ARCHITECTURE: The Little House in the Woods turns 100 

The Dodson home in Malaga cove was permit number one issued by the city in 1924. Photos by Tony LaBruno

by Stephanie Cartozian

The Schipkowski Residence was the recipient of the first building permit issued by Palos Verdes Estates. As a result,  the Schipkowskis became the first known homeowners of the Palos Verdes Project. The home,  located on Via Campesina in Palos Verdes Estates, was built in 1924 for a total cost of $6,000. 

The Palos Verdes Golf Course had opened the same year, making the incentive to buy on the Peninsula even more appealing. Absent any other governing agency, The Palos Verdes Homes Association acted as the local government at this time. By the end of 1924, a total of twenty houses had been completed or were under construction in Palos Verdes Estates. 


The first home to be issued a permit to be built in Palos Verdes Estates.


Now the Dodson Residence, the home was originally designed by San Francisco architect Angus McDonald McSweeney, who was trained by renowned San Francisco architect, Willis Jefferson Polk. The two architects later became business partners. McSweeney is best known for his work on the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco, which he re-designed following a fire in 1962 that destroyed the original 1854 structure; and Saint Francis Wood, an upscale, period-revival neighborhood in the southwestern section of San Francisco, envied for its wide streets and sweeping vistas of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Interestingly, the Olmsted Brothers were the landscape designers of this master planned community. The brothers were the prominent landscape designers of Central Park in New York, and were early designers of the Peninsula. 


The stained glass tulip window is original and Steve Taylor designed tiles below it are of the Dodson daughterswith their cat behind them Mr. Ginger.


The Schipkowski Residence was originally built as a single story, Spanish style stucco house with a tile roof and covered porch. There was a storybook Eucalyptus grove towards the north end of the house, but few other trees were nearby, just miles of open land for as far as the eye could see. All the tall, wooded trees surrounding this home and the upper Malaga Cove library neighborhood were planted years later. 

Fast forward to December of 1987. During that era’s real estate boom, the Dodson family had attempted to purchase several homes in the Manhattan Beach area, but with the juggernaut of purchasing frenzy at the time, their offers were lost in a deluge. A fellow flight attendant and friend of Mimi Dodson was selling her home in Palos Verdes Estates and offered it first to the Dodsons, who accepted, subsequently purchasing the historic home for $550,000. 

This Old Spanish abode is nestled within trees with a lovely flagstone porch in the front and a courtyard and fountain towards the center of the property. Custom designed and painted tiles marcate the grounds throughout as do original 1920’s stained glass windows with bright pink tulips. 

“I was careful to maintain the character of the home during updating,” said Dodson. 


Mimi Dodson who has owned this historic home for 37 years.


Period white wood and glass cabinetry perched on the walls in the original kitchen have now been reincorporated to the walls of the guest bathroom. The wood burning fireplace was maintained but updated to gas. The trifold original picture window was saved in the front bedroom and remains as a unique, 1920’s accoutrement to the room. The home exudes the design of a bygone era coupled with the tasteful character and style of the Dodsons, who have made signature updates such as, white wood wainscotting on the dining room walls, wide plank taupe wood style flooring and a farmhouse style white kitchen with an off-white granite center island and similarly styled adjoining family room area that still has the decorative stylish corbels and soaring wood beam ceiling of a converted garage. This room has become a warm gathering place looking out to a private, sunny, courtyard with fruit trees, flowering ground cover and bougainvillea.   

The home also underwent earlier renovations that were in keeping with its original spirit. In the early 1970s, a prominent local architect, Ed Beall, purchased this home. Inspired by his interest in Mexican colonial detail and antique Mexican cabinetry, he extensively added to the home’s Old Spanish character. This is evident throughout, but most noticeably at the front door, with its rough, rustic antique wood welcome and built-in “peek-a-boo” door.” The garage doors are also similar, giving the home a frontal continuity of appearance consistent with its architecture. Throughout the property are inlaid silk-screened tiles depicting different animals and scenes, adding punctuations of color and depth throughout the walking paths and stairways. Beall built the family room but also added on 470 square feet above the garage with a new primary suite, walk-in closet and adjoining bathroom. Following this enhancement, the home became a two-story home. This perch affords lovely pastoral views with sunlight streaming in and an expertly designed long, upholstered window-seat underneath the picture window to sit and enjoy nature’s view. Adding to the charm is a custom constructed playhouse that Dodson made off-site and then relocated to their backyard for her grandson. 

The Dodson residence is a magical place celebrating its centennial year, with many more endearing years ahead of it. PEN


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