First was the elegant Guasti Villa (Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens) at 3500 W. Adams, now serving as MSIA offices and retreat headquarters. The estate’s incredible gardens and labyrinth are regularly open to the public.
The second home to be restored recently by the MSIA was the 1912 Dr. Granville MacGowan Home at 3726 West Adams, which presently serves as MSIA offices, classrooms and residences and so is not generally available to the public.
On Oct. 3 the community is invited to tour a third restored residence – the “Mary A. Briggs home” next-door to the MacGowan mansion. (see ad) The MacGowan and Briggs homes relate architecturally and domestically. Originally built for MacGowan’s mother-in-law in the same year, the Briggs residence was designed and situated so that family members could easily move back and forth between the two residences within in a single unified ‘compound’. The MSIA purchased the two properties, which had been subdivided into separate parcels over time, in 2002 and 2009 respectively. The much larger and impressive MacGowan home took six years for the MSIA to restore, with the Briggs restoration just wrapping up in the next couple of months after two years of exacting work. Now the MSIA is reopening the home for an “after” tour (see ad) after which the Briggs residence will serve as housing for MSIA staff, and members and be closed to the public so don’t miss this rare opportunity!
The Briggs home follows along the lines of the larger MacGowan residence’s Alpine Craftsman style with Tudor Revival influences – both built within months of each other by the same architect per a unified plan. The two homes were designed by the celebrated firm Hudson & Munsell who were also responsible for the Guasti Villa, the Hall of Justice, the former Hall of Records, and what is now the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. As
part of the restoration project, the MSIA has broken down the intervening wall that went up in the mid-20th century between the two homes and has re-conjoined the two properties and grounds into their original configuration. Such estates consisting of two-related-households by the same architect in restored condition are extremely rare in Los Angeles, so the October tour is a special treat.
MSIA project manager Mark Lurie explains that the Briggs house needed everything – foundation work, new HVAC, floors and painting. In the words of the city housing inspector, the building was in really bad shape but had “good bones”. Few documentary photos exist to inform the restoration process. The MacGowan house proved some guidance but, as the master house, was designed with much more elaborate wood, tile and lighting features. At one point the Briggs home had become a women’s institution, and then was purchased by the Chang family in the 1960s for conversion to the Puritan religious university.
In restoring the Briggs residence, the MSIA applied many of the same techniques used in the MacGowan mansion, the latter having won a historic preservation award for the architect, Drisko Studio Architects with the late Martin Weil also advising on the project. The orientation of the two homes toward one another was reestablished with a central tile fountain resurrected and a loggia opened up. In touring the two homes on October 3rd, visitors will experience what would have been the original design of the family compound.
According to Lurie, the MSIA recognizes its responsibility to serve as a community resource for historic preservation. Lurie explains that during tours of the MacGowan, the MSIA staff have seen visitors down on their hands-and-knees, closely inspecting tile and molding, for techniques they can apply to their own restoration projects. The architects and contractors who worked on the Briggs restoration will be available on October 3rd for questions. Light refreshments will be served during this free tour.