When you step into the soaring entry hall illuminated by light from colorful leaded glass windows and an ornate Moorish chandelier, you can almost imagine the laughter bubbling up from the speakeasy downstairs, or the intimate whispers of lovers stealing a few furtive moments in the coat check room.
Wander a little further, however, and reality sets in: threadbare carpet, peeling linoleum, haphazardly divided rooms and the feeling of a dowager property past its prime. This place obviously hasn’t been the scene of a sparkling Hollywood party in a very long time.
Designed in the early 1920s by one of the most esteemed and in-demand architects of the day, Paul Williams, one of its earliest residents was music magnate and Los Angeles philanthropist Benjamin Platt, who owned it in its early days, when its Los Feliz neighborhood was one of Los Angeles’ swankiest — especially the lovely, shaded street of Vermont, which today leads to the famous Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory.
C.C. Julian is another one of the home’s more notorious owners. In the late 1920s, the flamboyant oil man threw lavish parties there for the Hollywood elite and L.A. business barons of the day. He eventually swindled them out of $150 million in one of the nation’s earliest Ponzi schemes, the famous Julian Petroleum Scandal.
But for the past six decades, 2600 North Vermont was owned by a Catholic missionary society that used it as a sort of way station for missionaries. Needless to say, keeping the property in luxe condition wasn’t their priority.
They converted the grand ballroom into a chapel, and placed a statue of the Virgin Mary atop the colorful tile fountain in the front of the mansion. In order to accommodate missionaries and clergy, the guest, servant and owner’s wings have mostly been divided into oddly shaped bedrooms — some with sinks and inexpensive vanities installed in a corner, and all with faded and worn flooring that looks like it hasn’t been replaced in decades.
Most of the fixtures and appliances are strikingly utilitarian, a stark contrast to the home’s former grandeur, achieved through meticulous design.
You could also say that they paved paradise to put up a parking lot: The front and sides of the house are dominated by blacktop, white striped with parking spaces, that can accommodate up to 30 cars.
But you can still get a feel for the residence’s original beauty and meticulous design from the intricately carved fireplaces, moldings, stonework and detailed ceilings and woodwork, some of which have been restored.
You can also catch glimpses of the home’s former life in the arresting colored bathroom and kitchen tile, much of which has been left intact.
And the fascinating speakeasy and wine cellar (discreetly designed into the home when it was built during the Prohibition era so that inspectors might miss them when exploring the house)? They were relatively untouched, with the original wine racks, taps and kegs, but of course, being untouched means they have fallen into disrepair.
The Catholic order was originally focused on proselytizing in Asia, and many of their missionaries came through Los Angeles, where they had to wait some time for the proverbial slow boat to China. Housing them all in hotels became costly, so devoted patrons helped them acquire the storied mansion.
Nowadays, the order’s numbers have dwindled and aged, and there are direct flights to all corners of the globe, so a large property like this one is no longer essential or practical for their purposes. The order listed it in September at about $5.5 million, then reduced the price by half a million in November. The property entered contract in early December – and a couple of weeks later, the Christmastime sale closed at $4,250,914.
The property has 14 bedrooms and eight baths in 10,039 square feet of space. Lush hedges and mature foliage hide its courtyards from the prying eyes of tourists.
“2600 Vermont is a piece of Los Angeles history and essentially a very valuable piece of art that needs to be restored to its original quality,” listing agent David Solomon told Yahoo Real Estate before the sale went through. “I’d hate to see this house torn down, and I highly doubt anyone would even consider it.”
Yahoo Real Estate is trying to learn the buyer’s identity and plans, but Solomon speculated about the “endless” possibilities when we spoke to him earlier:
“I could see a celebrity living there, a family, a bachelor or bachelorette, someone who works in the entertainment industry and wants a home production or music studio, a high-end rehab facility, and maybe even a preschool or boutique hotel/bed and breakfast, if zoning permits.”
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