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Neighborhood Spotlight: A Modern Utopia in Crestwood Hills

Written by Kelly Weimert on Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at 11:05am.

Source: @CrestwoodHills

Crestwood Hills is an LA neighborhood that was developed in the Santa Monica Mountains above Sunset Boulevard in 1946. The way it came to be makes Crestwood Hills among the most unique neighborhoods in California. In postwar LA, four veterans and musicians decided to pool their money to buy an acre of land and build homes on each of the four corners surrounding one communal pool. 

The idea of these friends coming together as a community to afford land and amenities that they couldn’t afford alone caught the interest of more and more people. What started as four friends grew to include 500 people, many of whom were artists of various types, who wanted to create a sort of utopian commune. These 500 people came together to form the Mutual Housing Association (MHA), with each member owning shares of the corporation and a housing site on the 800 acres of land they invested in. 

Crestwood Hills Mutual Housing Association
Source: crestwoodhills.com

After forming the corporation, the group sought out an architect to create cohesive homes that honored the surrounding land. The modernist homes that became popular during that time, with their practical layout and fluidity with the outdoors, were a perfect fit. 

The group decided on two modernist architects to design the homes: A. Quincy Jones and Whitney Smith. They also enlisted Edgardo Contini as an architectural engineer. These three were selected even over such figures as Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and John Lautner. The architects conceptualized homes that featured abundant glass, redwood, and concrete blocks, blurring the line between the indoors and outdoors. And rather than level the mountainous terrain, the architects designed each home for the lot it sat on, further blending the dwellings with the surrounding scenery. 

Crestwood Hills Homes
Source: la.curbed.com

The architects’ designs were so innovative that the Federal Housing Administration wouldn’t initially approve mortgages in the neighborhood. The group needed to send a delegate to Washington, D.C., to push the approval forward, which was ultimately successful. 

Once the homes were finally built, the MHA became the Crestwood Hills Association. The change resulted in members of the community owning titles rather than mutual housing shares. However, the communal, progressive ideals remained, resulting in a tight-knit community with similar political beliefs and ideas about how to live happily. 

Over the years, the neighborhood has seen its hardships, with a 1961 fire destroying many of the original homes and a number of insensitive renovations doing the same. However, a handful of the original homes remain, with 19 of them designated as historic cultural monuments, and there’s still a progressive air among the community that lives there. 

The following homes are just a few of the historic treasures that remain in this unique neighborhood. You can also check out all homes for sale in Crestwood Hills here.


Schneidman House

Schneidman House Crestwood Hills
Source: corybuckner.com

The Schneidman House is a designated historic monument, and although it’s not in its original form, the new owners sought to restore and remodel it so that it closely resembles the original. For example, all of the house’s materials were stripped and brought back to their original wood finish.


Hamma House

Hamma House Crestwood Hills
Source: flickr.com

Another historic monument, the Hamma House retains many of its original details thanks to thoughtful restorations and renovations by the owner, and it features panoramic city and ocean views. It’s also among the few easily photographed Crestwood Hills homes as many of the homes are tucked behind dense foliage, hills, and fences. 


MHA Site Office

MHA Site Office Crestwood Hills
Source: la.curbed.com

The MHA SIte Office was the first structure built in Crestwood Hills. It functioned as the site office for the architectural team while they were developing the homes and later became the arts and crafts building for the nearby park. Today, it looks much like it did originally as architect Cory Buckner took pains to remodel and restore it, along with about a dozen others in the neighborhood, paying homage to its original design.


Interested in calling this historic neighborhood home? Check out all homes for sale in Crestwood Hills now and stay up-to-date on community updates by following @CrestwoodHills.

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