Friday, September 24, 2010

Let's Talk About Paul Allen...Again, Shall We?

Even though Your Mama spent two days and way too much time discussing and poring over the residential property holdings of multi-billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, it seems that we managed to miss at least three very significant pieces of his vast real estate puzzle.

The previously discussed Beverly Hills estate and the gleaming new beach house on Carbon Beach in Malibu are not, as it turns out the only residential real estate holdings in southern California that take up space in Mister Allen's porcine property portfolio.

In 1997 Mister Allen dumped $20,000,000 on The Enchanted Hill, a near mythic estate perched along a ridge at the tippy-top of Angelo Drive above Benedict Canyon. Much to the chagrin and anger of just about everyone, Mister Allen razed the legendary Wallace Neff designed house (above) that was built in the early 1920s for prolific screenwriter actress Frances Marion and her silent screen star husband Fred Thomson.

The original estate contained about 24 acres and included a sprawling Spanish Colonial style main house, horse stables with mahogany floors, a riding ring or two, tennis court, swimming pool, and acres of formal gardens. Miz Marion and Mister Thomson dubbed the estate The Enchanted Hill, a name that became a bit of an inside joke between two-time Oscar winner Miz Marion and her media mogul boss William Randolph Heart who named his colossal castle confection in San Simeon, CA the same name only in español: La Cuesta Encantada.

In 1929, not long after Mister Thomson stepped on a rusty nail and died of the tetanus, the estate as sold for $540,000 to Texas oil and mining magnate Lejeune Barnes. Paul Kollsman, who made a fortune from his invention of altimeters, barometers and other instruments and doo-dads used in flying airplanes, purchased the property 1945. Over the years that Mister Kollsman and his wife Baroness Julie Dorothea Baronin von Bodenhausen owned the property it ballooned to about 120 acres.

Mister Kollman went to meet the great inventor in the sky in 1982 and his widow, that would be Baroness Julie Dorothea Baronin von Bodenhausen, sold the property in 1997 to our man Paul Allen. Your Mama read somewhere–we no longer recall where–that Mister Allen spent some effort and money revitalizing the residence. Whatever the case, by 2000 the somewhat eccentric Mister Allen decided to tear the Wallace Neff beehawtcha down to make way for, according to one of Your Mama's better connected sources, a steroidal 50,000 square foot mansion.

Not surprisingly, Mister Allen's decision to bull doze all that was beloved up on The Enchanted Hill worked the nerves and the fired up the wrath of architectural buffs and historians. Yes puppies, it was and is his property to do with as he pleases. None the less, in Your Mama's humble and utterly meaningless opinion it was a crying damn shame for Mister Allen to tear down the rambling, multi-winged mansion that defined a particular sort of California architectural dream.
Making matters worse is that Mister Allen–perhaps as a result of his architectural vilification or perhaps due to a case of The Real Estate Fickle–has done little but clear the property, improve the road that winds through the hilltops and canyons and connects Angelo Drive to Benedict Canyon Drive, terrace a few hillsides, and clear what appear to be a number of potential home sites.

We are, it could probably go without saying, thrilled that Mister Allen has not proceeded to build a hotel-sized house but it's devastating to think he got rid of something so extraordinary for what, 10 years later, seems like no reason at all. That said, better that he razed The Enchanted Hill and did nothing with the property than developed it into a gated enclave of monster mansions that would probably appear as ornate pimples on an otherwise unspoiled terrain.

There are many online references that make it no secret that in 1993 Mister Allen bought a former sheep ranching operation outside of Tetonia, ID known as Teton Ridge Ranch. The 4,000+ acre spread located on the rugged western flank of the Grand Teton National Park near Yellowstone and Jackson Hole is, as far as Your Mama is concerned, pretty much the middle of freaking nowhere near the border of Idaho and Wyoming.

For many years after Mister Allen purchased Teton Ridge Ranch, it was operated as an exclusive resort style property with 10,000 square foot luxury lodge and just five suites each kitted out with wood burning stove, spa, and private porch. Guest could choose from indoor activities such as eating, drinking, reading and playing pool on an antique billiard table or they could head out of doors where options included hiking, horse riding, and mountain biking trails as well as fishing and skiing. As of March of 2009, according to the answering machine that picks up the phone at the ranch, Teton Ridge Ranch is no longer open to the public. Presumably Mister Allen wants free and unfettered access to the ranch without those pesky vacationers hanging about.
The property records for Teton Ridge Ranch in Idaho lead Your Mama's wandering eye to the Big Island of Hawai'i where records and online sources reveal that Mister Allen owns an historic Hawaiian hideaway behind the gates of an exclusive oceanfront community in Kailua-Kona, HI. Although they have been somewhat scrubbed clean, public property records indicate that Mister Allen shelled out $7,500,000 to scoop up what is (or was) known as the Thurston Estate in Kailua-Kona, HI.

Whatever he may have paid for the place and when might not be entirely clear, what does not seem to be in question, according to a June 30, 2009 hearing transcript of the Leeward Planning Commission in the County of Hawai'i, is that Mister Allen owns and occupies the 10+ acre former Thurston Estate.

Thanks to materials sent to Your Mama by the ever intrepid and resourceful Lil' Gay BOy, we've learned that the Thurston Estate was formerly owned by Lorrin P. Thurston, former owner and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser and the one-time Chairman of the Hawai'i Statehood Commission. Mr. Thurston, a direct descendant of missionaries Asa and Lucy Thurston who arrived on the shores of Hawai'i in 1820 to inform all the natives they were a sinful lot and going straight to hell without a handbasket if they didn't quickly repent and convert to Christianity, purchased the property in the 1930s and spent the next 50 years building and landscaping the magnificent property.

At the time Mister Thurston owned the property it was called Lanihau-iki which translates, according to an old Kona Properties brochure, as "The place where the forces of heavens and and of the earth meet and all is quiet and peaceful." Your Mama, who does not have a tongue for the languages marvels at how such a extensive description comes out of one hyphenated and not very word. Sometimes these rich folks like to put their own stamp and name on their properties and Your Mama does not know if Mister Allen has maintained the Lanihau-iki moniker.

Prior to the property being purchased by Mister Allen there was, in addition to the long and low 12,000 square foot main house, an employee residence, garage space, a beach house, a boat shed and boat launch that dropped watercraft into the amoebic private boat harbor. A short bridge connects the grounds to a small island that sits in the wee harbor. At the ocean's edge are a couple of tiny private beaches, dramatic lava outcroppings, and several tide pools. Lo-werd hunnies, this island wonderland makes that place in Kailua-Kona that Cher built and sold at auction in late 2009 look like a damn dump.

In addition to cataloging–or attempting to catalog–the full extent of Mister Allen's residential property portfolio we also discussed some of his toys such as his airplanes and his yachts, the jaw dropping 414-foot Octopus and the 301-foot Tatoosh which Mister Allen currently has up for sale with a price tag of about $163,000,000. As it turns out Mister Allen owns–or owned until recently–a third yacht, a 199-foot long sea-mansion called Méduse, equipped with a helicopter, movie theater, and a recording studio. There are reports from 2005 that indicate that Mister Allen wanted to sell the boat for $52,500,0000, but it's unclear if the big boat was indeed sold or remains in Mister Allen's armada of floating mega-mansions.

photo (The Enchanted Hill, top): Wikimapia
photo (The Enchanted Hill, bottom): Bing
photo (Teton Ridge Ranch): Robb Report
photo (Kona Kailua): Bing


Grrrowler said...

There was a rumor that Paul gave or sold Méduse to his sister Jody a few years back. I don't have any proof of that but it was the scuttlebutt on the docks for a while. If it's true it would be the same thing that he did with his previous yacht, Charade (which has since been sold out of the family):

lil' gay boy said...

Oooo, Mama, I'm quite impressed! As usual, you have done your homework.

The Enchanted Hill was recently discussed over at Zach's site, Old Long Island:

"According to Houses of Los Angeles, Vol. II, Francis Marion & Fred Thompson had difficulty at first acquiring the land in 1921 from Thomson's former classmate Alphonzo E, Bell, who told them, "I am sorry you became and actor Fred, but I've made it a law –– not one acre of my land is to be sold to actors or Jews."

Yikes. Apparently at the time, the sentiment towards the two were synonymous.

Apparently Alphonzo eventually relented (for additional cash, no doubt), because by 1924 Marion & Thomson had accumulated 24 acres & after their first architect left for Mexico he handed the project to Neff. Stables, service buildings & landscaping were done first, including a waterfall used to cool the horses in the riding ring. Additional amenities included an aviary, tennis court, pond & four car garage.

In December 1928, while they were walking the property admiring the carpet of city lights below, Thomson stepped on a rusty nail & subsequently died (on Christmas Day) of misdiagnosed tetanus. Francis Marion, heartbroken, sold the home soon after for $540,000 to Texas oil magnate "Lejeune" Barnes."

We may never know why Allen demolished The Enchanted Hill prior to the never-to-be-commenced construction of his behemoth; surely security for the site would have been cheaper than demolition.

Unlike Nick Cage, it seems unlikely that Mr. Allen will ever run out of funds; as the premier monopoly in the world today, I seriously doubt Microsoft will ever run dry of funds ––– a cash cow that will keep on giving long after homo sapiens have vanished from the earth, and all that's left standing will be Microsoft & non-biodegradable plastic.

Anonymous said...

Does flitting amongst all his houses and yachts take his mind off his cancer? If so, perhaps they serve a purpose.

Anonymous said...

I think it's about time to raise the maximium tax rate back up to 91% as it was after WW-II until Ronnie decided the rich weren't rich enough.

TwentyFiveFifty said...

Paul Allen doesn't work for Microsoft, nor has he since 2000. He still owns a lot of their stock, and sells it off regularly.

lil' gay boy said...

"Lil' Gay Bay?"

Thanks for the cred, Mama; at least you didn't make me a gelding...


Anonymous said...

I realize now that i had always mistaken the massive new house much lower on Angelo as being Paul Allen's. Anyone know what/who is building that one?

Visible from Beverly Glen on the right as you drive north the first mile from sunset on a huge promontory (with just unreal retaining walls.) It's hard to tell without a reference, but it seems like it could be 40k SF or larger, and while it is contemporary style, it's vaguely buisness-y as well - but what business/school could possibly make sense up there?

Unknown said...

The Baroness died in 1951. Mr. Kollsman's next wife (or perhaps there were more) Eva was the widow who sold the property.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information! I've looked at the Enchanted Hill many times on Google Maps. I've wonderered what it was but until now I never knew anything about it. Enjoy your weekend and sent my regards to the Doctor.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, Eva, the Black Widow who succeeded Kollsman was exactly that. Not that it did her much good...she died the miserable, wretched life of a consumate alcoholic user and abuser. Strange the similarities in some ways of Allen and Kollsman.

Anonymous said...

Glad I could help with the Teton Ridge Ranch property. It really is an amazing place, and yes it really is pretty far from everything. That is what makes it so special...

Superyachtfan said...

Paul Allen has owned Meduse since new. It was his first large (>50 meters) yacht. I have toured her: she has a large cinema, the upper saloon can be transformed in a recording studio and she has helicopter landing facilities (like all his yachts.

(Can somebody teach me how to insert a link..... :) )

aunt mary said...

Despite the old canard, it seems that you really can be too rich.

Anonymous said...

Beware of Black Widows Paul, there is some strange karma attached to The Enchanted Hill.

Anonymous said...

Considering how rich he is, his life is depressing.
I can't forgive destroying a piece of history, especially for no damn reason at all.
He is lost, buying mega mansions and yachts all over the place that he will never have any hope of every enjoying them all.

I have always said it is better to be rich enough that you can get most of what you want but still have some hunger than be obscenely wealthy to the point where you can buy everything and are just bored.

Carla Ridge said...

Anonymous on 9/24 at 1:30 -- sorry I'm arriving at the soiree just as they're clearing the dessert dishes! I'm wondering if you don't mean the Michael Maltzan-designed residence for Michael Ovitz. It's the first house in the area fitting that description comes to mind, though it's way down Benedict Canyon (1200 block) rather than up at the summit of Angelo.

While I'm at it, I'd like to borrow some o' Mama's head-smackin' incredulity thunder about Mssr. Allen tearing down a treasured residence, basically, for no reaason, to remind the children that some one else did the very same thing to nearby Falcon's Lair...former residence of Rudolph Valentino and later Doris Duke. Who ARE these people who have this ego-need to just... destroy? Why don't they just salt the earth, while they're at it?

My secret word today, btw -- is: 'canon'. with no tilde, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that he purchased an island near SEATTLE that used to have a summer camp. After he purchased the island he kicked the kids out.

Anonymous said...

I live off Benedict Canyon and always thought that the massive house on top of the hill just east of Allen's residence was in fact Allen's residence. The address is 1420 Davies is a monstrosity that looms over Benedict with it's massive retaining walls...anyone have a clue as to who lives there?


Anonymous said...

The whole Enchanted Hill story is fascinating. If anyone wants to see a little more of the house, there is an episode of Columbo called Double shock (1973) which is largely filmed there, (interiors and exteriors). It seems that there was some interior alteration during the 60's and 70's however it's still quite wonderful. Interesting also that currently despite the almost complete obliteration of the property, one can still see the old entrance to the stables and a small part of the retaining wall to Fred's riding arena, as well as what looks like some remaining blue tiles where the swimming pool was and some of the front courtyard wall. Do I sound obsessed?

Anonymous said...

Check out an old episode of Columbo called Double Shock (1973) - its largely filmed at the Enchanted Hill Estate - (inside and out)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:13

lil' gay boy said...

Anon 9:49, isn't Igor's new neighbor the dubious Dr. Phil? I thought I recognized that hot mess...

Jeannified said...

Horse stables with mahogony floors?! Talk about opulent! I can't believe Mr. Allen razed the place, and just left it that way. So sad that he tore down such a beautiful and historic home!

Yes...too much money and nothing to do.

Thanks too, to "'Lil Gay Boy." Always love to read your posts as well. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Carla Ridge. The property I am talking about is here:

(the house on the promontory just to the lower left of the search address.)

It's seems like it's been in progress at least 5 years at this point and looks close to being finished.

Anonymous said...

Devastation of places like Enchanted Hill will continue in BH because "NO AUTHENTIC HISTORIC PRESERVATION IS WANTED". The city only wants the $$$ and think that if they deter the mindless nouveau riche and their faux palaces crowding out everything, they won't benefit. Even their Historic Commission is a sham as well as the Architectural Advisory Board. Folks continue to occupy these positions as they find it an easy way to troll for potential clients. The Doheny property Greystone is also under the egis of Parks & Rec who have like minded members feathering their own nests without any real credentials let alone concept of Historic Preservation and quality projects. Incredulous logic!

The Right Reverand Buelah Franklin said...

If you want to know what god thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to - Lily Tomlin (I Think)

Anonymous said...

The wasteful destruction of Enchanted Hill SICKENS me. It has been written that Frances Marion sold the house with many treasures and furnishings she had obtained during her early days as a successful writer of silent films, keeping only the items she and Fred bought during their travels together. I’ve often wondered what happed to the furnishings of the home - were they bulldozed or salvaged? The thought of the tiles on the exterior of the home with Fred and Frances' coat of arms being pulverized makes me want to cry (or scream) with frustration. Might anyone out there know? (And thank you for your updates on this topic...)

Rosco Mare said...

To Anonymous 8:55

The newly-widowed Frances sold the house at the right time, just before the Great Depression. She moved to a large house on Selma between Laurel Canyon and Fairfax. This house also was demolished, but you can see vintage photos of it in Architectural Digest. I read her biography a few years ago. Very interesting woman who had a long, prosperous career.

Before it was demolished, some friends trespassed at Enchanted Hill while hiking in the hills,and they were amazed by its inherent beauty eventhough it had been vacant for a long time. (They didn't go inside.) I would have joined them, but I didn't get the call in time.

Anonymous said...

It's truly amazing how garbled the facts have become reading the comments above. Francis Marion was the highest paid screen writer, bar none, for over forty years. Fred Thomson was truly a Renaissance man. World class athlete, Princeton graduate, slide rule mind. He invented many of the Western movie tricks mathematically with an actual slide rule. All of the decorative elements were imported from Spain. Fred Kollsman embellished the estate with shopping expeditions to Schoenbrun Palace after WWII. Eighteenth century woodwork predominating. Although the previous comments on Mr. Bell’s grotesque response to the Thomson’s property purchase inquiry are correct. They build the estate in Beverly Hills, not Bel Air specifically because of Bell’s response. Bell, incidentally, changed his tune after the depression struck. The beauty of the estate was truly breathtaking. I lived at the property for over a month after the previous lessee had moved out (George Harrison) & although the main house was over 10,000 square feet it was extremely livable. Grand without feeling like one was living at Union Station. The furnishings were still those of Mr. Kollsman & his first wife, the Baroness. She died very young of cancer. She was very beautiful & tried her hand acting as Lulee Destee. Almost all of the comments missed the point. People attracted to Beverly Hills are, for the most part, new money. No knowledge of, or interest in, history. Other prospective purchasers of the estate (prior to Mr. Allen) all expressed that they would tear down the main house, with the exception of the Count of Venice. Old money builds or buys in Bel Air or Hombly Hills. Flashy (dare one say vulgar) new money in Beverly Hills. Read "Without Lying Down" by Cari Beauchamp or "More Than A Cowboy" by Edgar M. Wyatt if you really want to know more about this truly remarkable couple

Anonymous said...

I was shocked when I read that Mr Allen demolished “The Enchanted Hill” after purchasing it for over $16 million dollars. What a missed opportunity for Mr Allen to leave a legacy of fantastical early 20 century southern Californian architecture to future generations.
I believe that the property was vacant for a number of years on two occasions during its 70+ year life time. Apparently Mr Barns walked away from the property shortly after he and his wife purchased it from Francis Marion for about $540,000 in early 1929. Like many business men he lost his fortune after “the great crash”
Then after Mr Kollsmans passing it stood vacant again for a number of years before Mr Allen bought it from the Kollsman estate.
I’m guessing that the property was fairly well protected during its vacant years, otherwise it could have experienced the same fate as another fine example of the fantastic properties build on the back of the booming Film Industry:- The Garden Court Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard done to death by the ‘underclass’ in the late 70’s.
Anyway, if you want to see “The Enchanted Hill” in all its glory, purchase a copy of Columbo episode “Identity Crisis” Great footage of the Long driveway leading up from Angelo, the court yard, the swimming pool, the Thomson / Kollsman study, the main living room and a great Birdseye view from a helicopter of the Main house and court yard with a glimpse of what was in Fred & Francis’s time The Stable Hands quarters (a substantial property in itself)
For further reading on this gifted couple as another poster advised: Without lying down by Cari Beauchamp, More Than a Cowboy by E M Wyatt, both books are available for purchase on the internet at very reasonable prices.
“Off with their Heads” by the lady herself. This book is very expensive to purchase on the internet, however I loaned a copy from the British Public Library system. Probably not available for loan from interested parties on your side of the pond.

Chris Brown.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....Very interesting comments from everyone regarding the Enchanted Hill property. I am intrigued and interested to know who would call Eva a black widow...and why, since Paul had long since been widowed when they married?
The property was indeed cared for, while it was vacant, by a caretaker that lived on the property. The property was always looked after, always loved and Eva was too heart-broken to return once Paul passed away.
Those who are drawing conclusions on rumors or supposition, well... ?? What I know, I know first hand. You??

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you are unaware of the facts however cleverly they were disguised. I speak from the very closest confidants of Kollsman, one of whom was with him since Oyster Bay days and was
summarily silenced by Eva
but not forever. The truth still lives beyond the unquiet graves.

Anonymous said...

A Rembrance for Enchanted Hill and the brilliant Kollsman
Saturday Feb. 22 1:30pm Will Rogers Beverly Hills Memorial Park. Two gems. And the reality. Example:
The American Paul Kollsman, ..."he spent some time in England at the Basingstoke plant, which was running up to full production in 1938-39, 24 hours a day, in preparation for the coming war" ...designing aeronautical instruments for the entire Commonwealth Royal Air Force, USArmy Ari Corp and every Link Trainer for almost 100% of all pilots including all Candian pilots!
He was sharp to buy Enchanted Hill. Sad the second widow, evil wife Eva, did knock him dead.
Ask Angela Lansbury she knows!