Orphaned black boy becomes top architect in LA
Posted in the Athens Forum
#1 Jan 24, 2013
Here is an inspiring story to talk about in class. A rags to riches story of achievement:
Great Black architect Paul R. Williams of Los Angeles.
Quote from above link:
“Besides Stanwyck and others, Williams’s celebrity clientele listed Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Bert Lahr, Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, Julie London, Will Rogers, Anthony Quinn, Lon Chaney, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. No wonder he was known as "Architect to the Stars."
Unfortunately, not all of Williams’s works are still around (with around 3,000 homes to his credit, that’s not so much a surprise).”
Quote from above link:
“The famed Beverly Hills estate Cordhaven designed by Paul R. Williams was built in 1933 for Errett Lobban Cord (E. L. Cord). Cord had little formal education -- briefly enrolled at the Los Angeles Polytechnic High School (1907) and in a few evening business classes at the Y.M.C.A. He began his career as a used car salesman (1911) but within months had opened the Cord Auto Washing Company. Recognizing the potential of the American auto industry, he became an early car-centric entrepeuner. In 15 years at the age of 32, he was the youngest president of a large American automobile manufacturing company.(Los Angeles Times. December 26, 1926) A man with impressive executive ability, by 1929 Cord controlled over 150 companies including the Auburn Automobile Company (the maker of the iconic Cord and the Duesenberg). Though living in a number of midwestern cities in the 1920s, Cord decided to return to Los Angeles.
When completed, Cordhaven, the colonial-style, red brick mansion on a ten-acre estate at North Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills covered 32,000 square feet and contained 16 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms. Impressed by how quickly he received the plans for the “dream house” and the quality of the ideas, Cord awarded Paul R. Williams the contract over the proposals of many of the important white architects practicing in Los Angeles at the time. Involved in every aspect of planning, E.L. Cord has often been described as one of Williams' "most difficult but stimulating clients." (Errett Lobban Cord: His Empire, His Motorcars, 1984.)
The construction of Cord's residence caused considerable buzz in Los Angeles. The public followed each step in the planning and construction of the opulent home through newspaper articles and magazine photo spreads. Because of this interest Williams' photographs, renderings and sketches for the project were included in a display of his work at Mary Louise Schmidt's Architect's Building. An article in the professional magazine Architect and Engineer (October, 1931) describing the Williams' exhibition reported that the Cord house "is said to be an unusually fine example of the Southern Colonial style of architecture."
In size the $2 million-dollar Cord mansion was similar to many others built during the 1920s and 1930s in Beverly Hills. The basic contruction was of concrete, brick and wood, but the inclusion of the finest materials, including rosewood, satinwood and hand-painted murals, separated it from all other over-the-top Southern California homes of that era. The opulence of these finishes in addition to the three dining rooms, ballroom, solarium, shooting gallery, two hotel-sized kitchens, underground wine cellar with a bank vault door and guest pavillion were "surpassed by only a few show places across the country." (Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1961)
The six columned, over-sized, neoclassical portico at the front of Cord's mansion was not an unknown design element in the Beverly Hills area. But the Williams' building plan for a delux chicken coop was. Raising chickens was one of Cord's passions, almost an obsession. The chicken coops were "constructed in the same style as the main house, with brick floors, wood paneling, and sat “
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