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Outrage Erupts Over Demolition of Iconic Midcentury Craig Ellwood Home in Brentwood

Destruction of Zimmerman House Creates Internet Backlash

Preservationists lamented last year when another treasure of L.A.’s midcentury modern architecture vanished, this time with little warning. Situated on one of Brentwood’s most desirable streets, the Zimmerman House was sadly demolished. 

Recently, outrage has risen on the Internet as architecture fans and Angelenos who love the city’s history have discovered that Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger had the architectural marvel and beloved mid-century estate demolished. 

Twitter users said, “It’s sad to see icons of modernism needlessly destroyed by insensitive McMansion seekers.” and “truly the *worst* Chris.”

The Los Angeles Conservancy posted a demolition alert on January 11 of this year, which said, “We recently learned about the proposed demolition of this 1950 Modernist residence at 400 North Carmelina Avenue in Brentwood. Designed by Emiel Becsky and working within architect Craig Ellwood’s office, he created a one-story, nearly 3,000 sq. ft. residence that appears to be highly intact and a noteworthy example of Modernist design from this era. The City’s SurveyLA program identified it as potentially historic, yet no protections are currently afforded.”

Martin and Eva Zimmerman commissioned the architect Ellwood to build their home in 1949, which was completed in 1950. The home was a showplace featured in architectural magazines; the estate’s outdoor spaces were curated by landscape designer Garrett Eckbo. 

The estate was sold in 1968 and then again in 1975, when it fetched $205,000 when it was purchased by screenwriter and showrunner Sam Rolfe and his wife, Hilda. Hilda Rolfe said that her husband “created 13 in all, including Have Gun – Will Travel, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Manhunter.” as quoted by The New York Times. 

The home was sold in an off-market sale for $12.5 million after Hilda Newman-Rolfe died in 2022. The secret buyers were Pratt and Schwarzenegger, who promptly razed the midcentury structure to construct a new mansion. According to the Robb Report, the permits for the new mansion stated that the architect, Ken Ungar, famous for the modern farmhouse-style mansions that are going up all over the city, is designing their new home. 

The couple likely chose to destroy the home for the simple reason that the now vacant lot is close to the estate of Katherine Schwartzeneggar’s mother, Maria Shriver, on North Carmelina Drive. Pratt and Schwarzenegger are still living in their mansion in the Pacific Palisades until their new mansion is completed.

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