Photographer: Maynard L. Parker, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
The radio classic Amos ‘N’ Andy first aired in 1929 over Chicago station WMAQ and was the earliest syndicated 15-minute program broadcast on a national network. The program was so popular that often hotel dining rooms across the country would suspend service between 7:00 and 7:15 p.m. so their staff and guests might listen to the latest installment. The comic story lines were set in the African American community and based on stock characters out of minstrel tradition. These comic caricatures were African American, but the actors who created, wrote and portrayed all of the male roles, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, were white (images 6 and 7). In an October 1961 Ebony article, T. Clayton described the unusual circumstance, “Radio was kind to Gosden and Correll, the creators of Amos ‘N’ Andy. It had earned them an odd, but profitable niche in American history. They were not Negroes, but earned a handsome living by merely portraying their version of what they believed to be Negro humor.” Clayton noted that the three-decade run made Gosden and Correll millionaires. With their new wealth the men could live the “Hollywood Life.” For Charles Correll this meant having his home designed by Paul R. Williams.
In 1937 Williams designed for Correll a twelve-thousand-square-foot, fifteen-room modernized Georgian Colonial house on three hilly acres in Beverly Hills off Sunset. This area was the popular neighborhood for the new movie colony and was a mixture of many architectural styles. If the newly affluent did not trust their innate taste, they knew to select architects firmly grounded in the idea of California living. The New Yorker essayist Dana Goodyear believed that Williams understood their need: the desire for restrained grandeur—the display of wealth without ostentation. The Correll home succeeded. An ad in California Arts & Architecture at that time described the residence as having “gracious dignity, charming perfection of line and nicety of detail…of Georgian period, save for a playroom in the modern manner.”
Construction on the $70,000 Correll residence began in May 1938. Williams designed the front entrance with a two-story columned portico, opening onto one of his signature staircases (image 3) embellished with fleur-de-lis. The rooms were spacious; well proportioned and well thought out with even the servants’ quarters facing the gardens. Correll worked closely with the architect in the design process. A bricklayer in his youth, Correll designed the brick pattern for the entry in front of the home himself. The architect's plans for the site included a "four-car garage, a swimming pool and pavillion and tennis courts." (Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1938)
Correll and his wife Alice continued to live in their home for over 25 years. Writer, television actor and producer Sidney Sheldon was the next owner. Sheldon lived in the home for 30 years and understood the value of a Williams’ designed home and though he added another ten thousand square feet he carefully replicated Williams’ design.