Gazette Article by: Joan Evanich
Appeared in the Gazette: Summer 2003
House of the Season: 5 Indian Hill Road
First known as “Wynwyd Estate,” the house at 5 Indian Hill Road was designed in 1922 by noted California architect and AIA Fellow Reginald D. Johnson. Early in his career, MIT graduate Johnson was known primarily as a “society architect” and was renowned for his Mediterranean-style private homes and public buildings. Some of his more famous designs include the Montecito estate “Lotusland” (1919), the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort (1927), and the U.S. Post Office (1936-37), the latter two located in Santa Barbara. All Saints Episcopal Church (1925) in Pasadena is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1935, Johnson reached the pinnacle of his career and changed his personal and professional focus. “Humanity became his client,” as he put it and, through a new social consciousness, Johnson became an advocate for respectable public housing. He spoke tirelessly to improve living conditions for the poor. Two Los Angeles public projects designed and built by Johnson were Harbor Hills and the Baldwin Hills Village (1946), the location of his own home and a project for which he received a prestigious AIA award.
Wynwyd Estate was created for Thomas H. McInerney as an Italian-style villa set on two landscaped acres overlooking the Indian Hill Club. Originally conceived by Johnson with an “H” shaped floor plan, economic realities caused the house to be built in a “T” shape. According to a 1935 real estate brochure, the first floor included a spacious tiled reception hall, a paneled drawing room, a living room, a dining salon that opened on three sides to a terrace, a kitchen and other service rooms. A staircase to the second floor led to an upstairs lounge with an outside balcony and stairs that joined to a terrace below. Two master suites flanked either side of the lounge, each with its own dressing rooms and baths. The remainder of the second floor consisted of a guest suite with bath, a linen room and two servants’ quarters. A four-car motor house and gardener’s apartment completed the property.
Mr. and Mrs. John Nuveen later purchased the estate. John Nuveen (1896-1968) was the vice-chairman and director of the investment firms of John Nuveen & Co. and the Nuveen Corporation. An authority on national and international affairs, Mr. Nuveen held the position of chief of the Marshall Plan on missions to Greece, Belgium and Luxemburg during the Truman administration. He was also a consultant on foreign investments in the Commerce Department during the Eisenhower years. After his death in 1968, Grace Nuveen continued to live in the house.
The vision of current owners has exceeded the original architectural concept of 5 Indian Hill. A design team led by Lesa Rizzolo of the Glencoe architectural firm, L. A. Rizzolo Architects, Ltd., has remodeled the property to its present glory, increasing the square footage of the property from 6,296 square feet to 15,519 square feet. A spacious new kitchen now occupies the former living room area and retains the original fireplace. Off the kitchen, a new breakfast room and mudroom as well as a family room and screen porch have been added, both with fireplaces. The remainder of the first floor includes a living room with a front addition and fireplace, a paneled adult library with fireplace, and a children’s library. The second floor’s southwest bedroom is totally restored to its original condition. The basement area has many surprises including a game room, a home gym complete with weight room and lap pool, and a basketball court.
The grounds have also been enhanced. Bluestone terraces and paved walkways lead from the house to the yard. The coach house has been updated, and an indoor pool, spa and pool house have been added, surrounded by beautiful formal gardens throughout the park-like setting.