Paul Williams House To Be Moved


A Los Angeles prep school sold the Morris Landau House for $1, and its new owners will move it to nearby Pasadena in six months.

Credit: Ann-Marie Villicana

Instead of being demolished, a Paul Revere Williams-designed house in Los Angeles will soon be saved by its relocation to Pasadena.

The 69-year-old house, built for South African merchant Morris Landau, faced an uncertain future when its owner, preparatory school Harvard-Westlake, decided to expand and modernize its Los Angeles campus.

"We tried as best we could to incorporate the house, but the rooms are fairly small," says John Amato, the school's assistant headmaster. "They weren't at all conducive to classroom space."

After the English country-style structure is hacked into 24 pieces, it will be moved by its new owners, Ann-Marie Villicana and her husband, Robin Salzer, who heard about the house's plight and asked the school if they could buy it. They are "very excited" about their $1 purchase of the house, Villicana says. The school will donate $800,000 to $900,000 toward the structure's relocation, and the couple will spend another $1 to $2 million.

Best known as an "architect to the stars," Williams' clientele included Lucille Ball, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra. As one of the first African American architects, his race was a barrier, however. When he built the Morris Landau House in 1936, for example, he was not permitted to live in the wealthy Holmby Hills neighborhood himself.

While happy the house won't be bulldozed, some preservationists think the prep school could have worked harder to find a use for the house on campus. "Relocation is preferable to full demolition but should always be treated as a last resort," says Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues at the Los Angeles Conservancy.

The 10,000-square-foot house is scheduled to be moved in six months. Villicana, a Pasadena real-estate broker with prior experience in moving buildings, is confident about the house's 20-mile journey. "We're very optimistic everything will move smoothly," Villicana says.

After the change of address, reconstruction will begin. Villicana expects it will be a year and half to two years before she and her husband can move in. Ironically, Pasadena's only Williams house burned down shortly after the purchase of the Morris Landau House. So instead of giving Pasadena its second Williams home, they "will be bringing the number back up to par," Villicana says.

The school is also pleased with the house's future. "It's a perfect solution," Amato says. "We wanted it to be a residence since it was built as a residence."

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.