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Hollywood’s Museum Aid: It’s for the Birds

Times Staff Writer

Actor Jimmy Stewart, an active supporter of the planned Ralph W. Schreiber Hall of Birds at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, is expected to be at the hall’s formal start of construction Monday.

I always knew the famous actor/retired Air Force general liked to fly, but I didn’t know he was such a bird lover! Turns out he and his wife, Gloria, are longtime backers of the museum, and so is actor Eddie Albert, who also intends to be at the ceremony. (Gloria Stewart has been on the museum’s board of trustees since 1976.)

In a video, Jimmy Stewart urged prospective donors “to take the bird hall under your wing.” They did, coming up with $3.9 million of the $4.9 million needed to build the new hall, which will be in the museum at 900 Exposition Blvd.

Designed by the Russell Group, Architects, the 17,000-square-foot project is actually a renovation of the five-story museum’s second floor, which housed the old bird hall.

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The new hall, which will have three walk-through habitats--a tropical rain forest, Canadian marshland and California mountain (high) desert--led by Prof. Percy Pelican (the voice of comedian Jonathan Winters) and one of the largest ornithological collections in the United States, is expected to be completed in late ’89, by the Ray Wilson Construction Co.

The ceremony will be bittersweet, because Schreiber, the creative force behind the project and the man for whom the hall will be named, died in March from cancer at age 45. He was the museum curator for nearly 12 years.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and friends have been bargaining for the Design Center at 433 S. Spring St., the Art Deco landmark that is becoming the temporary Central Library.

“Escrow was going to close in November,” Mollie Qvale, whose architect husband, Ragnar, and Ragnar’s brother Kjell are the owners, said, “but I don’t think we’ll go through with it. The buyers were only going to put $150,000 up front. That’s nothing on a $25-million deal.”

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The actor and his group of investors might still buy the place, she said, but the Qvale brothers are now hoping to get $27 million.

Yes, the complex where the Central Library will be housed for at least four years--until its fire-ravaged building at 5th and Flower streets is renovated and expanded, is for sale, and it has been-- quietly-- for six months. It is listed with Snowden & Associates in San Francisco, where Kjell is a distributor for Maserati and has a showroom for the British Motor Car Co.

In April, the Los Angeles Library Commission approved a plan to lease nine of the Design Center’s 10 floors in its 370,000-square-foot building as a temporary home for the library, devastated by fire in 1986. (The lease was valued at $8,305,200.) On June 1, the library opened a small lending branch, known as the Book Stop, just off the lobby.

The library took temporary space in the 13-story, 175,000-square-foot annex, to sort and thaw 70,000 water-damaged books that had been frozen, and plans to open in the main building in the fall.

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In the meantime, most of the design showrooms have moved to the Los Angeles Mart, 1933 S. Broadway, said Mollie Qvale. Built in the late ‘20s, the Spring Street complex was known for years as the Title Insurance & Trust headquarters, but it has been a design center since the Qvale brothers bought and renovated the two buildings in 1979. The Boardroom restaurant, Express Cafe, Los Angeles Conservancy and Aman Folk Co. will remain as tenants, she said.

Remember the Malibu mansion that was built by a man who claimed to be a knight?

He also said that parts of the place were from a 16th-Century mill, Coco Chanel’s bedchamber and Lillie Langtry’s powder room.

“Many of the claims he made on his brochure cannot be substantiated or have proven to be outright false,” Richard Stanton Mark of Malibu said, “but the house is truly palatial, the grounds are fully landscaped, and the lake surrounding the house has some valuable koi and Canadian ducks.” The property also has a sunken tennis court and ocean and canyon views.

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In 1984, the former owner was asking $12.5 million for the house with 18 acres, $11 million with 10 acres or $8.5 million with 5.36. Now Mark and his wife, Charmaine, have the exclusive listing, from a bank, which is asking $4.5 million for the house with 6.8 acres.

“The estate is available for the first time since it was foreclosed on in 1986,” Mark said. The bank took it over from the former owner, who returned to England, he added.

In a letter to me, Mark wrote that the bank just spent the past 18 months restoring and finishing the house, which the Englishman “attempted to strip.” The bank got a court order to stop him, Mark said, and was “able to prevent further damage and recover all of the valuable windows and fixtures in the nick of time.”

Hollywood has come to Mid-Wilshire--for the second time since April.

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Mark Goodson Productions has signed a lease for 28,600 square feet of offices in the Wilshire Courtyard, that huge complex across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The lease was valued at $8 million.

In April, New Visions Pictures, a joint venture of New Century Entertainment and Cineplex Odeon, signed a $7-million lease for 25,000 feet.

The latest lease was handled by Gray DeFevere of Greenwood & Co., who represented Goodson, and Clifford Goldstein, who represented the J.H. Snyder Co. and California Federal Savings, the developers.


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