Building 915 (2188 N. Ponet Drive) on the City of Los Angeles’ Historic-Cultural Monuments list represents a classic example of a Spanish Colonial Revival-style residence with red clay roof tiling, a smooth stucco exterior and an impressive arched entryway. (Southwest Builder and Contractor. February 10, 1928) Designed by Paul R. Williams and built by well-regarded contractor Donald F. Harrison (BP5587-026-032) in 1928 for Victor Rossetti and his wife Irene and built for $47,000, the 14-room, two-and-a-half-story home made a statement about its owner; here was a man who was well on his way to the top.
In his early 20s, Victor Rossetti began work as an office boy for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco, and by his 40s he was elected vice president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Los Angeles, the oldest financial institution in Southern California. In 1931, shortly after moving into his new home, Rossetti became president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank and remained in the position for 25 years. Considered one of the "deans" of American banking, Rossetti was known for his conservative fiscal views. Writing a series of scathing opinion pieces for the Los Angeles Times, he argued for “old-time thrift … self-denial, frugality and thrift on which the foundation of this country was built” and lambasted local and federal governments for their deficit spending even during the Great Depression.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture of the Rossetti residence began in Southern California around the time of World War I, evolving from the popular Mission Revival-style and would remain popular until the end of the 1920s. By the time Paul R. Williams designed this home, many residents had embraced this architectural form as a way to combine the modern California lifestyle with the area’s Spanish past. The L-shaped stucco building has many features that define this manner; a hipped roof, multi-paned fixed and casement windows, arches, extensive use of ornamental iron work inside and out, window grilles, and balconies give the home an exotic, mysterious look and feeling. Williams added to the mix many of the luxurious extras he would become famous for, including decorative doors, coffered and stenciled ceilings, a dramatic two-story entryway with a sweeping staircase, a library, intercom system and a wooden elevator car connecting the garage to all levels of the house. He later designed a two-car garage as well as another porch in 1937.
Paul Williams' growing reputation as an architect skilled in customizing various historic revival styles for each client made him an increasingly popular designer for a new class of Los Angeles business leaders and their wives. These clients insisted on the best in their homes and the Rossetti's selection of Paul Williams as architect and Donald F. Harrison as contractor was an indication of the banker's desire to have a home treflecting his place in society.
Harrison's firm promoted itself to the affluent with discrete advertisements placed in the best design magazines of the day. Describing the firm as the "Builder of Fine Homes," female clients jockeyed to have their "Harrison built home" referenced. (Architectural Digest. v. 8#1 1930) The Harrison and Wiliams would continue their collaboration until 1933 when the contractor and his wife were killed in an auto accident while on vacation. (Southwest Builder and Contractor. September 1, 1933)
Victor and Irene Rossetti lived on N. Ponet for the length of their marriage. Irene died in 1947, and the house was sold in 1950 when Rossetti retired and moved to San Marino, California. Except for earthquake retro-fitting, the addition of bathrooms, and updated heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems, the aesthetics of the house are little changed. Victor, Irene, and their two children would have little trouble feeling right at home again.