Renowned Architectural Historian David Silverman Shares His Passion for LA House Histories
Uncovering the detailed narrative of LA’s architectural history, one legendary house at a time, is David Silverman. “It all began with my sister (celebrity chef and owner of Violet Bistro and Violet Cooking School in Westwood). She lived in a 1925 house in Holmby Hills. I was curious to find out who lived in her house prior to her. I thought it would be a fascinating project. 150 pages later, I had written my first book and I was hooked.” He traded in his cushy job as an entertainment lawyer to follow his passion for researching, writing and producing custom-made coffee table books and other commissioned projects, and launched LA House Histories, lahousehistories.com.
Snyder Diamond and our fellow members of the ICAA had the great pleasure of hosting an event for David Silverman to share his vast knowledge of LA House Histories over Zoom. The skilled author, architectural historian and storyteller has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter, et al. His captivating presentation covers the architecture and design elements as well as the famous inhabitants and how they lived there. Some, like Shirley Temple’s former home, have since been divided into many parcels while others have remained surprisingly in tact— right down to the original kitchen design. The presentation in its entirety follows a brief footnote written by David Silverman below.
It all started with Louis B. Mayer, MGM co-founder and head of Hollywood’s greatest studio for 27 years. He had two daughters, Edie and Irene, and it’s a fabulous coincidence that I was hired to write books about both of their former homes—Edie’s in Holmby Hills and Irene’s in Beverly Hills.
I finished a 250-page book about Irene’s home in January, and a 350-page book about Edie’s home is at the printer today. Researching both homes led me down countless rabbit holes. Edie and her husband, studio executive and producer Bill Goetz, bought their Holmby Hills estate in 1947. They hired legendary interior designer Billy Haines to redecorate the 1938 Georgian Revival house. He redid the interiors once designed by another former Hollywood studio employee, Harold Grieve, an art director and costume designer for silent movies before he turned to interior design.
I found a few photos of Grieve’s original work on the house, but I wanted to find more. I tracked down his former accountant, who had an Anaheim storage unit filled with boxes of Grieve’s photographs, drawings, and memorabilia. Among the hundreds of photos of interiors he designed for stars like Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby were 1940 color negatives of the house, as well as an elegant fabric-covered photo album of the Los Feliz convent that Katy Perry set out to purchase in 2014. Grieve designed the interiors of that 1927 estate, originally built as a home for Earle C. Anthony, who owned all of the Packard car dealerships in California. The Hollywood Reporter published many of these never-before-seen photos last year.
Edie’s Holmby Hills home was the epicenter of Hollywood social life for more than 20 years. I was granted access to her hostess notebooks, filled with the details of every party she hosted, listing the guests, food served and movie screened. "You can read the whole history of Hollywood just from my book of menus," she once said. In February I wrote an article for the Hollywood Reporter about Edie’s dinner parties. It included a never-before-published page from one of her notebooks—for a 1975 dinner party held in honor of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, where guests included Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, Gregory Peck, Norton Simon, the Bloomingdales, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and other Hollywood luminaries.
I was thrilled to share many of the fascinating images and stories that I uncovered of Edie’s and Irene’s homes. The Golden Age of Hollywood produced so many enduring movies and larger-than-life figures, and so many timeless homes.