In August 1930, architect Wallace Neff received a telephone call that he would never forget. Powerful studio mogul Sol Wurtzel had just purchased a 1.5-acre parcel on the north side of Bellagio Road in Bel-Air, and he wanted to talk with Neff about designing his new mansion and estate. Shortly thereafter, the film producer decided Neff was the man for the job.
“The house,” Neff told friends, “was designed to fit the natural contour of the ground, resulting in a semicircular shape being selected for it.” Neff, moreover, took special care that every room was filled with light and took advantage of the views. “All rooms,” Neff explained, “have at least two exposures opening onto wide loggias and terraces which overlook the gardens and on beyond to the sea.”
The 180-foot-long curving mansion was crafted on a small knoll well back from Bellagio Road, east of Stone Canyon and overlooking the Bel-Air Country Club on the other side of the street. Two staircases flowed from the terraces that led off the main rooms, and they curved down to a second, larger terrace and the tennis court. Below, a broad lawn sloped gently off to Bellagio Road, where trees were planted to shield the property from view.
The driveway wound up the hill past the east portion of the mansion to the secluded motor court at the back of the property. To compensate for the lack of a grand view at the entrance, Neff gave the front door an elaborate treatment: a pair of two-story Corinthian columns ending in a gently curving broken pediment topped by an urn.
The front door opened into an intimate, circular foyer, which led into a very large—and very grand—oval reception room, with the curving grand staircase on one side. To the right was the huge living room with French doors leading to the arched loggia. To the left was the dining room and breakfast room, both opening onto their loggia, and the kitchen and service wing. The second floor contained the library and four master bedrooms. (In 1939, Neff added a magnificent terrace, swimming pool, and loggia on flat land just west of the main house.)
Marian Wurtzel, who loved to spend money, furnished the mansion with reproduction antique furniture, purchased fine English silver for their dinner parties, and bought crystal chandeliers during a trip to Italy. She bought furs and jewels for herself.Since Howard Hughes, Prince Rainier, and Elvis Presley, the owners of this estate have been less eccentric, less royal, and less pursued by fans. They have however, admired the property’s beauty, and they protected the mansion and grounds from inappropriate changes. Today, the estate is one of the prized properties of Old Bel-Air.