House of the Day: A Lloyd Wright Temple in Tinseltown


By Erika Riggs

While architect Frank Lloyd Wright dominated the Midwest with his groundbreaking design, his son, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. -- or simply Lloyd Wright -- made his mark on architecture in Southern California.

While Lloyd Wright's homes are architecturally significant, many are culturally significant as well and housed some of the biggest up-and-coming stars from the early days on the silver screen. One of Lloyd Wright's most significant properties is his Samuel-Novarro house, currently listed on the Hollywood Hills real estate market for $4.195 million. Not only is it the former home of silent film star Ramon Novarro, but has been owned by current-day stars as well.

Like Lloyd Wright's Sowden house, the Samuel-Novarro residence is a contemporary design with blocky Mayan influences and tropical gardens.

Wright built the home in 1928 for Louis Samuel, Novarro's personal secretary and companion. However, when Novarro discovered that Samuel was embezzling funds from him in 1929, he told Samuel that he wouldn't press charges if Samuel "made it right." To make up for the financial losses, Samuel turned over his Lloyd Wright property to Novarro.

Born in Mexico, Novarro emigrated to the U.S. as a child and began in film as a dancer. After starring in a few movies, he gained national fame with his role in "Ben-Hur" and then "Mata-Hari" alongside Greta Garbo.

Upon acquiring the estate, Novarro rehired Wright to renovate and enlarge the hillside home, adding a pergola, music room, and a bedroom suite.

According to the Big Orange Landmark blog, Novarro owned the home up until the 1930s. In the 1940s, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Betty Comden and Adolph Green rented the home while working on the Broadway musical "On the Town."

The property then had several owners, including record producer John Carter. Actress Diane Keaton picked up the home in the early 1990s and hired celebrity designer Josh Schweitzer to remodel it. Keaton sold it a decade later.

Christina Ricci bought the property in 2005 but sold it the following year for $2,827,528.

According to the property listing, its current owner has meticulously restored the residence to its former glory. The historic three-bedroom, three-bathroom home has concrete floors and dramatic windows and skylights. Part of the property's allure is its exotic grounds, which include a partially covered pool, bamboo-lined sitting area and jasmine-covered walkway.

The Hollywood Hills neighborhood has long been a celebrity enclave -- including such recent stars as Matthew Perry and Ryan Reynolds. The median value of a Hollywood Hills home is currently $976,700.

The listing is held by Marisa Zanuck of Hilton & Hyland.

According to Zillow's mortgage calculator, a monthly payment on the Lloyd Wright Samuel-Novarro house is $15,852, assuming a 20 percent down payment on a 30-year-mortgage.

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