CASE STUDY HOUSE No. 22
Telling the story of the Stahl House one is hard pressed to draw a line between the iconic aspects of the home and the family that lived there. But that is the point, there is no line. The house was not always famous and the Stahl's, according to Bruce Stahl, were a “blue collar family living in a white collar house. "Nobody famous ever lived here” he quipped. So why is it so famous and how did it become one of the most celebrated homes in America? Well, one would have to start with the owner and initial designer, CH “Buck” Stahl.
Buck and his wife Carlotta bought the piece of land the house sits on back in 1954 on a handshake and $13,500.00. Aside from the spectacular view this was an unfriendly spot, precarious and difficult to mold into the vision Buck had for the home. A graphic designer and sign painter by trade he and Carlotta set about the arduous task of carting left over concrete from around the cities construction projects, one load at a time in the back of their car up to the property. It needed, after all, some help to keep the land in place and establish the basis for grading the property.
Some ideas for the design of the house began to manifest over the two years of hard weekend labor, so Buck made a model of the idea he and Carlotta dreamed into being. In late 1957 the Stahl's, after two other tries, found an ambitious and ingenious young architect named Pierre Koenig. Pierre was the only one daring enough to consider the cantilevered foundation so breathtaking today. A pioneer of building homes with glass and steel the final designs geometry and symmetry reflect the gridlines of Hollywood streets directly below.
Pierre Koenig proposed the project to John Entenza and Arts & Architecture Magazine adopted the house into the Case Study Program in early 1959 about a month before ground breaking and CSH No.22 was born. Perched beautifully at 1635 Woods Drive in Hollywood a mere $37,500 dollars and 13 months later the house was close to being move-in ready; swimming pool, 2,200 sq. ft, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a view that defies description but is well publicized.
It is not readily apparent to most people how remarkably ahead of its time the architecture was for 1959. Elegantly simple looking, the house is all glass on three sides. It took the largest pieces of glass commercially available at the time to accomplish this task which had lots of errant risk.
Photographing this significant example of Mid Century Modern home building was grandly executed by Julius Shulman in 1960. His quintessential black & white image reveals the balance, perfection and stateliness of this remarkable house.
This highly recognizable image has been called the “most iconic image of Los Angeles.” It is certainly stands in the company of the most famous naturalist photographer of the day, Ansel Adams.
So now we can see the pedigree and fame beginning to develop as if guided by some extraordinary serendipity as each piece of the puzzle lends further credence to the story.
Life magazine ran this photo of Buck Stahl in 1962 titled “Way Up Way of Living on California Cliffs.” Safety provided only by a rope tied around his waist, Buck wrestles with landscaping issues some 200 feet above Sunset Blvd below.
In the upcoming Part 2 of the Stahl House Story we'll begin with raising a family in a glass house.
Please check back soon.