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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Not the Getty

High above the Pacific Coast Highway, sporting incredible ocean views, sits the Getty Villa. It's the former home of billionaire J. Paul Getty, and was the original Getty Museum. The much larger Getty Center in Brentwood now houses most of the artwork, but the Getty Villa Malibu (technically in Pacific Palisades) still features the Getty Greek and Roman Collection.

You can easily spot the Getty Villa on the hill driving up or down the PCH. It's a recognizable landmark to both visitors and residents alike. There's just one problem.

It's not the Getty.

The building you're looking at is known as Villa de Leon. Built in 1926, it's a large private residence overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. Ever since J. Paul Getty began opening up his estate to the public in the mid 1950's, people have assumed that the huge mansion perched on the hill is "the Getty." Even among people who live in the area, it's probably one of the most mis-identified buildings in Los Angeles.

Villa de Leon sits above the entrance to the Getty Villa, hence the confusion. The Getty Villa is actually not visible from the street and is located up a private road off the PCH.

The Getty Villa (above) is in an incredible setting, with amazing Greek and Roman artifacts, and best of all - free admission.

Meanwhile, Villa de Leon sits overlooking the Pacific, continuing it's job as one of the most mis-identified landmarks in Los Angeles. According to International it's currently for sale for $15 million. Not sure if the foundation has been worked on since these pictures were taken a couple years ago, as closer inspection reveals:

Major cracks. Click on the image above, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The problem ultimately isn't the house - it's the hillside it was built on, part of which has collapsed during winter storms, taking an entire garden terrace with it. Ouch. Reminders of "building your house on the rock" (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-27) come to mind.

The home is located at 17948 Porto Marina Way, Pacific Palisades, 90272. Here's a view from the top showing the extent of the collapse of one of the hillsides.

Zillow gave the home an estimate between $3-$5 million since 2001. It apparently sold for 10 million dollars in 2007. Zillow currently has it valued at around $8.9 million.

These pictures were taken a couple of years ago. Looks like a lot of work was being done on it.

Obviously the owners of this property are in a completely different league than most of us.
Thanks to google (which I've used many times on this blog) mere mortals like us can have an idea what the interior looks like.

photo credit:

Nice floor. Reminds me of Hearst Castle but, ironically, on a "smaller scale."

Can't argue that the street it's on, Porto Marina Way, has a great view of the Pacific Ocean. This is looking south towards the PCH with Santa Monica in the distance.

Getting back to the original idea - calling 17948 Porto Marina Way "the Getty Villa" doesn't make it the Getty, even if a majority of people do so.

As a Christian, I'm reminded that Christianity isn't based on popular opinion, or what a majority of people think, but on historic fact. Almost two thousand years ago, St. Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus' life, ministry, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension wrote:

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (II Peter 1:16).

The resurrection of Jesus isn't true because Christians believe it - we believe it because it's true.

I found yet another website incorrectly listing Villa de Leon as the Getty Villa: Angel City Art

And while on-line "stories" and (much more common) "word of mouth" continue to perpetuate that the big house on the hill is the Getty Villa, the facts reveal something else.

A trip to the actual Getty Villa is worth your time (visit the website ahead of time - you need a parking reservation). Here's some thoughts and tips from a previous blog post.

And be sure and give a shout out to Villa de Leon when you visit.

originally posted 11/18/08

© 2010


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I grew up in the neighborhood of the Getty Village and I still have to argue with people until I am blue in my face that this is not part of the Getty.

David from L.A. said...

It's bad enough that people from out of town, or even from other parts of L.A. think Villa de Leon is "the Getty" - but I have friends from Brentwood who think so. (I assume you grew up in Sunset Mesa - I grew up above Marquez Elementary, just a couples miles away).

Stephen Dimmick said...

I just shot in this house yesterday and today. It's quite exquisite on the inside. The new owners have put millions into the infrastructure to stop it sliding down the hill.. They have plans to create a swimming pool where the broken circular wall is. They've also fortified this area into the bedrock. The kitchen cabinets have been recreated from what was the only remaining cabinet from the original kitchen. All hand carved of course. The basement contains the original washer, dryer and carpet cleaning equipment from when it was built. It' rather incredible!

Anonymous said...

Villa de leon starred in movie that recently got out to the cinemas. Gambler with Mark Wahlberg

Brigette said...

I used to live in the Palisades and was a docent at the Getty. Amazing how many people thought that house was the museum. I drove by it so many times, always wished I could see inside it.

Unknown said...

Amazing how since I was a little girl taking field trips with my elementary school, I remember looking up the mountain and saying" we are here"....I have been telling people most of my life that Villa De Leon was the Getty...Lol

Unknown said...

I remember going to the Villa de Leon in the late 50's and seeing what I thought was the Getty collection. I even remember being in the room with the fantastic ocean view that housed the classic statuary. There was another room with period furniture and carpets. I couldn't possibly be imagining this because it is still a vivid memory. But yes, I was in this very building.

Just sayin said...

I have a memory similar to that posted here by Jan Reichmann, Nov 21 2015. In the mid-late 1950's I went to the Villa de Leon on an art visit with my mother and an organization that she was a member. I recall being in a large room that seemed dark but for the afternoon sunlight streaming through high windows. The room was filled with statuary which appeared to be quite old. I was a teenager then and do not remember the details of the exhibit. The many sculptures were displayed, but in rather tight quarters, more like being stored there temporarily. It was only available for viewing by special invitation during a short time period. I too believed it was part of the Getty collection, although I have never confused this building with the Getty Villa, which was built many years later, and which I have visited several times.

TBD said...

1. I believe the word you are looking for is “interestingly” not “ironically”
2. But, speaking of the proper use of irony, thank you for saying that Christianity is based on historical fact, that gave me the best laugh I’ve had in a while.
3. I’m guessing you’re unfamiliar with the meaning of “majority” as well?

Anonymous said...

Good post but we could have done without the Christian propaganda.

David from L.A. said...

Thanks. Comments - both positive and negative - are appreciated.