Guasti Villa / Busby Berkeley Estate, Los Angeles

1910-1913 Beaux Arts Historic Restoration and Earthquake Response

Hudson and Munsell, Architects

2003 California Preservation Foundation Award

Background
Built between 1910 and 1913, the Guasti Villa mansion in Los Angeles was known for its incredible opulence and lavishness. Reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance, the interior of the home featured coffered ceilings with oil paintings on canvas, hand-carved wood paneling, columns and capitals, and a massive circular stairway leading from the foyer to the second floor. The exterior was graced with an intricately designed cornice and dental topped by a magnificent balustrade and rail. 

Over the years the roof balustrades, which served as counterweights to help hold the massive cornice and parapet stones in place, deteriorated and were eventually removed. As seismic activity occurred, the cornice stones loosened and their attachment mechanisms weakened. This condition manifested itself dramatically during the Northridge earthquake. The 300 to 800-pound stones making up the parapets and cornices could not withstand the earthquake’s force, and entire sections crashed down. The remaining sections were highly unstable and required removal. As the restoration contractor selected by the owner, California Restoration & Waterproofing, The California Restoration Specialist ™, performed a complete seismic retrofit and was designated to completely restore the interior and exterior restoration of this unique mansion.

Challenges
Foundation repairs
Roof repairs
Plaster repairs
Stucco repairs
Exterior doors
Windows
Replicated and installed a new cornice of lightweight concrete, using the original stones and balustrade units as patterns for the new molds.  

History
As one of the best remaining examples of the lost mansions in the West Adams District, Secundo Guasti, the wine magnate, built the Beaux Arts-styled structure in the early part of this century. As the owner of the largest vineyard in the country at that time, Guasti spared no expense in the design and décor of the house.  In 1936, film director and choreographer Busby Berkeley purchased the home and hosted many lavish Hollywood parties.  The mansion was later converted into a home for retired doctors and their wives. In the 1970s it was purchased by its current owners and converted into a theological seminary still in operation today.