Monday, January 21, 2008

The Singleton Residence

SELLER: The Singleton Family
LOCATION: Delfern Drive, Bel Air, CA
PRICE: $85,000,000
SIZE: 15,520 square feet, 10 bedrooms, 11.5 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: A remarkable opportunity to acquire one of the great classic estates in prime Holmby Hills. This historic compound is offered for the first time, this home is one of the last designed by Wallace Neff. It features over 7 acres, on 3 parcels of gated grounds, which include rolling lawns, lush gardens, tennis court, pool & massive motor court, plus additional parking. Grand entryway, high ceilings, over-sized doors, incredible moldings/details thruout.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Another of Los Angeles' most important estates has hit the market with a blistering $85,000,000 price tag. No puppies, Your Mama did not hit the wrong numbers on the keyboard...it's eighty five million damn clams. Lawhd children, someone get Your Mama a nerve pill and some Maalox because numbers that big make us nervous, dizzy and a wee bit queasy. The sky-high asking price of the Holmby Hills estate will ensure plenty of press and chatter by all the real estate gossips who get goose pimples when a legendary estate like this goes on the block. According to property records, the estate is owned by Miz Caroline Singleton in trust for the Singleton Family.

Who might the Singleton family be and why do they have so much moolah the children are surely asking? Mister Henry Singleton, now deceased and may he rest in peace, was a co-founder of electronics juggernaut Teledyne. A hush falls over the land. Anyone who knows anything about the history of Los Angeles knows what Teledyne is and the huge impact it has had on the science and military industries, not to mention being one of the first companies to successfully develop semiconductors, an itty bitty electronics product that has become a mainstay of modern electronic life and made many men more money than the damn Pope. Mister Henry Singleton, who met his widget maker in 1999, owned several (if not many) patents on technologies Your Mama is simply not scientifically sophisticated enough to understand...things having to do with gyroscopes, degaussing, and precision platforms. If you're interested in that sort of thing, Google him. Or better yet, Blackle him.

Your Mama may not know much about science or the economics of military contracts, but what we do know is that the tournament chess playing Mister Singleton was considered both an electronics genius and a master biznessman who earned himself mountains of money that he used to become one of the largest landowners in the good ol' U.S. of A. It is said the Singleton family owns approximately 1.5% of the state of New Mexico. Think about that for a moment children. Seriously, think about that. The Singleton family holdings reportedly include vast tracts of desert around Roswell, New Mexico where the U.S. government is rumored to test all sorts of scary and top secret military equipment and where many believe many of the visiting ships from outer space like to land.

The architecturally minded children may also recognize the Singleton name because in 1959 Mister Singleton commissioned modernist icon Richard Neutra to design a contemporary confection for him at 15000 Mulholland Drive. The resulting "Singleton House," now owned and controversially renovated by hair honcho Vidal Sassoon, currently languishes on the market with an eye popping $19,995,000 asking price (reduced from and even more eye popping $25,000,000).

In the late 1960s, after Mister and Missus Singleton tired of their glass walled architectural folly and they commissioned noted Los Angeles architect Wallace Neff to design a large and lavish Holmby Hills homestead. The three parcel, seven acre estate sits just north of Sunset Boulevard on the corner of of N. Faring Road and Delfern Drive, arguably one of the finest and most expensive areas in all of Los Angeles. A high class Bev Hills real estate agent that Your Mama spoke with, a ladee well acquainted with 8-figure properties, told us that the Singleton estate "is the best property out there." She went on to breathlessly report that five of the 7 acres are flat, and that the land is "worth 10 an acre." So bring on the billionaires, the Saudi sheiks and the Russian oligarchs, because you gotta be filthy, stinking rich to even think about looking at this property.

According to listing information provided to Your Mama by Our Fairy Godmother in Bel Air, the Southern Colonial style house measures in at a huge 15,520 square feet with 10 bedrooms and 11.5 bathrooms. With at least 25 rooms, four fireplaces and 12 terlits this is not a house that someone should even think about owning unless they are comfortable with having a few dusting gurls and terlit scrubbing hunks around 24/7. And that's not even taking into account landscaping bills so staggeringly large they would probably bankrupt the average American.

The expansive grounds include a behemoth motor court that listing information says can park 20 cars, a monstrous brick terrace that stretches across the back of the house and overlooks more manicured lawn than most people could afford to keep green, planted gardens, a tennis court tucked way and mostly out of sight from the main house, and a swimming pool that looks like it could use a little updating.

Here's the thing kids. Your Mama believes our well connected ladee real estate agent who tells us the house should sell for well over $50,000,000 because the land alone is worth that. And we're quite sure the Mister Wallace Neff did a stellar job on the architectural detailing. However, Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter would never want to live in a big ol' house that looks like a galleria mall in Dallas with a Tiananmen Square sized parking lot out front. Good thing we're not shopping for $85,000,000 houses then, right?

The Singlet

47 comments:

caveman said...

good story, wonder if anyone has lived there in recent years.
a tour inside would be cool.

pch said...

I was wondering when this might hit the market. Interesting that the Singletons' Neutra-designed house on Mulholland is also for sale (or was recently).

Especially at the price it'll go for -- the land alone is worth a mint -- I'd be torn about saving the Neff house, which came late in his career and is sort of a heavy-handed version of a house at 515 S. Mapleton he'd built decades earlier for Joan Bennett. It's a good design, but not even close to his best, and I've always though the entry facade seemed uncomfortably scrunched under the heavy cornice of the gallery. Maybe you can blame it on the '70s, but I doubt Paul Williams would have let that slide. Glad its preservation won't be my call to make.

I believe they filled in the canyon behind the house to get that vast, flat expanse of lawn -- so there might be some engineering issues to address if it's subdivided for construction.

Flora said...

The roof is a good start, but the rest is a big dissapointment. The orders front and back are utterly inept and reveal zero understanding of classical proportions. The rear facade is especially awful; the giant order is clumsy, the columns lack the capitals they should have, but at least they do have some entasis. If you are going to do classical features like this, you really should get it right, or leave it alone.
I shudder at those flanking black bows. Why, why, why? Match them to the rest of the facade now, please.
The grounds I will not quarrel with. The lawn, pond, tennis court, and pool are all well sited, and I know the acreage is unusually generous, meaning it does have a reasonable amount of garden for the size of house on it. I just hope the interior is incredible for that price tag.

Anonymous said...

What a fugly house. Would it have killed them to invest a relative paltry sum in some curb appeal updating when they're listing it at a top of the market and beyond asking price? Even just a fresh coat of paint and changing the color on those black??? bay windows would make a 1000% improvement.

Anonymous said...

Love Wallace Neff but this place is far from one of his best ... Even if it's bought just for the land, what developer is going to build some huge new estate given the amount of huge new estates on the market at the moment? ... I think it will be on the market for quite a while ...

bentley said...

It strikes me as a very sad house. It feels oppressive just to look at, and I like Neff designs.

Why would you put the pool so close to the house? Going for a dip with that place looming over you in shadow? Build it smack in the sun, with a beautiful cabana and some brollies here and there, I say.

Alessandra said...

I also love Wallace Neff but am certain that this isn't his best effort. However, even when he's not awesome, he's a damn sight better than 99% of the residential architects today. I'd keep the home, flaws and all. Seven acres of prime Holmby Hills is wickedly tempting as well.

sandpiper said...

Hi Bentley,

I don't find it appealing either. An architectural photographer would take the shots in two trips; am and pm for obvious reasons. I don't thnk we're getting the graphic experience a property like this desereves. These pics look like amature title company work that say "tear dow" rather than "buy me." IMHO.

HACKSTER said...

The photographs are awful, and certainly not representative of an $85,000,000 listing. Guess the agents figured they better cut down on expenses because the estate is only offering a 1% total commission to the selling broker, which we would reason to assume that the total commission is 2%. Yes, it is a wickedly expensive property, but if someone pays $85,000,000 for it, 5% should gladly be thrown around.

Bigdaddyj said...

Though some of the exterior elements are questionable (those weird black rounded bay windows?!?), I do think the house is nicely in proportion with the gigantic lot it sits on, though maybe a bit too close to the road for my taste (maybe something to do with the said possible engineering problems with the lot?)...however, that being said, I'd be in favor of an extensive remodel versus a teardown, because while 15,000-sqft on 7 acres might be huge, it's much more aesthetically pleasing than the number of garish 20,000+ sq ft stucco monstrosities that might pop-up on the property if the place is torn down and (even worse) subdivided....but I'm sadly gonna put a 95% chance on a teardown and subdivision happening.

pch said...

444 N Faring, just to the north, is also for sale at $19.75 million. I think Mama wrote about it a few weeks ago -- owned by Abbe Lane. If you're blowing this kind of cash, might as well snap that up, too.

lil' gay boy said...

And to think the Singletons left a stunningly beautiful Neutra home for this?!?

Sure, it may be a Neff, but an undistinguished one; perhaps the sore spots we're seeing are the accretion of bad add-ons over the years, and that the original house had more graceful accoutrement. I do so love a Neff home and would hate to see this as little more than an $85M tear down to be filled with the latest in vulgarity.

The gardens alone are worth preserving, but since this is one of Neff's last designs, and because of its somewhat awkward proportions (the dark and creepy entry loggia and those universally disliked black bay windows), I doubt it has the pedigree to turn it into an arboretum, conference center or public park, nor whether the location would allow for such a conversion.

Perhaps some fan of Neff will buy it with an eye toward preserving its past while updating it for the 21st century; that rotunda alone is worth making the effort; kind of reminds me of the one in Reversal of Fortune, although that was actually shot in "Knole," the former Duryea residence.

bentley said...

The former Von Bulow home - upon which "Reversal of Fortune" is based - is just down the street from my summer home in Newport. While Clarendon Court doesn't have a rotunda, it is one of the most stunning homes I have ever been in. Knole is a true classic, though. Both homes - and the grounds on which they sit - are much more inspired than this one.

Anonymous said...

For that number this place is a dump.

lil' gay boy said...

Bentley, when they were shooting Reversal of Fortune they didn't consider Clarendon Court (a truly lovely home in its own right) "grand" enough (not to mention the tacky factor of filming at the scene of the "crime"), so they came to Long Island to film it at Knole, a home that has remained in private hands since it was built by Carrere & Hastings in 1903 for the Duryeas, who in turn sold it to Bradley & Helen Phipps Martin in 1910.

Local lore claimed it was in the hands of the Mafia for many years, although truth be told, it remained in the Bradley Martin family until it went on the market a few years back for a ridiculously low sum at the time, considering the acreage and numerous outbuildings (but then taxes in Old Westbury are astronomical).

nobody said...

hey lil gay boy, have you thought of starting your own blog? you have a lot to say and seem to now a little something about some things. you should have a go at it. i'd read it.

pch said...

The closest comp I can think of -- acreage-wise and in Holmby Hills -- is the trio of properties on S Carolwood that were joined into a single estate. If I remember properly, it listed at something like $65 million. Anyone know what it sold for?

I agree that Clarendon is swell. Ditto for Beechwood, a few doors up, which is on the market for a relatively paltry $18 million. Of course it's probably protected nine ways to Sunday so no discussions about whether to tear it down...and you'd feel like a heel changing the interiors, even though Mrs Astor was a silly snob.

Sandpiper said...

PCH,
How long ago was S Carolwood back on market? I see activity in 2003 for $30MM, then off the radar.

fairfield girl said...

I know nothing of the California market but I have gotta say if I ever had that much money I don't think this would be the property for me. It looks like something out of an Italian Mafia movie or one of those horror films. I think I would spruce up the home before I placed it on the market for this price tag acreage or not. It just screams 70' fix me up I'm ran down. The tragedy in this would be it since they didn't fix it up this some what unique property will probably be lost to another subdivision.

lil' gay boy said...

PCH, Clarendon Court, Beechwood, Marble House, The Breakers, etc. - there's barely a sour note among the bunch on and around Bellevue Avenue in Newport. Even Doris Duke's forbidding Rough Point has a certain gothic charm, added to by the scandal of the close friend she ran down outside its gates.

Oh, the stories these old houses could tell; anybody know anything noteworthy about this Singleton Manse?

"Nobody", if I had the time I might consider my own blog, but I certainly wouldn't want to compete with our beloved Mama! Oh, the shame and iniquity!" But thanks for the compliment; I used to do design work for a family construction firm but it was my dear Nana's friendship with Betsey Whitney that spawned a lifelong love affair with these old houses.

Viva! said...

Guess what's about to get subdivided?

lil' gay boy said...

Spill the beans, Viva - what? What's about to be subdivided?

Old Hag in a house said...

No,no NEVER!Get off my property.

Anonymous said...

little boy drops the names but does not know...

Anonymous said...

you know nothing about doris. she was a good woman.

pch said...

Sandpiper -- 2003 sounds about right -- and your figure is close to this info I found this at a bio page for someone called Drew Mandile: "Another notable achievement with partner Brooke Knapp was the self-sale of Owlwood and adjoining estates of South Carolwood Drive. Combined to create a ten-acre estate, the $35 million record sale also included the former Jane Mansfield estate, built in 1928 by Rudee Vallee, and its neighbor, the first home in Holmby Hills built by the Janss brothers developers and designed by Gordon Kaufmann." What a bargain, especially if the true sale price were the $30 million figure you found. I could swear it was advertised at more than double that.

LGB, almost nothing as pleasantly surreal as a stroll along the Cliff Walk...and, boy, do you draw the haters out of the woodwork.

7:32, I've read many posts from LGB on the topic of old houses -- this is the first time I can recall his mentioning a personal connection. And honestly, if he were trying to impress everyone by dropping the name of some grand person he didn't actually know, he wouldn't be offering Betsey Whitney -- of all people -- and certainly not in the context of a friendship with his " dear Nana."

7:50, maybe the same commenter as 7:32? I don't think LGB implied Doris Duke wasn't a good woman -- just that a gruesome incident at her front gate adds to the gothic vibe of Rough Point.

Staging lady with a Toyota said...

I,m waiting for the call.I'm thinking Restoration Hardware budget at least,right?

H7 said...

I was a student at westlake school for girls (down the street) in 1969 when they were building this house. it was very very grand, they brought in the trees in HUGE crates.

sandpiper said...

PCH. I can only address what I found. I respect Mama's regard for avoiding steet numbers, or else I would have freely shared these details.

lil' gay boy said...

Thanks, PCH - it's nice to know someone "gets" me. Tell us more about Owlwood; it's always fascinated me.

And no, I never thought poor Doris Duke was anything other than a lonely, confused and ultimately tragic figure, from the time her stepmother left the windows open in the bitter cold in their Manhattan mansion to let her husband, Doris' beloved father, freeze to death; to her ultimate seclusion by a disloyal chauffeur who bilked her of millions.

As for the tragedy outside of Rough Point, although she did quarrel with her confidante that day, the coroner ruled the incident was an accident, as it very well may have been (Doris was a notoriously poor driver).

And finally, as for "name dropping," Betsey and my Nana belonged to the same garden club and that's it; she was gracious enough to host their meetings at Greentree, and my Nana would tell me wonderful stories of this beautiful Dutch Colonial on 400+ acres in Manhasset (270 Community Drive for you Google Earthers).

As a member of the New York State Preservation League, I was once invited to a luncheon on the estate - by this time Betsey was in poor health and, although the official hostess, didn't not attend, leaving those duties to Emil, the head butler. After a 15 minute walk to the Palm Conservatory/Greenhouse where the pet alligators were kept, we were invited to tour the first floor of the main house; in a small hallway between the living room and the library hung Van Gogh's self portrait (the one with the ear), almost as an afterthought.

One of my fondest memories, and it was only when I got home did I discover that the film in my camera had broken, and I was left with only one sole picture of the entry court.

No public photos exist of the interior, to my knowledge, and one can only find aerial photographs of the estate. I used to work in an office building that backed up to a corner of the property, and had the great good fortune of a view of it from my office window.

Anonymous said...

And my famiy's home was frequented by Einstein. Your point is?

lil' gay boy said...

Oops, that's 200 Community Drive, Manhasset, NY - not 270 (my bad!)

Anon 9:22 - tell us about Albert and his antics. Would love to hear some . . .

pch said...

It's all good, Sandpiper. I'm sure the sale you see is the one -- there are only three houses on the street (a small cul-de-sac between the Los Angeles Country Club and Sunset Boulevard) and it's been closed off to the public since the buyer took possession of all three...in effect, S Carolwood no longer exists.

LGB, beyond the fact that Owlwood was owned at some point by Tony Curtis, then Sonny and Cher (when it was published by AD), I can't offer much more than to say the Italian influence on its architecture is a lot more Pasadena/San Marino than Holmby Hills/Beverly Hills. In other words, it's better than the Westside norm.

Also, I dig it when someone puts an important piece of art in an unexpected or unlikely place, a la the Whitney Van Gogh. Great story.

Anonymous said...

PCH & Sandpiper,

If memory serves, Owlwood and the third house (I never knew it was a Gordon B. Kaufmann, only heard it was once owned by Ester Williams) had already been combined into one compund prior to the most recent sale.

Engelbert Humperdinck was the seller of the "Pink Palace", the former home of Jane Mansfield (also Mama Cass, Ringo Starr and others).

I seem to remember the Owlwood compound being listed for 40m and the Pink Palace for 5-6m. They actually advertised them as "buy both and get the city to let you close the street". The Pink Palace and Ester Williams house have both been torn down to make a larger "lawn" for Owlwood. I heard (not sure if true)the buyer was the president of Ameriquest.

pch said...

Hey 10:34 -- I can remember how weird it was to drive around the bend on Sunset and not see the big pink house anymore.

I have way too much time on my hands when I can sit around and google this shit, but I did find this notation in a Telegraph (UK newspaper) article from January, 2001: "Sothebys is selling Owlwood, a six-bedroom Tuscan-style mansion for around £29 million." Exchange rate back then wasn't so terrible, so an asking price maybe in the $50 million range?

And it sounds like you were on the right track about two of the three being already attached -- an estate manager reports at his blog that 141 S Carolwood (Owlwood) and 10060 Sunset (the Esther Williams house) were combined in 1982, the latter house demolished in 2002, and both properties sold in 2003. This might be the $30 million figure Sandpiper found. Plus whatever Humperdinck got for the pink palace, like you suggest.

I don't know why I'm stuck on the $65 million figure as an asking price for everything -- sounds like I'm wrong. Or maybe they floated it momentarily and then re-listed for the lower sum you remember.

lil' gay boy said...

Chilruns, for whom was Owlwood originally built?

bentley said...

LGB - I didn't realize that Clarendon Court was ever considered as the shooting location for the movie. I sincerely doubt the Randall's (as art dealers/friends of the von Auersperg children and the guy who bought the hose off them) would have allowed it anyway.

True, CC is not as grand as many Bellevue Ave. estates, but to quote one old Newport bag (old guard, howdoyoudo sort of thing), "Sunny von Bulow took the most boring house in Newport and turned it into a masterpiece." It was.

I love Horace Trumbauer's work. The staircase in CC alone is swoon worthy.

Unfortunately you can't see the house from Cliff Walk. Sunny's obsession with privacy led her to have the section of Cliff Walk that leads past the house built under their lawn! Like PCH's comment about old Hollywood, the Astor's, Vanerbilt's and Duke's didn't feel the need for such tactics.

Doris was a wretched driver, and had the hugest station wagon! She always brought the Llama's in out of the rain, though. A very sweet person... Despise her house, though.

Babe Parish said...

Haunted, haunted haunted!

Anonymous said...

LGB,

Not sure who the original owner was but the house was designed by Robert Farquhar and built in 1936. By the 40's it was owned by Joseph Schenck (United Artists, 20th Century Fox, one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences).

Bigdaddyj said...

As long as we're dropping our names and pedigree, my mother briefly owned the former John Lennon estate in Palm Beach in the late 1980's, lol...

Anonymous said...

I used to park my car in the same zip code as Cher.

Anonymous said...

Bentley, isn't it a crime what they did to Whitemarsh Hall, Trumbauer's estate for the Stotesbury family?

Now that was one FANTASTIC estate!

It's now covered with pseudo saltboxes and wretched contemporaries.

lil' gay boy said...

Anon 9:49, thanks for the info!

Bentley, Whitemarsh Hall was my post to you.

bentley said...

LGB - Whitemarsh Hall... Love it, except for the columns, although they do fit the scale and proportion of the house beautifully. I just don't like columns.

Do you know where I can find interior pics of Knole?

Cheers,
b

lil" gay boy said...

Bentley, since it's been in the Bradley family for over 100 years, few if any photos are available of the interior, save for those used in movies.

This site:
http://www.ligoldcoast.com/index.html
Has links to some other Long Island Gold Coast mansions, although there isn't even an exterior view of Knole on it.

House and its 36 acres were sold to a developer in 2004 for $11M (taxes are $139,000/yr.) He hopes to subdivide it and hopefully will not tear it down as the zoning is for 4 acres in this area.

Still, to crowd this treasure onto 4 acres is a crime, but better than a tear down.

Anonymous said...

I hope they keep the mural.

J. P. said...

This is for all the idiots with the negative comments. You don't know what you're talking about. This is the ultimate Mansion! HUUUUGE! Music room. Library. 10 Bedrooms, all with master baths. Marble floors. French doors. Chandeliers. Fountain. Winding staircase. Tennis court. Swimming pool (got plenty of sun) Pillars. Verandas. Balconies. Giant back yard with a Koi fish pond. Servants quarters. Greenhouse. The WORKS! They just don't make 'em like this anymore. CLASSIC! I've been there. I stayed there many, many times when I was a kid in High School. I was in a band with one of the sons and was lucky enough to stay there almost every weekend. It was like being a rock star without being famous. When you're behind those gates, truly a secluded PARADISE! Made the Beverly Hillbillies pad look like a guest house! Someone needs to buy and preserve this place! Where's the Donald when we need him? J.P.