Case of the Gutted Landmark

Historic 'Case Study' house is stripped to its bones over apparent foundation issues
Fridays on the Homefront
Mid-century modern fans are scratching their collective heads, trying to figure out
why the City of Los Angeles allowed the gutting of the famous Case Study House No. 21 (AKA the Bailey House) over reported foundation issues. As one surprised fan
reported recently, "Drove by the Bailey House and only found her bones," as pictured above. Photo: Concerned Citizen (from mid-July, 2019)
Fridays on the Homefront
Bailey House in its prime, 1958-'59. Photo: Julius Shulman -
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
Fridays on the Homefront
Nearly two decades after its 1997 restoration, the Bailey's interior is looking picture perfect here, staged for sale in 2016. Photo: Grant Mudford (courtesy Sloane + Silver)
Fridays on the Homefront
Construction site notice recently found posted at the Bailey House, photographed mid-July 2019. It calls out the work description as "repair work to an existing structure, consisting of repairing slab, sliding doors and cabinets." Photo: Concerned Citizen

The Case Study Houses were among the most public trademarks of California mid-century modern design, and most of the couple dozen examples still standing are well preserved both as viable homes and treasured monuments to the style.

But fans of the genre are scratching their collective heads this summer, trying to figure out why the City of Los Angeles is apparently accepting that one of the program's historic homes has recently been gutted because it has reported foundation issues.

"Frankly, I'm alarmed," said preservation consultant Adriene Biondo about Case Study House No. 21 (AKA the Bailey House), a gem designed by architect Pierre Koenig and built in 1958 and '59.

It preceded by one year Koenig's renowned Stahl House (CSH No. 22), built in these same Hollywood Hills.

"People have been calling [me] because it looks like it's being demolished," frets Biondo, an Eichler homeowner who was the driving force behind the successful application for an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for Granada Hills' Balboa Highlands development—Los Angeles County's only Eichler tract.

The Bailey House, at 9038 Wonderland Park Avenue, was built for psychologist Walter Bailey and his wife, Mary, the first of Koenig's two homes in the Case Study program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine. The architect liked the Laurel Canyon home so much he returned in 1997 to preside over a renovation of the kitchen.

The home was reportedly purchased last February for $3.3 million by film producer Fayez Sarofim, who then hired another preservation expert, Mark Haddawy, to update the steel-framed home. Besides being a prior owner of the house, Haddawy has restored several other noteworthy MCM homes, including a current project at John Lautner's Elrod House in Palm Springs.

Concern over the level of demolition last spring at the Bailey House, however, summoned Haddawy to the June 20, 2019 meeting of the city Cultural Heritage Commission to explain why the kitchen, flooring, and several walls were removed. He testified that the soil underneath the slab foundation had subsided or eroded, leaving an underground cavity up to 18 inches deep in some areas.