When Dr. and Mrs. Roy Van Wart purchased a two-acre lot on the north side of Bellagio Road at the corner of Bel-Air Road and the East Gate in 1931, they asked architect Ray J. Kieffer to design a French Norman home with some “English” touches.
Roy Van Wart, a highly skilled neuropathologist in Canada and then in New Orleans, had retired from medicine in 1929 at age forty-one so that he could—according to one account—“devote full time to his personal business interests.” Certainly Dr. Van Wart continued his educational pursuits, but what he, his wife, Edna, and their daughter, Katherine, really wanted to do was enjoy their money. And few places were more conducive to pleasure than Southern California, and a new home on Bel-Air’s fashionable Bellagio Road.
For the Van Warts, Kieffer designed a fourteen-room fairy-tale manor house that looked as if it had been lifted from a French village. The cost? $50,000. In very valuable Depression dollars.
From original, simple, white wooden gates, the driveway led gently uphill from Bellagio Road to the mansion, which stood on a large expanse of flat land. After reaching the house, the driveway ran through an archway to the rear motor court and four-car garage.
The layered front façade was a combination of multicolor bricks and white half-timbers topped by steep, pitched roofs; the main tower even included a dovecote on top.
One of the property’s real delights was its grounds. From the brick terraces at the front of the house, the Van Wart family enjoyed a several-hundred-foot view of open land that ran downhill along the west side of Bel-Air Road toward Bellagio Road. At the narrow end of their estate, they constructed their swimming pool. By planting trees along the Bel-Air Road frontage, they concealed their neighborhood and the roadway, allowing them to gaze upon open space and enjoy the illusion of being in the middle of the country.