This Spanish-style residence was built in 1927 by John Byers, a prolific L.A. architect, considered to be the leader or “master” of creating and popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style in Los Angeles. John Byers was the “go to” architect in the in the early 1900s. Byers designed and built dozens of homes in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Victorville and Palm Springs. This style of home is often said to be “The spirit of California.”
John Byers and his female partner, Edla Muir, were sought out to design homes for the Hollywood elite and many stars of the silver screen. Among his clients were Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, Shirley Temple, Joel McCrea, Laurence (Buster) Crabbe, and King Vidor. He went on to design Ray Bradbury’s house, a ranch house at the Getty in Malibu, and the Club House at Brentwood Country Club, where he was a member and an avid golfer. John Byers’ unique designs have been owned and/or occupied by many Hollywood stars and entertainment industry veterans like Bette Davis, TV Mogul Darren Star, John Barrymore, Tony Scott, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer and David E. Kelley, Dylan McDermott, Spencer Tracy, Walter Wanger, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, and Frank Sinatra. Many famous houseguests also could be found in homes built by Byers’ including —Sophia Loren, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Clark Gable. The Byers-designed Talmadge Beach house in Santa Monica was occupied by Cary Grant and Randolph Scott in the 1930s.
One of Byers’ important public buildings in Santa Monica is the Miles Playhouse. Designed in 1929, the Playhouse was the vision of J. Euclid Miles who wanted a memorial for his daughter, Mary A. Miles, and Miles bequeathed $25,000 to the City to fund the Playhouse. Mr. Byers was also responsible for building The Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica. Another of Byers’ public building is the office he designed and built, located at 246 26th Street. The building, a Santa Monica landmark, is currently a restaurant. He worked there with Edla Muir, also a self-taught architect. She worked for Byers for 11 years before getting her license and then becoming his partner in the firm.
Considered a designer of high-end single-family residential properties, he was also called upon to design owners’ residences for large ranches. Although uncredited among the “fathers” of the California Ranch style, Byers’ original designs represent an important transition from working ranches to a typical California style home. Byers designed ranch houses for Joel McCrae, James W. Johnson, Kemper Campbell, Harold Tuttle, Y. R. Del Valle, and Leigh French.
Byers combined elements of this style with features of Mexican- and Mediterranean-style architecture to design homes with adobe walls and decorative wood features. The curved red clay roof tiles and other tiles for these homes were made by his company, the John Byers Organization for the Design and Building of Latin Homes, which employed Mexican craftsmen who followed traditional hand-sculpting methods.
“Byers worked in the building traditions of Hispanic cultures, building in the Mexican Colonial the Spanish Colonial and the Monterey styles. When he couldn’t get the curved, clay roof tiles he needed for these buildings he established his own workshop and employed the traditional technique where workmen used their thighs as forms to shape the wet clay for the curved tile shape needed for rooftops. The workshop also produced decorative tile, wrought iron and woodwork.” – L.A. Times 1931.
In 2018, The Santa Monica Conservancy awarded Byers’ Bradbury Residence at 201 Ocean Way with the prestigious Presidents Award, which honors exemplary projects. Movie stars Greta Garbo and Bette Davis once lived in the house, and now is the home of Susan Disney Lord and Scott Lord and their family.
Byers died in Santa Monica at the age of 91 in 1966 in his home on La Mesa Drive, where he lived for nearly 30 years.
CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN & LOS ANGELES DISTRICT ATTORNEY, JOHN F. DOCKWEILER’S PERSONAL RESIDENCE
935 S. Dunsmuir Ave. was home to California Congressman and L.A. District Attorney John F. Dockweiler.
The Dockweiler’s, a pioneering Los Angeles family going back to the Gold Rush days, were well-established both socially and politically. Isidore Dockweiler, John’s father, helped secure California’s vote for Woodrow Wilson, who would become President of the United States. Dockweiler was held in high esteem and confidence by Wilson.
Two streets, Dockweiler Street and Dockweiler Place, are named after the family in Los Angeles. Isidore became aware of an effort to name a transportation arterial after him. Being humble, he did not like the idea. That street was eventually named Doheny Rd. now part of Beverly Hills, California.
By the early 1900s, the Dockweiler law firm was powerful in Los Angeles, eventually counting among its many clients John Paul Getty, Hollywood celebrities, the government of the Mexican state of Baja California, and such business corporations as Security-First National Bank.
The Dunsmuir Ave. homeowner, Mr. John Dockweiler, served three terms in the U.S. Congress, from 1933 to 1939, before winning the 1940 District Attorney’s race against incumbent Buron Fitts. Dockweiler unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California and was defeated by Frank Merriam.
Just a few months after the election, on August 16, 1940, Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel was arrested for the Hollywood murder of mob turncoat Ralph Greenberg. He was placed in L.A. County Jail, it is said local chefs prepared his meals, he had two telephones, and he was allowed unlimited visitors day or night. During trail, a key witness fell to his death from the window of his hotel room in what some papers called an “escape attempt.” On December 11, Dockweiler determined there was insufficient evidence and Siegel walked away free. The same day, famous newspaper columnist and author Florabel Muir uncovered a $50,000 contribution (around $750,000 today) from Siegel to Dockweiler.
A year later, Dockweiler was investigating allegations of police brutality in Los Angeles when he died suddenly of pneumonia in 1943 at the age of 47 in his downtown office. No one close to him knew he was ill.
Dockweiler’s wife continued to reside in the residence until some years later.
In January 1955, the City of Los Angeles named a 3.7 mile stretch of ocean frontage and 288 acres of beach after the family. The “Dockweiler State Beach” is located in Playa Del Rey and still used by the public today.