First Street, between Redondo and Kennebec avenues, is perhaps the most elegant stretch of road in all of Long Beach. The extra-wide palm-lined drive in Bluff Park has been home to some great names in Long Beach, including members of the Buffum family, Gov. Frank Merriam and one-time dean of Long Beach attorneys Roland Swaffield.
Swaffield’s former residence, at First Street and Orizaba Avenue, is perhaps the most gawked-at home among the scores of large and beautiful mansions on the street, and you can move in as soon as your check for $2,749,000 clears.
I noticed your hesitancy, and I won’t argue about the fact that $2,749,000 is a lot of money, but I will maintain that this house is worth it.
We’ll start with its history. The home was built for the Roland Swaffield, his wife and their two daughters, by Hollywoodland architect L. Milton Wolf, who designed and built his own home, the legendary Wolf’s Lair, a somewhat similar-looking Norman castle, in Hollywood Hills overlooking Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign. Through the years the Lair has been owned by people in show biz, including the DJ and musician Moby, who sold it in 2014 for $12.4 million.
Wolf’s design of the Swaffield home in Long Beach inspired a copy, a block to the east, on Paloma Avenue. And a near identical home was built by Wolf on Rossmore Avenue in L.A. near Wilshire Country Club in Hancock Park with an estimated value of about $1 million more than the Long Beach model.
Several years ago, Swaffield’s daughter Nancy reminisced to a local historian about growing up in the house and roller-skating on First Street before cars were allowed on it, cadging ice shavings from the ice man’s delivery truck, playing jacks on the corner and walking with her father and their Great Dane, King, on early evening walks along the bluff.
The house was purchased in 1950 by noted Long Beach physician Dr. Leslie Esposito and his wife Filomena, and the couple made ample use of the 5,409 square-foot home’s four bedrooms and four baths to raise a family of seven kids over the ensuing 65 years in the house. During that time the huge house was the scene of family weddings, holiday gatherings, charity and dinner parties.
Looking at the home’s interior now you can still feel the warmth of those special times as well as the day-to-day activities in the home’s dining room and grand living room, as well as the more functional and friendly family room with its wall of glass looking out onto the backyard pool, brick patio (a lot of bricks gave their lives in the construction of this house) and surrounding landscaped grounds.
On the second floor, reached by a turret stairwell, there’s the master suite with one of the home’s two fireplaces, along with two other en suite bedrooms, one with a partial ocean view.
Also on the quarter-acre lot is a guest house built over the garage.
Throw in a large kitchen, a studious, sober library with custom built-ins and shelving and why are you whining about the price?
“We’ve had a ton of people looking at the place,” says Maggie Odell, who works with the listing agent Sue LaBounty, who specializes in Long Beach’s coastal communities.
The fact that no one has written a check yet is attributable to, sure, the breathtaking price which, to be honest, is a bit more than many would be hoping to spend, particularly for an off-water property. But there’s also a hesitant market right now and the house has been robbed of much of its erstwhile ocean view by its southern neighbor, the Galaxy Tower, built in 1966.
And the buyer will have more money to spend in upgrading the baths and, for sure, the kitchen, which just isn’t fancy or high-tech enough for the sort of wealthy epicurean who will likely move into this house.
But, for the rich, that’s just caviling. The home remains a magnificent castle on a stately street and it is, to employ an overused and frequently hyperbolic real-estate term, just steps from the beach. Hopefully the buyer of this home will enjoy retracing those steps someday with his or her dog and children.
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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