In the 1920s and 30s Mediterranean Revival architecture became popular in the United States, and Paul R. Williams designed homes in this style for many of his wealthy California clients. One of those clients was the Olympic swimming hero and movie character Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller (image 2). Williams’ design for the 8,700 square-foot home at 414 Saint Pierre Road included spectacular grounds with a 300-foot serpentine swimming pool that curled around the house. Water for the pool was supplied by an ingenious electric waterfall. Later owners would add other water features including a lagoon large enough for boats. (Los Angeles Times. August 12, 1941)
During the late 1930s the home and surrounding grounds were famous for extensive landscaping and displays of rare domestic and imported shrubs, trees and flowers. (The Los Angeles Times often referred to it in news items as the International Garden.) The estate became a popular destination on fund-raising tours for many of the city's nonprofit organizations. In 1936 when the estate was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Zublin, a successful petroleum engineer and inventor, Mrs. Donald Winston of the YWCA described the gardens as a "California garden achievement ... (with) the completion of a Venetian canal ... an artificial waterfall located in a rustic corner overhung with California live oaks appears to flow from natural springs." (Los Angeles Times. November 1, 1936) Today little remains of these gardens.
After Weissmuller a series of famous residents lived in the house including William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies (image 3) and film producer Harry M. Goetz in the 1940s, the 60s singing group The Mamas and the Papas, and musician Mick Jagger in the 1970s. The house and grounds, now designated the Nicolosi Estate, was named for one of the residence’s less notorious owners — the noted mid-20th century sculptor, Joseph Nicolosi. Working on numerous commissions on both the east and west coasts, Nicolosi split his time between Los Angeles and New York City. While living at the Williams’ designed estate, Nicolosi worked on a series of bronze bas relief portraits for the peristyle Memorial Court of Honor at the Los Angeles Coliseum. He died suddenly at his home on Saint Pierre in July 1961 after completing his tenth piece for the Coliseum project. (Los Angeles Times, July 14, 1961)
In 1990 the Nicolosi Estate was declared a Historic Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles. It was recently damaged in a fire and is now abandoned.