John Elgin Woolf was a very prominent and influential Architect in Los Angeles. He created the popular ‘Hollywood Regency’ home design style.
John Elgin Woolf was an architect to the stars, with much of his work being done for celebrities. He built houses for Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Mae West and Bob Hope to name a few. His projects were mainly centered around Bel Air and Beverly Hills areas.
I find it surprising that more isn’t published about Woolf when so much has been written about his contemporaries. I think this is partially due to the fact that Woolf was never licensed as an architect, although he graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1929 with an architectural degree.
Since Hollywood Regency draws inspiration from classical sources of architecture such as Beaux Arts, French and English Regency periods, and then strips it down- perhaps purists feel that Hollywood Regency is watered down and not legitimate. After Woolf’s passing, his partner Robert Koch, made a huge donation to USC’s Museum of Architecture, which now houses over 2,000 of Woolf’s personal and professional items in their collection, including watercolor drawings, photographs, and designs. The collection also has manuscripts containing correspondence between the firm and many of their celebrity clientele.
John Woolf was prolific – his firm was active from 1940-1980 and in that time he completed approximately 300 projects. John Woolf project history. He specialized in remodels and new construction. Woolf houses sell extremely well and are much beloved by their owners. They are comfortable and possess great livability. Woolf knew how to cater to his audience and created glamour and Drama with big dramatic entrances, large living rooms with floating fireplaces, lavish outdoor pool and lounge areas with pavilion. Many hallmarks of the Hollywood Regency designs are quite theatrical, just like the town they were built in itself.
Growing up in Atlanta Georgia, Woolf was surrounded by many beautiful Beau- Arts houses. After he graduated college, Woolf worked for the National Park Service in Georgia between 1934 and 1936 and carefully studied surviving classical revival antebellum residences. On a visit to New Orleans in 1936, Woolf was particularly impressed by the architecture in the city’s historic Vieux Carre and Garden districts and dedicated himself to master the details behind classical period revival designs. During the time that Woolf was producing his Hollywood Regency houses, post World War II, many of his fellow architects were producing modern houses like the case study houses. Woolf’s houses followed a traditional model. There are a couple design features that define Hollywood Regency:
The most instantly recognizable feature of a John Woolf Hollywood Regency design is the out of proportion Pullman style doorway that interrupts the roofline. The first known example of a Pullman style door was in Woolf’s own Melrose Place offices (8448 Melrose Pl).