If the walls of Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House could talk they’d thank Xorin Balbes for saving them and possibly solve a famous murder mystery.
4 bd / 5 ba
The home was built for artist John Sowden and his wife on a 14,000 square foot lot on Franklin Avenue. The Sowdens were “artsy Hollywood folks who liked to party, and Lloyd Wright, who had spent a year or so designing sets for Paramount Studios, indulged their desire for the theatrical.”
Wright designed this iconic Mayan style masterpiece using the same textile block technique his father, Frank Lloyd Wright, used for the Hollyhock House built nearby in Barnsdall Park.
While the home is hailed as Wright’s most significant work and has even earned Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status it is rumored to have some disturbing skeletons in the closet.
In 1945, Dr. George Hodel purchased this architectural treasure and lived in the home with his family for many years. Like the Sowdens, he enjoyed the glamorous life and threw over the top parties fueled by sex and drugs.
After his death, Hodel’s son, a retired LAPD detective, implicated his father in the famous unsolved murder mystery of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. His son believed his father was a sadistic murderer and tortured and mutilated this dark haired beauty in the basement.
But not for some.
An architecturally significant home, in need of a make over, with a sordid mysterious past was just what high end house flipper Xorin Balbes was looking for. He purchased the home in 2001 for $1,200,000 and spent close to $1.6 million restoring and remodeling the space to create a modern day sanctuary.
In restoring the Sowden house, Balbes honored Lloyd Wright’s intention to merge architecture, space and landscape. The stonework was restored. The bedroom count was reduced to 4 and bathrooms were updated. Balbes also combined rooms to accommodate a large eat-in kitchen and added a pool and spa to the central courtyard.
After spending a decade living in this Wright designed residence Balbes put his home on the market in 2011. After several months and a price reduction he sold it for $3,850,000. Its been on and off the market since 2013 and is longing for a new owner.
SEE THIS HOME
schedule a personal tour by email or call 323-829-4440
Listing courtesy of Troy Gregory – Douglas Elliman