LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY
The house at 2555 Divisadero was designed by an “important, neglected California designer,” the Planning Department’s Citywide Historic Building Survey in 1976 noted. That architect, Paul Revere Williams, has since been rediscovered.
Williams, one of the few African-American architects working in California in the decades before World War II, is now well known, thanks to the perseverance and publications of his granddaughter, Karen E. Hudson. Her books lovingly tell the story of this remarkably talented and pioneering architect. A key designer of the Hollywood Regency style, Williams was a master at slenderizing and refining Classical forms and motifs, creating a Modern version of shapes and features extracted from traditional architecture.
Often referred to as “the architect to the stars,” Williams designed many Hollywood and Beverly Hills mansions, as well as some iconic Southern California buildings such as the Golden State Mutual Insurance Company — the largest black-owned insurance company west of the Mississippi — and the Music Corporation of America headquarters and the Saks Fifth Avenue store, both in Beverly Hills. He also made important renovations to two luxury hotels: the Beverly Hills and the Ambassador, which has since been demolished.
While Williams’ work in Northern California was limited to a few commissions, he partnered with his clients at 2555 Divisadero to create a Hollywood Regency style house set amidst the much more traditional Colonial Revival houses atop Pacific Heights.