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Architectural Beginnings in the Hills

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Roads were laid out in the 1920's, the summit of the Hollywood Hills was not developed until the 1930's.

Street grading in 1931 on Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills. That must have been a tough job!

The Hollywood Hills have been a popular site for many noted midcentury architects. Some of the most famous homes built in L.A. are in the Hills. R.M.Schindler’s Fitzpatrick-Leland house (1936) prominent at the top of Laurel Canyon, was built as a real estate come-on to attract buyers to the area. There’s the iconic Stahl House aka Koenig’s Case Study House #22, John Lautner’s Chemosphere, Koenig’s Case Study #21 off Wonderland Park, plus a couple of Dorman homes right in the Briar Summit Estates. It’s fitting that in a city that’s home to screen idols and beautiful people, that L.A. would be known for some of the most stunning architectural homes of the 20th century.

Dorman's work embraced "total design", unifying landscape, exterior, and interior designs.
Richard Dorman showing his clients his design.

History of Briar Summit

Back in the 1950’s there was an undeveloped area just off Mulholland called Briar Knoll. It was a secret destination for young couples. It became the “lover’s lane” for those in the know. In 1957 a man by the name of Jack Okean from the Chicago suburbs would go on to create a neighborhood we now know as the Briar Summit Estates.

Jack Okean, originally from Winnetka, Illinois was a graduate of Northwestern University and later served in France during WWII. He was a well-decorated Colonel in the army. After the war, Okean moved to the small island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. He ran a hotel there for 10 years until he’d had enough of island life and moved to Los Angeles in 1957.

Beverly Garland at her home on Briar Summit.

According to his son Paul, now residing in Florida, his father had no idea what he wanted to do in L.A. One day while Jack was driving around in the hills of Hollywood he discovered an area called Briar Knoll that was empty and for sale. He had an idea for the land and developed a plan. Okean purchased 19 lots in the tract, keeping a few for him, and the others were sold for develop- ment. The first home he built was 3028 Paulcrest Drive. Jack named the street after his son, Paul. The Okean family lived there for three years. While there, he built 3027 Paulcrest, where I live now. And in 1959, he built 2950 Okean Place on a cul-de-sac. He wasn’t able to sell the new property back then so he and his family decided to move into 2950 Okean Place and sell 3028 Paulcrest. Jack eventually sold Okean Place in 1974.

The Chemosphere designed by John Lautner

At the same time Jack Okean was developing the Briar Summit area, Architect John Lautner was working on the Leonard J. Malin House aka the “Chemosphere” on Torreyson Drive. Briar Summit Estates had Architect Richard Dorman, who built three homes in our neighborhood. Filmore Crank, a real estate developer and husband of legendary Hollywood actress Beverly Garland hired Dorman to build their home at 8014 Briar Summit Drive. In 1970, the couple built their mission-style hotel in North Hollywood called Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn, which she remained involved in running until the year 2000 when Beverly and Filmore’s son James took over. James redesigned and expanded the hotel to create a new chic resort now called The Garland. Filmore Crank died in 1999. Beverly lived in her home until 2008 when she passed.

The Early Days

Famous residents of the early days of Briar Summit Estates have included Beverly Garland and hus developer husband Filmore Crank, Nancy Sinatra and Tommy Sands, Rita Moreno, Ralph Waite, Ernest Gold and Marni Nixon, Frank De Felitta, and Rob Lowe.

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