September 12, 2016

Photo Essay: Modernism in the Verdugo Woodlands

There's a subdivided residential tract in the northeast part of Glendale, just west of the 2 Freeway, called the Verdugo Woodlands—named after the Verdugo Mountains that loom above, as well as after the man who held the land grant for the 36,000-acre Rancho San Rafael, Jose Maria Verdugo.

There, you'll find Niodrara Drive—part of a newly-designated historic district that's comprised of over 30 single-family homes, all exemplifying a number of architectural styles spanning 50 years of development, from Spanish Colonial Revival and Prairie Foursquare to Modern. Nearly all of it was completed before the 1970s.

One of the modern examples—though surprisingly not very famous—is the Rudolph Schindler-designed Rodriguez House, built in 1941 for Jose Rodriguez, a musician, composer, and newspaper man who immigrated to LA from Guatemala. With his wife and son in tow, he moved into his new home the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Set back from Niodrara Drive, it afforded its residents some privacy—which was a good thing, since Rodriguez was prominent as a radio personality on KFI-KCEA and would occasionally have some famous friends over, like Igor Stravinsky and Salvador Dali.

But it was really never any secret that Jose, June, and David lived here.

The four-bedroom, four-bath residence is considered largely intact—and a stunning example of what Schindler could do on more than a shoestring budget.

Although many of the wood beams in the front had rotted out and needed to be replaced, the original stucco remains (of course, repainted).

The historic character of the Verdugo Woodlands and Niodrara Drive is evident here in the verdant landscape. A breezeway connects a small front garden to a larger, forested backyard.

And even when you're inside, there are large expanses of glass everywhere, giving you a view of the lush landscaping.

There was once even a sleeping porch, though it's no longer used.

From the cork floor tiles underfoot... the wooden rafters above...

...the 2400-square-foot Rodriguez House is innovative both in terms of form and function.

Original repoussée-style metalwork art (made of copper, and designed by June Rodriguez's sister, Margaret Giesler Buxton) line the walls.

The structure's "L" shape makes the gardens visible from just about anywhere inside of it—which is just one of the "extraordinary structural gymnastics" that the house is credited with.

And even the window frames are a feat of engineering.

The pool, unfortunately, is not original—located in the spot where a gazebo (also designed by Margaret Giesler Buxton) once stood.

The Rodriguez family lived here until they sold it the mid-1960s. It's changed hands a few times since then—usually to owners (including the current residents) who want to preserve its history and restore what they can.

Impressive architecture aside, perhaps the most shocking and unmistakable aspect of Niodrara Drive in the Verdugo Woodlands is the natural stream that once ran through it—which, with a little landscaping turned this quiet little neighborhood into a sought-after residential development, right out of a storybook.

Unfortunately, the stream dried up back in 1986. And its source has reportedly been plugged up—so even if there were any water, it would be diverted away from here. But the footbridges and creek channels and rock-lined pathways are a reminder of the water that once ran through here.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Schindler's Fitzpatrick-Leland House, Laurel Canyon
Photo Essay: Exploring Schindler at the MAK Center
Photo Essay: Music, Architecture, and the Rescue of the Heifetz Studio
Photo Essay: The Persistent Unfinishing of Hollyhock House

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