Jen Ezpeleta

New century makeover

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The Roessler Estate, formerly the home of the Father of Palos Verdes Estates, is brought into the modern era

The Roessler Estate modernization retains the spirit of architect John Byers’ 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival design. Photo by Peter McMenamin

 

by Stephanie Cartozian

Hans Frederick Bernard Roessler, or Fred as he preferred to be known, was the driver behind the incorporation of Palos Verdes Estates in 1939. He became the city’s first mayor and served for 25 years.

While Frank Vanderlip is recognized as the Father of Palos Verdes, Roessler is the Father of Palos Verdes Estates.

Fred and Edna Roessler took residence at 909 Via Coronel in 1937. On their first night in their new home, they received a call for help in the creation of the City of Palos Verdes Estates. It  turned out to be a bitter, two year battle. The Dec. 20, 1939 vote rounded out to 50 percent for incorporation and 50 percent opposed. The proponents won by a margin of seven votes. 

 

The Roessler Estate as it appeared in 1926. Photo courtesy of the Palos Verdes Library History Center

 

During his three decades as mayor, Roessler dedicated his efforts to preserving the rural nature of the city and Palos Verdes Estates’ Spanish architectural character. His bust greets visitors to city hall.

The Roesslers were also instrumental in the founding of Chadwick School. They donated $100,000 for its construction. Frank Vanderlip donated the land. The school opened in 1938.

The Roessler Estate was built in 1926 for Donald K. Lawyer, the sales manager for the Palos Verdes Project. John Byers designed the home. The self-trained architect and builder was born in 1875 and educated at Harvard University. He is best known for his other Spanish Colonial Revival designs in Santa Monica. Byers lived to be 91 years old. 

 

The Spanish Colonial Revival design is maintained throughout the Roessler Estate home.

 

In 1927, the 13,032-square-foot home on three acres, with a 792 square-foot guest house, was awarded Honorable Mention in the  “Best Architecture” category by the Palos Verdes Art Jury. 

In 2000, current owners Brigitte and Jose Collazo retained George Shaw, an architect with Edward Carson Beal and Associates, to rebuild the home.

The home’s original square footage was almost doubled. The Roessler heirs initially hoped for the home to be a designated historic landmark, but gave their approval to Shaw’s renovations.  

Fred and Edna Roessler’s granddaughter Jeanne Pickard and her husband Bob still often  visit the estate. Pickard is an accomplished plein air painter. Several of her paintings of the Roessler estate hang in the Collazos’ home.

 

Fred and Edna Roessler. Photo courtesy of the Palos Verdes Library History Center

 

The Collazo’s strove to preserve the home’s proportion to the property when they modernized it.

The Collazo’s renovations included new plumbing, and electrical, and they expanded on the original home’s design to include a below grade, five-car garage, a home theater, a steam bath and sauna, a gym and the two pool house bathrooms.

“It’s the original house, but brand new,” Jose Collazo said.

The grounds are what attracted the Collazos to the Roessler estate. 

“Before you even reach the front door, there’s a putting green, a full size tennis court, a circular motor court, and then double, old-world doors that open to an enclosed, classical courtyard. This is an estate. It’s the grounds here and the understated proportions relative to the grounds that sold us,” Jose Collazo said. The ground’s many large trees were preserved.

There are six outside dining areas, offering mountain and ocean views. The Collazos’ office offers a view of the rose garden. Ocean views abound here. Homes in the 1920s typically had expansive living areas, small bedrooms, no laundry rooms, and little storage. Kitchens were also much smaller than is typical of today. 

 

The living areas are appointed with rustic beamed ceilings and there are ocean views from all main house rooms.

 

“We kept the dining room, living room and sunroom exactly as they were originally and we built everything new around them proportionally,” Jose Collazo said.

The new walls were built using traditional lath and plaster. The kitchen is expansive, with two center islands, a second dining room off the kitchen, a 600 bottle wine cellar, butler’s pantry, generator, elevator and air conditioning. 

Now that the Collazos’ three children are grown, the couple has decided to pass their landmark home onto another family to enjoy. 

For more information about the Rosseler estate, visit www.chrisadlam.com  PEN

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