In 1936, Laurel Canyon didn’t have the same caché as it does today. Celebrity hotspot Pace wasn’t open for dinner yet. It would be decades before Joni Mitchell and a Mama and a Papa moved into the woodsy canyon and started making music there.
It needed a little promotion to get people to move up into the hills above Hollywood.
Developer Clifton Fitzpatrick commissioned a house to be built on Woodrow Wilson Drive, just off of Mulholland, to try to attract prospective home buyers up the hill.
Modernist master architect Rudolph M. Schindler was selected to design the house, which was his only spec home—built specifically for a developer rather than for someone who planned to live in it.
The house was eventually sold to singer/actress/comedienne (and USO favorite) Martha Raye, better known in the ’70s and ’80s a the Polident spokeswoman.
The Fitzpatrick-Leland House is a three-level, L-shaped residence in the International style…
…but to the layman, it might look a bit like a Jenga puzzle or a stack of Tetris pieces.
The house has no permanent resident now…
…but it has been rented out for short-term stays in the past…
…and was occupied by local businessman Russ Leland from 1990 to 2005.
Over the course of 10 years, Leland restored the house to Schindler’s original vision, after inappropriate renovations had rendered it practically unrecognizable.
Leland and his team removed the sheetrock that covered windows and the plaster that obscured a fireplace, and they strengthened the foundation, among other improvements.
In 2008, Leland was ready to move on to another historic and architecturally significant home, so he donated his Fitzpatrick House to the MAK Center, making it their third Schindler acquisition.
Since then, the MAK Center has utilized the relatively large house as a special events venue…
…and has hosted a variety of art exhibits and installations there.
On the day of my visit, there were musicians playing in every room, in tandem—a pianist, a guitarist, a percussionist (with a gong), others twiddling knobs and pressing buttons, and someone doing something with a reel-to-reel machine.
But I wasn’t that interested in the inside.
The outside is all angles and levels and terraces and shadows and trees and plants and planks…
…which I found far more intriguing than the relatively plain interior.
This house has been described as one of the less “funky” houses in Schindler’s portfolio…
…but those clean lines on the inside of the house do one very important thing:
…they direct your eyes to the outside.
Wherever you go inside the Fitzpatrick-Leland house, there is light and oxygen and trees and life.
And when you’re inside, you can’t help but look out.
All photos by the author.