Owner of Lloyd Wright House Seeks Demo Permit
By Lauren Walser | Online Only | July 9, 2010
In a coastal Southern California town, an iconic house faces demolition.
When Mark and Barbara Paullin purchased a five-bedroom, oceanfront Moore House in 2004, they planned to tear it down and build their dream house on the site. But their plans caused an outcry among local preservationists and architecture enthusiasts.
Perched above Malaga Cove in affluent Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., the house was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, for Dr. and Mrs. Louis Moore in the 1950s. As the story goes, Dr. Moore pointed to a neighbor's house and told Wright, "I don't want a big square house like that one." And so Wright designed something truly unique.
The house features dramatically angled roof overhangs, expansive windows overlooking the water, and walls made of stone from a local quarry. The house stands today as a prime example of Wright's post-war residential work. And it stands out conspicuously on the street otherwise lined by sprawling Mediterranean-style houses.
The Paullins first approached the city with their plans for the Moore House last year, but the proposal was rejected because the house plans were too large and would obstruct neighbors' views.
The Los Angeles Conservancy heard about the proposal to raze the house and sprung to action, urging its members to write letters to city officials in hopes of stymieing demolition. More than 300 letters were sent to the city.
"People don't want to see the teardown trend continue," says Mike Buhler, director of advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy, who believes losing the house will "diminish our collective cultural heritage."
Palos Verdes Estates does not have a preservation ordinance. Because there is no official record of the city's historic resources, the house was not designated historically significant when the Paullins purchased it.
In response to the outpouring of letters, the city of Palos Verdes Estates mandated a study of the house. An outside consultant hired for the task indicated that the Moore House was potentially historically significant, but the full environmental impact report is still being prepared. This report will determine the actual significance of the house and the potential impact of its demolition or alteration.
A determination of significance will not necessarily block the demolition, but it will be a factor for the city's planning committee to consider when making its final decision on the house's fate, according to Allan Rigg, the city's director of planning.
But preservationists are still fighting for the home's survival.
"To lose or do unsympathetic alterations or remodeling to the house would do a great disservice to the community of Palos Verdes," wrote the architect's son, Eric Lloyd Wright, in a letter to the city. "There are so few examples of great 20th-century architecture such as the Moore House in the United States that it would be a shame to alter or lose it."
Not everyone is on the side of preserving the home, however. Some neighbors have sided with Paullin, calling the house a "laughing stock" and an "embarrassment" in a recent Los Angeles Times article and subsequent letters to the editor.
"I'm sorry to create all this controversy, but it seems unfair that I would be asked to preserve the home at my cost for everyone else's benefit," Mark Paullin told the Daily Breeze, the local newspaper serving his community. (Paullin could not be reached for comment.)
Buhler counters, "If we lose this house, we would be losing something irreplaceable."
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