Escaping Demolition, Landmark Home by Early Black Architect Will Take to the Road

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Paul Revere Williams, who designed the Morris Landau House, could not have lived in the tony Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles when the home was built there.

Williams was black, and in 1936, the year he completed the red brick English-country-style residence, African-Americans were barred by restrictive covenants and prevailing biases from owning property in the best parts of the city.

Williams, a pre-eminent Southern California architect, lived instead in a modest house of his own design in Lafayette Square, one of the few upper-middle-class neighborhoods then open to blacks.

By the time he died in 1980, black celebrities were moving into Beverly Hills and Bel Air. The Landau House, meanwhile, named for the South African merchant who commissioned it, would continue passing from owner to owner, among them Bruce McNall, who built a vast fortune as a coin collector before going to prison for fraud, and Ronald O. Perelman, Revlon's chairman.

When it became clear that the 10,000-square-foot house would be an impediment to the expansion plans of its current owner, the elite prep school Harvard-Westlake, preservationists and neighborhood residents joined in demanding that it not be destroyed, and school officials promised to find a buyer willing to move it. They succeeded.

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