Mystery of a ‘Neglected Gem’ - Page 2

Rare modern home by trailblazing architect Paul Williams sits on shelf in Inland Empire
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront

Williams designed the home for Dr. and Mrs. R.N. Williams (no relation), who sold it to the current owners without public listing in 2004. Sam Maloof was a patient of the doctor's, and the celebrated modernist woodworker designed a sideboard in the living room. The two-story home has three beds and three baths on 2,040 square feet.

The listing's website includes the architectural description by Dr. Barbara Lamprecht of "a subtly animated composition of clean lines and rectilinear volumes that intersect, project and recede."

Interestingly, modern design was not only rare in the architect's prolific career, it was almost unheard of locally.

"East of Pasadena, you didn't see modern designs," said Berkley, whose masters thesis was on San Gabriel Valley architecture. Additionally, he says, "It was a very interesting time in U.S. history."

"You did not find these independent commissions of modern architecture out there [in part]…because [if] you were a nonconforming individual, you might be labeled a communist sympathizer," he commented, noting that the political environment in Ontario was likely more conservative at the time than the Hollywood Hills.

The house hasn't lacked for recognition in the 21st century, gracing the cover of Forgotten Modern, California Houses 1940-1970 (2008) by historian Alan Hess and being proclaimed a landmark by the City of Ontario in 2006.

Berkley certainly agrees that this is an historic home, declaring that it meets all four criteria for the National Register of Historic Places. There are no open houses planned, and Berkley hopes only serious buyers will request appointments.

"Like with all significant pieces of architecture, everyone will come out of the woodwork and want to see the house," the realtor concedes. "We've had a lot of people that have called and made appointments…I have to laugh, but at the same time, it's frustrating."