[Slideshow] Largest Craftsman Ever Built in U.S. Celebrates Its 100th Year

Posted on: March 22nd, 2013 by Lauren Walser 1 Comment

The wood shakes on the house were deteriorating by the time Fenton purchased the property. He consulted with architects, fellow historic homeowners, and manufacturers of products designed for historic buildings in order to learn how to best repair them. He eventually stripped and re-stained each shake by hand.

It is said to be the largest Craftsman residence ever built, and now, after an extensive 25-year restoration, the three-story house in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles known as Artemesia is celebrating its centennial.

Built in 1913, Artemesia was designed by architect Frank A. Brown for the family of engineer Frederick E. Engstrum, whose father founded a major Southern California construction company.

After passing through the hands of several owners, the house sat largely neglected since the early 1940s, until advertising executive Leonard Fenton purchased the house in 1987 at the tender age of 23.

“I was a very young guy. I had never heard the term ‘Craftsman house’ before, and I wasn’t familiar with the style,” he says. “I drove up and it was very dark brown. I thought it was kind of weird-looking. But I walked in the front door, and just a few steps in, I looked to the left at the dining room, and to the right at the living room, and I decided right then and there to buy it.”

For the next 25 years, Fenton poured his energy and attention into reviving the house. With virtually no restoration experience to speak of, he started small, clearing away the overgrown brush in the yard and bringing the bathrooms back to working order, before he began tackling the larger issues.

This green bathroom was added in 1926 by the second owners of the house. The tiles are all original, aside from a few pieces that had cracked. Fenton was able to find matching tiles locally. Beyond the double arches is a stairway that descends to a steam shower.

“I learned by reading and studying, and by working with architects and historic preservation consultants,” he says. “My motto was, ‘Don’t make any changes if I don’t know what I’m doing.’ It took years to figure out what to do with some aspects of the house, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any irreversible changes.”

And now, with every wood shake, wall panel, and piece of hardware painstakingly restored, and with new mechanical and electronic systems installed, Fenton has placed his house for sale at just under $12 million.

“I spent most of my adult life obsessing about this project,” he says. “Sometimes the best way to end an obsession is to just walk away.”

He hopes to see the house placed in good hands, by someone committed to being a good steward of the property.

“It’s a special house,” he says. “I want to see it maintained and preserved by somebody who cares for and respects what it is as much as I do.”

Take a virtual tour of this remarkable property:

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Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

Architecture, Restoration, Slideshows

One Response

  1. Tracy Hayes

    March 22, 2013

    An incredibly amazing place! What a gem, and so lucky to have been loved and restored by a sympathetic owner.