A massive part of Long Beach, most of the land east of Lakewood Boulevard to the Orange County border, was developed between 1945 and 1969, the post-war period that occurred smack in the middle of the 20th century, so it’s not surprising that there are many examples of mid-century modern homes that popped up in the area during the eponymous era.
Lloyd Whaley, who developed much of the area, set aside one parcel of a bit more than 200 acres northeast of Recreation Park for a more prestigious area of the East End—it was called Park Estates, where he built his own house on what’s still the largest residential lot in the city at 2.6 acres.
The area’s initial 194 lots were also larger than homes in Los Altos, with most averaging 6,500 square feet, about 1,000 more than the nearby tract houses in Los Altos.
Whaley encouraged buyers of the lots in Park Estates to hire notable architects to design their homes in a manner that would maintain the beauty and prestige of Park Estates. House plans required the permission of the neighborhood association’s architectural board before construction.
The result is a fine selection of beautifully designed homes in the tract with contributions by Kenneth S. Wing, Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son), Paul Revere Williams (who contributed to the design of the Whaley residence), Edward Killingsworth, Paul Tay, Richard Neutra and in many ways most notably, John Lautner.
Lautner, long considered one of the masters of mid-century design and its various offshoots, particularly Googie and Atomic Age design, has his works spread out all over Los Angeles as well as Palm Springs, which has possibly the greatest collection of mid-modern works, including two of Lautner’s most ambitious designs, the Bob and Dolores Hope Residence (completed in 1979) and 1968’s Elrod House, famously featured in the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”
His Park Estates home, the sole example of Lautner’s work in Long Beach, is known as the Alexander House, named for Long Beach dentist George Alexander and his wife Grace, who commissioned the home in 1951 and lived in it for 66 years before its sale in 2018 for $1.5 million. That was followed by a series of three different owners, with the most recent in September of last year for $3.042 million.
Now, the Alexander House is once again for sale, hitting the market today with an asking price of $3.4 million, a perfectly reasonable price for one of the city’s finest residences, particularly if you’re a fan of mid-century modern architecture, which most people are these days, when prices in the less-impressive Cliff May Ranchos are regularly cresting the $1.5 million mark.
Lautner, a longtime protege and collaborator of Frank Lloyd Wright, put to use most of the tools of mid-century modern design with this home at 5281 El Roble St., with touches that are imperative to the style: clean and simple horizontal lines, post-and-beam construction, a liberal use of windows, a fairly open floor plan and, most importantly, integration with nature, as typified by Wright’s organic architecture, which, thanks to generous use of glass and the importance of exterior landscaping, brings the exterior inside—sometimes literally. In this house’s case, a living tree is planted in the ground between the sunken living room and the sparkling kitchen with push-to-open cabinetry and $40,000 worth of new high-end appliances, including a Miele dishwasher, a Thermidor refrigerator and a four-oven AGA range.
The backyard—all of the grounds for that matter—is expertly landscaped with enough fruit trees to rival a Whole Foods produce department: orange, peach, plum, nectarine, loquat and avocado along with a blueberry bush.
Alongside the house is a sparkling saltwater pool that was a key part of Lautner’s drawn-up plans but was never built until 2019, and now it’s difficult to imagine the yard without it. At the same time the pool and spa were put in, a barbecue grill and fire pit were added.
The house doesn’t look spectacular from the curb, as it’s hidden and given privacy behind a long, tall brick wall, with mostly just the home’s flat roof and fascia boards visible, though a stylish extension of the main roof over the driveway can be seen as a clue to the expertly designed indoors.
A brick walkway leads to the house and continues throughout the interior, save for the step-down living room with its floor covered with a plush, padded carpet. The room includes built-ins, a brick wood-burning fireplace and a 9-foot ceiling with exposed dark wood beams.
A notable feature of the house is an inordinately long hallway lined on one side with large windows looking out to the pool, and leading to three of the home’s four bedrooms (the fourth is off the kitchen and may be better suited as an office, as it’s currently staged), including the primary with its ensuite bathrooms—one of four in the property.
The Alexander House is listed by Keegan Cin and Alex Eston. They will be hosting a twilight open house Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m, with daytime showings on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.