Paul R. Williams Architectural Designs Influence In West Los Angeles, CA.

Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building
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Have you ever heard of Paul R. Williams? He was an architect. He designed about 3,000 residential and commercial building in Southern California. Majority of properties are located in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Lafayette Square, West Adams and West Los Angeles. There are other homes in Pasadena and La Canada... He did not have a distinct individual design. Design styles varied from classical to modernistic. David Gebhard wrote, “His architectural style is elusive.”

Who is Paul R. Williams? He was an African American. In 1894, William was born in Los Angeles, CA. Lossing both parents he was orphaned at four years old. He was raised by foster parents. He attended Polytechnic High School. After graduation, he attended the University Of Southern California School Of Engineering. He became a certified architect in 1915. After graduating from college he worked for John C. Austin Architecture Firm. John Austin teamed in the design of Los Angeles City Hall and Griffith Observatory. Williams opened his own architectural firm at the age of 28. Owner of his firm he took large and small projects. In the early years of his career, he accepted commissions rejected by other architects. He was known as a master draftsman. When first opening his firm White clients were uncomfortable dealing with an African American. To ease their discomfort, he did two things. One was to sit opposite potential clients. Secondly, he draws his architectural design's upside down. His goal was excellence. His creativity and diligence were equals regardless if a small or large commission.

Over years Paul Williams built a name for himself. In 1930’s automaker, E.L. Cord commissioned him to build “his Dream Home” North Hillcrest in Beverly Hills. Southern Colonial-style design home was known as the Cordhaven Estates. Owner's intentions were for this home to revival other celebrity homes. The home was on eighteen-acres, with 32,000 square feet living space, sixteen bedrooms, and twenty-two bathrooms. Included are three dining rooms, ballroom, two restaurant size kitchens, and billiard room. Extraordinary materials used including original murals, rosewood, and satinwood. The home's opulence surpassed many estates in that era.

After the completion of E.L.Cord’s Cordhave Estate, the buzz was out about Paul Williams architectural design style. He became noticed by the rich and famous.

Residential Celebrity Properties:

William Paley (CBS founder)
Lon Chaney
Charles Cottell
Desi Arnaz
Frank Sinatra
Anthony Quinn
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
Barbara Stanwyck
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Tyrone Powers
Barbara Knight
Mrs. B. Richard Jackson
John Charles Thomas
Marlon Brando
Danny Thomas
E.L. Cord

Commercial Properties:

Angelus Funeral Home (1934)
Beverly Hills Hotel east side addition in 1949
Edwin Building
Golden State Mutual Building
Hollywood YMCA
Los Angeles Court House
MCA Building
Shrine Auditorium prepared drawings
First Methodist Church
Franz Hall. UCLA
Los Angeles Shrine Airport Theme Building with Pereira and Franz
Perino Restaurant opened 1954
Saks Fifth Avenue
Second Baptist Church (1924)
Saint Jude’s Hospital

What a fabulous story. Paul Williams was orphaned at four and raised by foster parents. He attended the University of Southern California. He was hired by John C. Austin becoming the chief draftsman. After leaving Austin, he is opening his own architectural firm in the 1920s. He took small and large commissions. In the early 20th century, the racial climate in Los Angeles was not much better than in the Jim Crow south. For the comfort of White clients, he sat across from them drawing rendering upside down. His career took off once he completed E.L.Cord’s Cordhave Estate. William was commissioned to design residential and commercial properties for the rich and famous. He became known as, “Architect to the Stars." Paul William retired in 1973 and died in 1980. West Los Angeles real estate was strongly influenced by Paul R. Williams. In today’s residential real estate market, any home designed by Paul Williams carries a higher price tag. Williams was not limited to residential properties. He has renown commercial designs. One example is Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building. Residents in Los Angeles drive around seeing beautiful residential and commercial properties. Seldom do we wonder who designed this? Alternatively, did this architectural style influence other structures in the city. The next time you go to LAX and see the Theme Building think of Paul Williams.

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