In the 1930’s, the Great Depression had hit the country hard. Even the most affluent families lost money as banks failed across the nation. In Los Angeles, Holmby Hills, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, the construction of extravagant estates continued and was perhaps the biggest anomaly in the country at the time. Land on prestigious Sunset Boulevard and Carolwood Drive was still being purchased by those looking to find a prominent place among the Hollywood elite, and no price was too high.
Making the headlines in 1932 was Charles and Florence Quinn. Florence was the wife of the late Arthur Letts Sr., founder of the Broadway department stores. Florence and Letts had already purchased a magnificent thirty-acre estate in Hollywood, but after his death and her subsequent re-marriage, Florence decided to sell and move to Sunset Boulevard with her new husband. Florence chose a parcel of land situated between the homes of her three children, who by this time were married and established on their own. The Quinn’s astounded their neighbors and all of Los Angles when it was leaked that their construction budget for their new home was estimated at $150,000. While this amount is not much in today’s standards, during the Depression, it was a phenomenal price.
The couple hired Robert Farquhar to design their 12,600-square-foot Italian Renaissance style home. Farquhar designed the home to include eight bedrooms and seven full bathrooms, along with a dining room, living area and a grand entryway. The home was fashioned with only the finest marble and rarest woods to give the Quinn’s an extraordinary finished product. Florence loved antiques and art and filled her home with both. During her time at what would later be named “Owlwood,” she decorated the rooms in her home with a variety of timeless pieces including an entire 18th century drawing room that she purchased from the famous Castle Hill in Devonshire, England. She also included rare pieces from the Ming Dynasty as well as English and French silver and fine china.
After Florence’s death, many prominent men and women were interested in the property. It was well known that the Quinn’s home was the largest in the area at that time and it was the definition of classic beauty and grandeur. In 1944, the home was sold to Joseph Drown, the founder of The Hotel Bel-Air, and then shortly after was sold once again to 20th Century Fox Co-Founder, Joe Schenck. It was during his time at Owlwood that Schenck discovered one of the greatest actresses known in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe. Monroe lived at the Owlwood estate in the pool house until she hit it big and was able to move out on her own. After Schenck, the home went through several more prestigious owners, including Superior Oil Founder William Keck, actor Tony Curtis and the beloved duo, Sonny and Cher. In 1976, Cher sold the property to Ralph and Chase Mishkin, where it finally got its name “Owlwood.” The home has stayed much the same, gaining additional acres over the years and was recently the second highest selling estate in Los Angles.