Friday, December 16, 2011

The Jaws House

If you think the name is creepy, wait'll you hear that one resident was a suspect in a gruesome murder...but let's start at the beginning.

The Jaws House on Franklin Ave. in the Los Feliz area is actually the John Sowden House. Sowden hired his friend Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) to design and build his home in 1926. Using patterned concrete blocks and a Mayan style as his father did in the Ennis House, Lloyd Wright created the showplace that Sowden wanted.

Today, it's still used as a showplace. Owner Xorin Balbes renovated it in 2001 and in 2009, and the house has been used for fundraisers for gay causes, according to the caption on this LA Library photo. Which probably has nothing to do with the gardener who got caught in the photograph.

Balbes put the unique house on the market earlier this year. The L.A. Times did a write-up in its Home of the Week column, pointing out all the features and changes over the years.

And Curbed LA (and probably a few other sites) ran incredible pictures of the place inside and out.

In between Sowden and Balbes, though, another owner just after World War II brought a more sinister cachet to the residence. A doctor named George Hodel lived there with his family, and his son believes the Black Dahlia--Elizabeth Short--was tortured, murdered, and dismembered there.

Son Steve Hodel wrote the book Black Dahlia Avenger
about his father and the years at the house.

Recent owner Balbes got flack for installing a pool when he renovated, according to this Wikipedia article.  Which is interesting, because a woman who used to visit the home as a child remembers a pool there originally.

Beverley Jackson remembers being sent to the house to visit a retired Shakesperian actor, Guy Bates Post, when she was a little kid. Why? Jackson's mother decided she mumbled, and wished to nip that in the bud.

Jackson blogs: "once inside there was a long narrow courtyard surrounded by the long narrow house. And there was a long narrow pool with water lilies just inside the courtyard. I remember it well because once I wasn’t paying attention and I fell into it."

So years later she visits the area, and comes up to the house just as a film shoot is winding up and talks to the property manager, who tells her about the Black Dahlia suspect and that there might be more bodies buried on the property. This had to be before the 2001 redo, because there was no pool. Jackson told the property manager about the pool she remembered, and said that must be where the bodies were.

Did anyone ever check?



Will Campbell said...

First off, Happy Holidays! Second off, thank you for getting the architect of Sowden House right. So many people call it the creation of Lloyd Wright's father.

Lastly, for the sake of counterpoint there are experts on the Black Dahlia murder and investigation who have soundly debunked Hodel's adamant assertions. But even if he's right and his dad was the killer, the simple fact is the case will never officially be closed as you can't prosecute and convict the dead. So unless something of a miraculous discovery is made involving an evidentiary link or some sort of written confession that can be validated as authentic the answer to who killed Beth Short will never known.

Vix said...

Thank you!
Except for James Ellroy's book, I haven't read extensively on the Black Dahlia--weak stomach. But I do remember that there was argument and controversy when Hodel's book came out, and I'm sure you are correct.