'Pivotal Achievement' for Sale

Lloyd Wright's historic Derby House shows off the architect's penchant for high drama
Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Lloyd Wright's houses are unusual and grand, and his Derby House (above), in Glendale, is no exception. The five-bedroom, three-bath home measures 3,281 square feet and rises four stories from a long rectangular base. It is now for sale. House photos: Nick Frandjian of Open House Foto

Accomplished Southern California architect Lloyd Wright, the eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright, is known for his masterful works, many of which showcase a penchant for his high drama in design.

Among Wright's most inspired examples are the Wayfarer's Chapel, built on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and his two iconic band shells for the Hollywood Bowl.

But Wright's Derby residence, built in Glendale in 1926, is also considered a pivotal achievement, and one of his most important works.

Listed on the National Register in 1978, the Derby nomination sheds light on one of the reasons why the home holds such distinction. The sunscreens, the nomination reports, were used by Wright at the Derby House "at least four years before [architect] Le Corbusier proposed them for buildings in Algiers, and 30 years before [architect] Edward D. Stone popularized them…"

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So it was a welcome surprise when we learned that the Derby House, at 2535 E. Chevy Chase Drive, recently hit the market, priced at $3,295,000.

"It's magnificent, like time-traveling!" says listing agent Aaron Leider of The Agency while stepping into the Derby today. "I feel drenched in design and craftsmanship, and I also find it amazing that even here in 'earthquake country,' this 1926 Mayan cement block structure survived in perfect condition."

The original owner who commissioned architect Lloyd Wright to build the house was businessman James Daniel Derby, who had a wife and two sons.

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Architect Lloyd Wright circa 1927. Photo: Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library

"They built back when there was absolutely nothing around in that area, because they didn't want to be around all the highbrow people in Pasadena," Leider explains. "But the marriage went south, and Mr. Derby never lived there."

The cavernous home is cradled into the hills of Chevy Chase Canyon, and sits on a total of 1.5 acres. Inside, an intriguing blend of light and shadow makes the space unforgettable.

"The light in the two-story living room truly dances over the course of the day," Leider says, "changing the whole feel of the space as it goes into night."

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