Westchester Place, in the historic and centrally
located Country Club Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, was built in 1948, designed by Ralph A. Vaughn at almost the half-way mark in the architect’s long and remarkable life. As
a devoted “Modernist,” Vaughn had the courage—and willing clients in Dr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Griffin—to
design a house stripped of every architectural detail that would identify it as a rendition of either a period piece or another
“fantasy” design mimicking Hollywood’s exotic movie stage sets. If there is any deference to
a predecessor, it would be to the art deco movement.
The surviving blueprints for the home
suggest one major indecisiveness by the clients in that there are two versions, a single story as well as the two-story which
was ultimately built. Unfortunately, we don’t know the economic context within which the home was
designed, whether costs were an issue at any time, but, eventually the 2-story version was chosen. (*See below for further and most probable explanation.) The other details between the two sets of drawings
seem merely to resolve practical solutions, such as placing of a stairway to the staff’s bedroom, the addition
of a soffit, etc.
The residence has had only two owners and there appears to be no
significant physical changes in the home. It was designed as a mini-estate, with two separate living areas,
the formal residence in front which looked out to the “play pavilion” in the rear. Even the
play pavilion was to be 2-stories in one drawing but that was eventually changed to a single story.
for the late 40’s, had the sophisticated, up-scale features of a very modern home. Its interior looking
to the rear with walls of glass, open patios and its assumption of sunny Southern California weather throughout the
year. It had an indoor reflecting “pool” stretching from the living room fireplace to a complementary
pool on the patio.
On the second floor there are four bedrooms, the largest bedroom
being for Mrs. Griffin, which has its own balcony, and a smaller bedroom for Dr. Griffin. There is also
a bedroom and bath for a staff member, reached by a separate stairway. The original sitting room off the
stair landing has been enclosed as a separate bedroom. The “sleeping porch” appears not to have ever been open
The first floor includes a circular powder room, a bedroom/convertible den with bath,
a formal dining room, large living room and a game alcove with a sunken planting area. Three of the social
areas are tied together by a sinuous soffit with recessed neon lighting, reminiscent of the upper-scale public areas in commercial
projects in which Vaughn participated.
The fireplace mantle is of special interest because Vaughn shows
an attention to detail by combining the mantle and one side of the very modern mantle with an abrupt cut-off, finished by
a single column of stacked brick.
The play pavilion is a large, spacious entertainment center which includes its own barbecuing fireplace, wet bar, three-quarter bath and built-in
The new owners of 1212 Westchester Place are
buying a very special residence, with important ties to the history of both the modernist movement in Los Angeles and the
achievements of a multi-talented African-American architect.
*One explanation for the dual plans is suggested in Merry Ovnick's book Los Angeles: The End of the Rainbow. She writes, "...if one
were viewing Los Angeles in 1948, one would have to consider the role of government regulation. Regulations on price,
size, financing, permits, and materials curbed expression. They channeled building toward small houses and apartment
houses. They limited price and size...They favored stylistic references to historic traditions." So, Vaughn
and his clients may have had the smaller, one-story version ready just in case they couldn't get the larger, two-story
version approved. Note, also, even their "modernism" was going against the bureaucratic grain favoring "historic
Information is provided as
a convenience but not guaranteed. Buyers must verify.