Could this landmark Los Feliz house be the site of the Black Dahlia murder?
Former LAPD detective Steve Hodel certainly thinks so.
Although we will probably never know for sure, one thing is certain. Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House on Franklin Avenue is on the most unique and distinctive properties in a town that’s famous for flamboyant architecture.
In the heady bohemian days of 1920s Los Angeles, the affluent wanted homes that reflected their grand individuality. And lucky for them, Los Angeles was home base to many of Modernism’s great architects.
One of the more striking examples was the home John Snowden commissioned from Lloyd Wright. Borrowing heavily from his father, Lloyd Wright built a faux Mayan temple that would certainly be worthy of a Hollywood movie set.
Dr. George Hodel bought the property in 1945 and lived there with his family until 1950. Dr. Hodel led a highly unconventional and controversial lifestyle. His son, Steve Hodel, described their family life in is book, Black Dahlia Avenger, in which he also identifies his father as the Black Dahlia killer. After a series of lurid scandals, including the Elizabeth Short murder, Dr. Hodel left America for Asia.
The Sowden House then passed through a number of ownerships and like many architectural monuments, fell into a state of neglect and disrepair.
Designer Xorin Balbes acquired the property in 2001 and began a massive renovation project. Balbes not only restored the property but made a number of changes aimed at contemporary taste.
The kitchen was opened a refurbished with steel finishes. The proscenium theater at the rear of the atrium was replaced with a master suite and a small pool replaced the bubbling fountain.
Preservationists, of course, hated the changes and Balbes was roundly criticized for his work.
But perhaps thanks to Balbes, the Sowden House has become a popular Hollywood location appearing in reality tv shows and notably, Martin Scorcese’s Hugh Hefner bio-pic, The Aviator.
The Sowden House is currently offered for sale at $4,799,000.
Listing and photos courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty and Troy Gregory.