Meant to evoke a quiet country lifestyle and the picturesque cottages of old England, Tudor Revival architecture — after coming to the U.S. more than a century ago — somehow also came to embody wealth and Hollywood fantasy.
The style arose in England in the late 1800s, as part of the Arts and Crafts rejection of both Victorian ornamentation and Industrial Age artificiality. The Tudor-style homes were supposed to recall a pre-modern, pre-industrial, pre-urban and pre-class- and ethnic-conflict period, said Kevin D. Murphy, author of “The Tudor Home,” “which was pretty much an escapist fantasy but nevertheless a pretty powerful one.”
Tudors came to the U.S. in the 1890s and arrived in Southern California in the early 1900s, peaking in popularity through the 1920s, according to the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.
The office said the architectural style caught on because it mimicked permanence “in a self-consciously new city” but also offered whimsy and escapism — welcome traits in the homes of Hollywood.
“The houses are very warm and cozy, even if they’re large,” said Priscilla Wright, who has lived in her 1923 Tudor in Windsor Square for 23 years. “We really prefer a non-open floor plan; in our house, every room has a purpose.”
The homes are typified by an asymmetrical design that features steeply pitched roofs with front-facing gables, leaded-glass windows (often diamond-paned), arched doorways and massive chimneys as well as stone, brick or stucco exteriors with half-timbers gracing the facade — a mere decoration recalling the structural timbers that held up such houses centuries earlier.
The Getty House, the L.A. mayor’s official residence in Windsor Square, is one example. Built in 1921, the house was bought by the Getty Oil Co. in 1958 and donated to the city in 1977.
And when Charlie Chaplin built his own movie studio complex in 1917, he chose the Tudor Revival style to create an ersatz English village at Sunset and La Brea — now the home to the Jim Henson Co.
Architect Caroline Labiner, a neighbor and fellow zone-board member with Wright, bought her 1923 Tudor to make a proper home for her collected Arts and Crafts furniture.
“It’s got a serious quality to it; it’s got a certain heft to it,” she said of the home, where she’s been since 2004.
When Wall Street money in the early 1900s gave rise to upscale New York City suburbs, the newly wealthy built homes later dubbed “stockbroker Tudors.”
“They wanted to give the impression of being more established, not be so much nouveau riche as old riche,” said Murphy, who is also chairman of the department of art history at Vanderbilt University. For some it was also important to establish Anglo-Saxon bona fides and distinguish themselves from the influx of Southern European and Asian immigrants at the time.
The style spread to other tony enclaves in Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland. But, as often happens, folks of modest means wanted to copy the style as well.
“The smaller examples were referring to the larger ones,” Murphy said. “The thing about the Tudor is, you can echo the style of a much bigger house with just a few details.”
Tudor Revivals in Southern California caught a second wind during the fanciful Period Revival era of the 1920s and 1930s, when developers blended neighborhoods with cottages of Tudor, Norman, Mediterranean and Spanish styles.
The L.A. Office of Historic Resources said the mix embodies “the fantasy, creativity, industry and use of style as salesmanship that defined Los Angeles before World War II.” Not linked to any real or made-up history of Southern California, “but to a fantasy of Europe and fictional tales.”
Style: Tudor Revival
Features: Asymmetrical design, steeply pitched roofs, multiple gables, leaded-glass windows (often diamond-paned), arched doorways, massive chimneys, exteriors of stone, brick and/or stucco, half-timbering
Where to find them: West Adams, Hancock Park, Windsor Square, with other groupings in Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Westlake, Carthay Circle, Lafayette Square, Silver Lake, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Eagle Rock
Some prominent architects: Gerard Colcord, Myron Hunt, Wallace Neff, Frederick Louis Roehrig, Paul Revere Williams