Pop star Taylor Swift has turned five Beverly Hills public officials into adoring fans—and their love has nothing to do with music.
Ms. Swift, who bought the family estate of iconic Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn for $25 million a year ago, is going to great lengths to have the property restored to its original 1934 condition. Her architects are painstakingly rehabbing the main house’s oversized windows, replicating wooden fencing from nearly a century ago and even reconstructing columns at the pool cabana.
On Wednesday, the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission’s five members voted enthusiastically in favor of Ms. Swift’s request to turn her new digs into a local landmark for its connection to Goldwyn. Now, the Beverly Hills City Council will vote to finalize the historic designation at an upcoming, yet unscheduled, meeting.
Judging by the gushing approval by the Heritage Commission, it appears that the pop singer-turned-conservator is likely to get her way.
“This is one of the great estates in this city, and it’s very important to the history of the city. And I’m thrilled that whoever the owner is, they’ve found it important to keep this house and spend the money to restore it because it’s no small thing to do,” said Noah Furie, vice chair of the commission during the meeting Wednesday.
To help shield her identity, Ms. Swift bought the home under a limited liability company linked to her managers in Nashville, Tennessee, called Leo Realty, according to property records. The home had been on and off the market since 2008, at one point with a price tag of $32 million, meaning Ms. Swift got somewhat of a deal when she closed in September 2015.
Publicists for Ms. Swift declined to comment for this article.
Before her tenure, Goldwyn and his heirs had continuously owned the property for more than 80 years, according to a report on the property from the Heritage Commission.
Goldwyn immigrated by himself to the United States from Poland at the turn of the 20th century, starting his life as a salesman in New York City before moving to California. His story is an American cliche—what started as a modest production company with his brother-in-law was his ticket to becoming one of the founders of the Hollywood film industry, according to the report.
Goldwyn co-founded Goldwyn Pictures, which later merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM, known by its iconic roaring lion in the intro credits. His most-acclaimed movies include 1946 drama “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Dead End” starring Humphrey Bogart, musical “Guys and Dolls” and one of his last productions, “Porgy And Bess.”
In the early 1930s, Goldwyn was looking to move from his house in Hollywood Hills to a more spacious estate, where he could better entertain and host film screenings, when he settled on a plot of land in Beverly Hills. Goldwyn and his wife Frances hired renowned architect Douglas Honnold to build a Georgian Revival house on the plot, even bringing in set designers to help with construction, according to a separate report Ms. Swift commissioned from architects Barbara Lamprecht and George Taylor Louden.
In the end, Honnold created a two-story, 11,000-square-foot house made of white-painted brick and stucco. The dramatic windowed entryway leads to a sweeping, curved staircase that leads to four bedrooms, including a master suite, on the second floor. The home has an additional guest suite located above the garage.
The terraced grounds include a swimming pool and cabana, tennis court and a tool shed.
SINGER TURNED CONSERVATOR
It was not disclosed how much Ms. Swift is spending on the restoration of the Goldwyn house. But construction has been underway for over a year, said Ms. Swift’s architect Monique Schenk.
“Really when this project’s done, hopefully this year sometime soon, it’s going to be really spectacular,” Ms. Schenk said at the commission meeting on Wednesday. “We’ve preserved and maintained a lot of the elements and those that were deteriorating, we’ve replicated.”
That includes carefully restoring the original, 100-year-old double-hung windows and preserving the original plaster moulding on the curved interior staircase.
Ms. Swift has even signed off on preserving the wisteria foliage climbing over part of the exterior. Crews have removed the vines onto temporary scaffolding while they finish work on the facade, Ms. Schenk said.
One commission member wants to make Ms. Swift the local poster child of historic preservation. “It would be wonderful to have some kind of press conference or event for people in the city,” suggested commissioner Lisa Greer, to dispel the idea “that landmarking is a pain in the neck and, you know, that it’s nothing but trouble.”
Ms. Swift, who has homes in New York City and Nashville, is also reportedly in the middle of renovating her Tribeca penthouse.
It’s not clear what her motivation is in taking on a restoration project in Beverly Hills. And while some have speculated she’s seeking a historic designation to boost the value of the home, landmarks can work the opposite way. In Los Angeles, the heirs of icon Bob Hope are fighting tooth-and-nail against the city, which is attempting to landmark his former home. They claim the proposal has already cooled interest and market price for the property.
A historic designation means that future construction requires special approval from the city, so as not to damage or alter the historic integrity of a property.
This isn’t the first time Ms. Swift has sugared up her new neighbors. Shortly after moving to her penthouse in Tribeca, the singer pledged to donate proceeds from her aptly titled song “Welcome to New York” to New York City public schools.
Heritage Commissioner Maralee Beck offered another possibility: The owner simply wants a Hollywood artifact.
“Yes it’s easier to start from scratch,” Ms. Beck said. “But it isn’t quite as satisfying as owning a piece of history?”
Courtesy of: Mansion Global and Beckie Strum