Bakersfield Beckons

For sale: intriguing one-of-a-kind design by Whitney Biggar has '50s design cues galore
Fridays on the Homefront
While Bakersfield is outside our usual coverage area, we just couldn't pass up its Poloynis House, an intriguing home designed by architect Whitney Biggar, now on the market. "This is a special house that can never be made again," says owner Dorothea Poloynis, "and will only be sold to a special person." House photos courtesy Winans & Associates

A phenomenal staircase, cantilevers, and 1950s design cues galore led us to this unusual architectural home in the city of Bakersfield, agriculture and oil hub of California's Central Valley.

Known as the George Poloynis residence, the intriguing, one-of-a-kind home was designed by Whitney Biggar (1920-2005), a prolific, longtime architect of the area and devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright. The home, at 685 Magnolia Avenue, is listed at $494,500 by Brenda Winans of Winans & Associates.

Since Bakersfield is outside of our usual coverage area, we consulted with Stephen Montgomery, Vice Chair of the City of Bakersfield Historic Preservation Commission, and learned that the city has a considerable inventory of impressive architectural homes.

Fridays on the Homefront
The home's 'unforgettably modern' steel-and-wood stairway.

"Bakersfield is home to Wright's 1961 Ablin House, built for George and Millie Ablin," says Montgomery. "And it also has two Neutra houses—the Leddy House built in 1958; and the Frank Davis House, built in 1937, which was photographed by Julius Shulman."

Other mid-century modern examples, he points out, include the Earl Elliott residence (1961) designed by Dave Cross, known for its award-winning Japanese garden; the Robert Eddy residence, designed by Eddy and Paynter; the Selby-Dabbs residence (1962), designed by architect Jack Hayslett for Bakersfield professors Lowell and Phyllis Dabbs; and the Sudarsky residence (1961), designed by Whitney Biggar for Jerry Sudarsky.

A number of these mid-century homes were featured in 2019 during 'Bakersfield Built: Architecture of the 1960s,' a symposium and home tour.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Whitney Biggar in 1957: prolific modernist of the Central Valley ran his own firm for 35 years. Photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley Library System
 

The Poloynis residence was built in the 1953-'55 timeframe to Biggar's design. "Whitney Biggar was a strong admirer of Wright," explains Montgomery. "I first saw the house when I was 11 or 12 [years old]. Dr. Polyonis was a friend of my father's, and I loved it from my very first visit."

"The Poloynis is a serious work, so if you don't like exemplary mid-century modern architecture, purchase something else," cautions Montgomery. "This home would qualify for the National Register under Criterion C, and a remodel should be out of the question."

Fridays on the Homefront

Whitney Biggar was the son of prominent Bakersfield architect Charles H. Biggar. During World War II, Whitney served in the Army Corps of Engineers, receiving his M.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley in 1947. He operated his own firm in Bakersfield for 35 years, designing churches, government buildings, high schools, and homes during his long career.

Among the architect's completed projects are the First Congregationalist Church of Bakersfield, the Elk Hills Petroleum Reserve Headquarters, Downtown Kern County Main Library, and the Frick House.

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