Site of Oboler Estate
The site of the Oboler Estate in Malibu, decimated in the Woolsey Fire of 2018, is now on the market. The 100-acre property contains the remains of structures built by Arch Oboler, working from designs by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Read full description
The initial structure, which included a gatehouse, stable and carport, was converted to the property’s primary living space in the mid-1940s and ’50s. This complex became known as the “Eaglefeather Compound,” after the name “Eaglefeather,” given to an unconstructed 1940 Wright design for a house for the Obolers intended for the property.
In 1941 a small structure, known as Eleanor’s Retreat, was constructed for the use of Oboler’s wife, Eleanor. Its construction was overseen by Taliesin apprentice John Lautner. Unlike other structures on the site, the Retreat was a full realization of Wright’s design.
Not only did the Woolsey Fire directly affect the property, but post-fire remediation of the site mandated the removal of surface materials to a depth of 18” below grade. The current owner, with the assistance of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and other preservationists, successfully fought to keep this remediation from occurring in the area around Eleanor’s Retreat. The Retreat’s surviving desert-masonry (or desert concrete) components encourage reconstruction of this small but refined structure. As noted shortly after the fire by Wright’s grandson, the late Eric Lloyd Wright, the Retreat, “is the only occurrence of desert concrete in a Southern California residential building….It is a piece of artwork in itself.”
Sadly, it was not possible to save the area around the Eaglefeather Compound from full remediation. Physical traces of this structure, with its more complex design and construction history, have largely been erased. A few desert-masonry walls constructed by Oboler (and not supervised by Wright) are all that remain.