The Sowden House: A Mayan Residence of Mysteries

From serving as suitable scenery for scary movies to keeping real-life secrets within its walls, the famous Sowden House knows how to attract both film enthusiasts and amateur detectives. In 1926, skilled architect Lloyd Wright designed this masterpiece of a house for painter and photographer John Sowden, who the Mayan-style residence is named after.

The Sowden House, designed by Lloyd Wright.

The Sowden House, designed by Lloyd Wright.
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The history of Wright’s best work

There have been more than ten owners of the Sowden House, John Sowden being the very first possessor of them all. The breathtaking residence was designed for him by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr, son of the icon Frank Lloyd Wright. John Sowden and his wife Ruth were known to be talented artists and held a reputation for being real party animals. As a newlywed couple, they sought an experienced designer to build their dream house. Having designed numerous sets for Paramount Studios, Lloyd Wright was a perfect match, fulfilling their expectations. In 1926, he flawlessly designed a mysterious and theatrical house for the artistic party couple, which nowadays is known to be his best work and is even listed as one of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments

The Black Dahlia mystery

The Sowden House plays a significant role in the Black Dahlia mystery. The residence is the perfect setting for many horror and thriller cinematics because of its unique design and the scary history it holds. The Black Dahlia mystery refers to the dark and somber crime involving Elizabeth Short, a 22-year-old victim who got brutally mutilated and cruelly murdered in the year 1947. Dr. George Hodel, a physician and probably an even bigger party animal than the Sowden couple, bought the residence in 1945. He frequently held outrageous parties driven by sex and drugs. When Hodel passed away, his son implied that his father was a sadist and accused him of mercilessly cutting her up and killing her in the basement of the once-innocent Sowden House. However, the case remains officially unsolved until this day.

The design of the Jaw House

Among the homes for rent los angeles has to offer, the Jaw House may be one of the most fascinating ones. The captivating yet frightening front entrance reminds many of the mouth of a shark, which is where the nickname Jaw House comes from. The sand-colored zigzagging blocks of pre-cast concrete create the iconic and jaw-like entrance look is based on the ancient Mayan Revival style. Both Wright and his father were known to take inspiration from Mayan architecture regularly. They both designed numerous homes using the same textile block method, like the Henry Bollman Residence, the Hollyhock House, and Storer Residence.

The Sowden House, designed by Lloyd Wright.

The Sowden House, designed by Lloyd Wright.
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In 2001, the Sowden House underwent a massive transformation by designer Xorin Balbes, who bought the home for 1.2 million. He then invested 1.6 million to restore and remodel the residence. While the exterior still represents Wright’s iconic style, the interior is adapted to modern life. 

Respecting Wright’s initial effort to create a mesmerizing construction where nature and architecture intertwine, Balbes only restored the stonework. Then, he mainly made changes to the interior. First, he chose to decrease the number of bedrooms to four and combine rooms he no longer needed to create a bigger kitchen. Second, he restored and modernized the bathrooms. Additionally, he added a pool and spa into the central courtyard. All in all, Balbes transformed Wright’s most significant work just perfectly to respect both history and the modern world. 

A collection of roles

It is no secret that this mysterious house has served as the mood setter in several famous movies and TV shows. From playing Howard Hughes’ home in The Aviator (2004) to representing George Hodel’s house of terror in the TNT series, I Am the Night (2019), this Mayan-style building has played many scary roles due to its famous history. Besides serving as movie scenery, the residence is also a performance venue and backdrop for magazine and television shoots. Additionally, it serves as a venue for non-profit events centered on charitable giving and supporting the arts. Of course, it also is a home to its owners. Xorin Balbes sold the restored residence a few years after he initially bought it. Ever since the house has been purchased and sold endlessly for millions of dollars every few years.

From the outside, the Sowden House appears to be a fortress, covering the secrets the residence holds within. The few lucky individuals who visit it can only describe the peaceful vibes the interior gives off. It’s like entering a completely different universe. However, at night, when the fire is burning and it’s dark all around, a quick reminder may pop up that the legendary house gave birth to a murderous tragedy many years ago.

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