In every sense, the Doheny Mansion was Edward Doheny’s castle and Chester Place (and its 22 lots) was his domain. The oil baron and his wife Estelle lived in grand style in the 1899 built, 24,000 square foot mansion, a mix of California Mission, Gothic and Moorish styles and decorated with French antiques, Tiffany art glass and the many collections of his wife Estelle Doheny. I toured the property recently—it is now the second campus for Mount St. Mary’s University—and the home’s opulent architecture and setting in the city’s first gated enclave, represents a bygone time of craftsmanship and elegance.
Architects Sumner P. Hunt and Theodore Eisen built the mansion at 8 Chester Place for Mrs. Sarah Posey who sold the property once the Dohenys made an outstanding all-cash offer of $120,000. (Sounds familiar!) The Dohenys renovated and added on to the eclectic high-Victorian design throughout the nearly 60 years the family owned the property. Interiors are ornate and incorporate the status symbols of the era from hand carved crown moldings, gilt plaster, to the marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and burnished craftsmen-made wood details. The exterior features gothic finials and spires on the vast tiled roof in addition to arched casement windows and a tower with an unusual hexagonal roof and walkway.
The Doheny Mansion is surrounded by grand palms and other stately homes (built between 1899-1903) of the richest order: they represent a mix of styles and architecture that embraced outdoor living—emblematic of the era and Southern California. Many have broad eaves, sleeping porches and breezeways for carriages and later automobiles. The Dohenys bought most of them as well as the street, Chester Place, and kept it up from the Depression through the building of the Santa Monica Freeway (and bisection of the neighborhood). Upon her death in 1958, Mrs. Doheny willed the properties to the Catholic Archdiocese.
Today, the Doheny Mansion is open for tours on select weekends. The next tour is October 6th. Throughout the year, the marble faced Pompeian Room, under an exquisite 24-foot wide Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass ceiling, is utilized by the Da Camera Society for its Chamber Music in Historic Sites concerts. I highly recommend a visit if only to experience the grandeur of one of L.A.’s most well preserved historic avenues. Visit http://www.dohenymansion.org for more information about tours or the Da Camera Society.