March 17, 2015

Photo Essay: Doheny's Other Mansion

You hear about the old Victorian mansions of LA, but you don't get to see many of them, unless you go trick-or-treatng in Angelino Heights or take a tour of Heritage Square Museum. Downtown LA's Bunker Hill was razed and leveled decades ago, the derelict homes cleared out for modern 20th Century development of the Music Center and the tall buildings of the "New Downtown."

But there's always West Adams.

The Doheny campus of Mount Saint Mary's University actually utilizes a lot of these historic old buildings, particularly along Chester Place... of the first gated communities in LA...

...conveniently located near USC and Agricultural Park (later to become Exposition Park).

Oil baron Edward L. Doheny was one of Chester Place's most prominent residents...

...having purchased the 22-room mansion at 8 Chester Place in 1901 and renovated it extensively over the next year...

...generating a lot of national attention and notoriety for the sprawling estate.

To ensure privacy for himself and his second wife Estelle, Doheny bought up a bunch of the other lots on Chester Place...

...but #8 will forever be known as "Doheny Mansion"...

...not to be confused with Greystone Mansion, the Beverly Hills property Edward Sr. gave to his son Edward Jr. and his wife...

...where Edward Jr. was shot and killed.

It's no wonder Doheny Mansion attracted so much attention: its style is so eclectic... can only be described as French Chateauesque influenced by a Romantic Revival of Gothic, Moorish, and California Mission elements.

It is a sight to behold from the outside, and even more intriguing inside.

The front entrance is flanked by two small booths – if this were a theater, they would be box offices – each housing mysterious switchplates.

Windows give a good view of the palm trees and lawn out front...

...while the interior decor of the Great Hall features cherubs, marble columns, and 18th century-style furniture... redesigned after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake by architect Walter Neff and designer Horace Mann.

This melange of styles – both new and borrowed – created a kind of West Coast version of the East Coast palaces occupied by established industrial barons.

This was their own Belle Epoque, a Gilded Age mansion for the likes of William Randolph Hearst and Cecil B. DeMille to visit.

The Doheny Mansion is now home to the Da Camera Society...

...whose "Chamber Music in Historic Sites" program brings classical music ensembles into buildings like this and the Bradbury Building for public performances.

The Pompeian Room is the perfect setting for such a concert...

...originally designed as an octagonal patio, and later converted into an enclosed room for entertainment.

The domed ceiling of the rotunda is made of golden-colored Tiffany glass, which, alongside the other adjacent art glass panels, actually (and miraculously) survived the Long Beach Earthquake.

The Pompeian Room is meant to convey, of course, Pompei, but also Rome, Tuscany, and even a bit of France. It feels like a palace and a theater and a church.

After all, why stick with one style, just for the sake of congruence? Why not pick and choose every element you like, and put them all together in organized chaos?

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Inside Greystone Mansion
Downtown LA's Upwards Build into the Open Air

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