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Arch Oboler Gate House, 1940
In the 1940s, radio and television personality Arch Oboler and his wife Eleanor set out to create an estate called "Eaglefeather" on the 360-acre lot they owned in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu.
Their grand plans included a house, a film-processing studio, stables, and paddock, along with other structures. Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to do the design.
Unfortunately, the Oboler's dream was never realized. World War II created shortages that made construction difficult. According to architect E. Fay Rippon, the Obolers stopped working on the project because their son died on the construction site, but Oboler's waxing and waning fortunes may have also played a part in the project's demise.
The gatehouse was built first in 1940. It appears in Oboler's film Five. The next year, a small studio was built for Eleanor on a nearby hilltop (you can see it in the next picture). Eventually, the gatehouse was expanded to its current size.
This structure is the... only example of Wright's desert rubblestone construction in southern California. Oboler enjoyed collecting rocks as a hobby and gathered many of the stones himself, from as far away as Arizona.
The Obolers lived in the gatehouse until 1987, and it has had a few owners since then. In 2017, real estate website Zillow estimated its value at $3.7 million. The lot covers 79 acres, and the two-bedroom house is listed at 2,486 square feet.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Eleanor's Retreat, 1941 - and More of California's Wright Sites
Eleanor's Retreat was one of only two structures built out of a grander plan created for 1940s radio and television personality Arch Oboler and his wife, Eleanor. You can read more about it on the previous page.
This small studio created for Eleanor stands on a hilltop near the gatehouse.
I apologize for the tree in the foreground of this image. The photographer should have listened to her driver/spouse who kept saying that this little place was also a Wright design and made a better effort to get a clear shot, and I'm lucky I captured it at all.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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What You Need to Know About the Oboler Property
The gatehouse and Eleanor's Retreat are located at:
32436 Mulholland Highway
This location is about 10 miles inland from the center of Malibu. The buildings are a private residence and not open for tours, but you can see them from the road.
Even though you can't see the interiors and some were never built, you can see a collection of Wright's original drawings for the entire estate on this Facebook page.
More of the Wright Sites
The Gate House and Eleanor's Retreat are among nine Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in the Los Angeles area. Use the guide to Wright Sites in Los Angeles to find the rest.
The Arch Oboler Gate House is one of a few California properties that Wright designed using desert rubble construction, a style he first used in Arizona at Taliesin West. These are the other California examples: Berger House, and the Pilgrim Congregational Church.
Wright's work isn't all in the Los Angeles area. The San Francisco area is also home to eight... of them, including two of his most important works. Use the guide to Frank Lloyd Wright in the San Francisco area to find them.You'll also find several houses, a church, and a medical clinic in some of the most unexpected places. Here's where to find Wright sites in the rest of California.
Don't be confused if you find more "Wright" sites in the LA area than are mentioned in our guide. Lloyd Wright (son of the famous Frank) also has an impressive portfolio that includes Wayfarers Chapel in Palos Verdes, the John Sowden House and the original bandshell for the Hollywood Bowl.
More to See Nearby
If you're an architecture lover, check this list of famous Los Angeles houses that are open to the public, including Richard Neutra's VDL house, the Eames house (home of designers Charles and Ray Eames), and Pierre Koenig's Stahl House.
Other sites of particular architectural interest include the Disney Concert Hall and Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Richard Meier's Getty Center, the iconic Capitol Records Building, Cesar Pelli's boldly colored geometric Pacific Design Center.