main lounge featured "heavy green drapery" and led to a small card room. The house has four bedrooms on the first floor with the master bedroom suite on the second floor. A guest suite is situated above the garage. The paneled library was also used as a screening room, with the outer doors of the library leading to the large patio. The grounds of the house are set over terraces and include a swimming pool with accompanying cabana, a tool shed, and a tennis court. Goldwyn's biographer A. Scott Berg describes the property as a "gleaming white house with black trim, its two wings forming a welcoming obtuse angle". Howard was given a free rein over the design and planning of the house from Goldwyn, with his only stipulation that the house be white. Goldwyn's biographer, Carol Easton, felt that the design of the house with its strict formality and understated conservatism reflected Howard's understanding of Goldwyn's desire for status and respectability that he had sought since his arrival in the United States as an illiterate immigrant.
The estate is one of three lots on Laurel Lane in Beverly Hills. Goldwyn's biographer A. Scott Berg describes Laurel Lane as a "knoll off Coldwater Canyon". The first lot was occupied by film director Wesley Ruggles, and the second would remain unoccupied for several decades. The actress Frances Howard, Goldwyn's wife, noticed the available third lot of 2.5 acres (1.0 ha), and persuaded her husband to purchase it. The couple had previously been living on West Franklin Avenue in West Hollywood. Among the reasons that prompted the Goldwyns to move was the desirability and social cachet of the Beverly Hills address and the lack of a projector room in their Hollywood house.
The house was built over two years by Richard Day and Alexander Gollitzen with the interiors constructed by labourers from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. It was completed in November 1934. Howard would become noted for her social gatherings at the house, frequently hosting large parties honouring other notable spouses such as Irving Berlin and Ellin Mackay, or Averell and Marie Norton Harriman. Attendance at Howard's dinner parties for twelve guests were described by George Cukor as the "hardest ticket in town", with Katharine Hepburn remarking that "You always knew where your career stood by your position at the Goldwyn table". Goldwyn would frequently use the house as collateral to finance the production of his films.
Goldwyn would walk the three miles from the house to work in Hollywood everyday, down Laurel Lane and Sunset Boulevard to the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, with his chauffeur following behind him. He would then be driven through Hollywood to the studio, with the journey being done in reverse at the end of the day. Goldwyn claimed that the steep walk up and down the hill everyday kept him fit, exclaiming to associates that "You can just feel that oxygen going into your system!".
Goldwyn's biographer A. Scott Berg notes the Goldwyns ability to draw entertainment personalities to the house with their hosting of a dinner on New Year's Eve of 1935 for Cole Porter, Lady Mendl and Gary Cooper and his wife, followed by a "champagne supper served at midnight" that was attended by Harold Arlen, Jack Benny, Charles Boyer, Frank Capra, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Howard Hawkes, James Hilton, Sidney Howard, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, David O. Selznick, Walter Wanger, Jock Whitney, Loretta Young, and an additional fifty guests. Lucille Ball ate her first artichoke at a dinner party at the house, and was mystified how to eat it until Harpo Marx showed her. Eleanor Roosevelt attended a small dinner party at the house prior to the premier of Wuthering Heights with Norma Shearer and Merle Oberon.
Howard created a croquet pitch at the house for Goldwyn's birthday in 1956 and he became an enthusiastic player, often inviting Mike Romanoff and others for games at the house. Goldwyn was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon at the house in March 1971. As Nixon leaned in to put the medal around Goldwyn's neck, Goldwyn pulled Nixon's lapel and said to him that "You'll have to do better than that if you want to carry California" in reference to the forthcoming presidential election.
Having been up for sale at various periods since 2008; the house was put up for sale for $39 million in 2015 following the death of Samuel Goldwyn Jr., in January of that year. The house was sold in September 2015 for $25 million to the singer and songwriter Taylor Swift. Since her purchase of the house Swift has worked to restore it to its original condition under the architect Monique Schenk. Works undertaken by Swift include the restoration of windows and rebuilding columns at the swimming pool's cabana, and the preservation of the wisteria foliage that partially adorns the house's facade.
Swift has sought its recognition as a local landmark by the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission and the Beverly Hills City Council. Noah Furie, the vice chair of the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission said in a meeting that the house was "one of the great estates in this city" and that it was "very important to the history of the city". Furie said that they were "thrilled" that the present owner would "keep this house and spend the money to restore it because it's no small thing to do".
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- Berg, p. 246
- Beckie Strum (15 January 2017). "From Pop Star to Conservator: Taylor Swift's Quest to Landmark Beverly Hills Home". Mansion Global. Archived from the original on 7 July 2020.
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- Hilary De Vries (26 February 2004). "At Home with Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.; With an Epic Effort, the Scion Roars". New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
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- Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon. 1971. p. 490. ISBN 0160588634. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- Berg, p. 243
- E.J. Fleming (18 September 2015). Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours with Directions and the Full Story, 2d ed. McFarland. pp. 130–. ISBN 978-1-4766-1850-0.
- "Beverly Hills House Once Owned by Samuel Goldwyn Is Listing for $39 Million". Wall Street Journal. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
- Berg, A. Scott (2013). Goldwyn: A Biography. New York City: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4711-3006-9.
- Easton, Carol (2014). The Search for Sam Goldwyn. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-62674-132-4.
- Historical Assessment Report of 1200 Laurel Lane by Lamprect Loudon
- 2015 sale listing of 1200 Laurel Lane at realtor.com