Getty House, 1921

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Built in 1921 on a one-acre lot in what was then the outskirts of Los Angeles, the Getty House is a three storey brick house with fourteen rooms and 6,338 square feet. It was modeled after English manors by Jerry Alsobrook of Cannell and Chaffin.

At one time the house was owned by John Barrymore. White it is doubtful that Barrymore lived there very long. A reference to a "house in the Wilshire district" is made in Barrymore's biography Goodnight, Sweet Prince. Barrymore presumably sold the house in 1936.

J Paul Getty did not live in the house, nor did he ever personally own it. Getty Oil donated the house as a gift to the City to serve as the mayoral residence.

Getty was raised the home of his parents George and Sarah Getty. They lived in a house built in 1907 at Wilshire Boulevard and Kingsley, one of the first houses built in the Wilshire District west of Vermont Avenue. J Paul Getty lived there as well as in New York and Tulsa, Oklahoma, until the 1950s when he left the United States to oversee company operations in the Middle East and Europe. His California residence was in Malibu, near the present location of the J Paul Getty Museum.

During the 1930s, Getty interests began acquiring properties in the vicinity of what is now the mayoral residence. The house, one of the last properties acquired, was purchased by Tidewater Oil Company, a predecessor company of Getty Oil, in 1956 when it began planning and construction of a headquarters building at the corner of Wilshire and Crenshaw. Tidewater moved its headquarters from San Francisco into this building in 1958. Tidewater merged into Getty Oil in 1967.

The company leased the house to tenants until 1975 when representatives of the Committee to Secure a Mayor's Residence approached Getty about the possibility of donating a property to the City of Los Angeles.

The gift was accepted by the City in 1977 and was named in memory of George F Getty II, who was J Paul Getty's eldest son. George F Getty II was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Getty Oil Company at the time of his death in 1973 and was formerly president of Tidewater.

The exterior color is taken from the warm pink beige tones of the slate roof. The half timbers and trim are painted in brown. The basic color scheme of the downstairs is celadon with apricot accents taken from the Oriental style rugs of the dining room and library/study. English and American traditional furnishings were chosen for the downstairs room with accessories in Chinese porcelains and oriental bronze lamps. The furniture designs are all reproductions of antiques. The top floor is entirely comprised of a playroom for children.

Several paintings in the house are on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In the living room, they include a Gainsborough; a view of old City Hall; a portrait of a lady; and a small landscape. On the upper stairway landing, a tapestry needlepoint of George Washington, made in 1881 by Rosalie Hirschinger when she was 15 years old, is from the permanent collection of the City Municipal Art Gallery.

EntryIn the entry hall, the wood was glazed with umber over a painted trim for an antique character. A 19th century grandfather clock stands in the hall and the other furnishings are Chippendale, Sheraton and Queen Anne reproductions. A Chinese silk rug is used as a wall hanging on the high staircase wall, with a large mirror to add drama and proper scale. In the alcove into the dining room a small walnut secretary desk "gives a pleasant surprise and an extra convenience to the hostess."
Dining RoomLike the entry and library, the dining room oak wainscot was painted and glazed for an antique character, blending with the parchment wall color. The drapery chintz of the dining room and living room was selected to blend with the oriental-style rug. The hardwood floors are stained a tobacco color. The dining table and sideboard are English Sheraton. The table opens t seat twelve. The dining chairs are walnut Chippendale. A tall lacquered Vitrine shows extra accessories which include a "fish set" and old silver serving pieces. A silver coffee urn, circa 1830, an a silver punch bowl, a wine cooler and a silver tea service were selected as accessories for the dining room. The dining China selected for Getty House is a Limoges type Bernadoud "Conde" pattern. A set of St Dunstan Flatware completes the dining table service. There are English silver candlesticks with American Hurricane lamp chimneys. The brass chandelier is Georgian style with small shades to permit good light without glare. The watercolor painting of a California barn against an overcast sky is by Emil Koss.
Living RoomThe living room was designed to seat a number of people comfortably. There are two sofas in the quilted chintz of the drapery, a Sheraton sofa against one wall, a wing chair, plus pull up chairs for a card group. The large chest of drawers is a "block front" style made famous by the Philadelphia cabinetmaker Goddard. The Grand Piano has its original finish. The breakfront shows a collection of Oriental ceramic celadons, all collector's items, from the 18th century, which is the theme for the lamps throughout the downstairs.
Library / Study

The fabrics used in the library/study were keyed to the Oriental style rug. All were chosen for the character of the room. The large tufted sofa, the wing chairs, and the "camel back" loveseat are reproductions. The oak paneling has a hand carved Shakespeare quotation from King Henry VIII, Act III Scene II:

This is the state of man. Today he puts forth tender leaves of hopes. Tomorrow blossoms and bares his blushing honors thick upon him. The third day comes a frost and nips his root and then he falls.

The Roman shades are simple an un-intrusive. A television has been placed in the side closet along with stereo controls. The painting over the Tudor-arched fireplace is of an "English gentleman of great style." Above the wainscot is a frieze design glazed to blend in with the finish.

Breakfast RoomAccording to the designer, the breakfast room was the perfect room for wallpaper. He chose a botanical style pattern paper for a country house feeling. The rug is compatible with the green and mauve tones. The lacquered green chairs harmonize with the walls and floor covering. The walnut dining table which seats six has a parquet top. It will accommodate dinner guests when used in cinjuctjon with the dining room. The lighting fixture is brass with white glass shade. The Roman style window treatment helps conserve space yet give privacy.
Game RoomThe basement contains a paneled game room and bar with a sealed wine cellar. The room has hand carved caricatures. They allegedly represent the favorite acrivities of Getty House's prior inhabitant John Barrymore: performing, yachting, tennis, golf, etc. Behind the house is a tennis court built in 1928; gardens; a reflecting pond; and a garden house and barbeque area.