1930s Streamline Moderne designed by William Kesling safe from demolition—for now

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A fine example of Streamline Moderne architecture in Fairfax has won at least a temporary reprieve from demolition.

The Los Angeles cultural heritage commission voted Wednesday to consider an application for the Martel Avenue home designed by architect William Kesling. City rules bar significant alterations—including demolition—while the application is under consideration.

The house’s owner, developer Ilan Gorodezki, filed plans late last year to build 17 condominiums on the site of the house and four adjacent rent-controlled apartments. On Wednesday, he and his wife, Linda Flloko, told the commission that they no longer had plans to demolish the house.

The house at 947 Martel Avenue was built in 1936. Historian Charles J. Fisher and Steven Luftman, who submitted the historic-cultural landmark application, told the commission the residence was one of only 15 known remaining Streamline Moderne properties designed by Kesling, who was considered a master of style that celebrated the ocean liners, planes, and trains of the 1930s by incorporating curves, portholes, and chrome. He used it on a number of apartment complexes in the city.

The Fairfax house was built for Wallace Beery, an actor and avid flyer who asked Kesling to design something that would “encompass the concept of flight,” Fisher said. Beery owned the property for less than a year.

The dwelling retains many of its original features, including a water feature, bathroom tile and fixtures, and the dining area, which still has its original built-in table and chairs.

Flloko told the commission Wednesday that while she and her husband did not entirely oppose the nomination, they did “strongly oppose” a designation that leaned heavily on the house’s connection to Beery. “Any relationship to Beery is fleeting at best and insignificant,” Flloko said.

Gorodezki echoed the sentiment, adding that “any association [of the house with Beery] is just to ban any development—but at this point, we’re not doing any development, regardless.”

The Beery connection might not be all that important, said commissioner Barry Milofsky.

“I think the strength of the Streamline Moderne and the strength of Kesling as an architect are the primary reasons I think we should be taking this building under consideration.”

The Beery house’s architectural heft has been noticed before. City staff working with the Survey LA historic resources survey in 2015 identified the house as a potentially historic site and eligible for city and national monument status because of its architectural style and its connection to Kesling.

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