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‘Big Blue House’ in Newport Beach once owned by Irvine heiress may give way to a bigger mansion

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City permits have been issued in Newport Beach to demolish the gated 1930s-era “Big Blue House,” center, which was the home of Kathryn Irvine Wheeler, the eldest grandchild of Irvine Co. founder James Irvine II.
(David Heath / Western Exposure)

The days may be numbered for an Irvine family member’s former Newport Beach estate known as the “Big Blue House,” with a replacement nearly five times its size potentially on the way.

City permits have been issued to demolish the gated 1930s-era house at 401 Avocado Ave., which was the home of Kathryn Irvine Wheeler until her death in 2003, then passed to her heirs. Wheeler was the eldest grandchild of Irvine Co. founder James Irvine II, who raised her after her mother died from complications of childbirth.

She championed the effort to locate the campus on the Irvine Ranch property and persuaded the Irvine Co. to part with 1,000 acres for that purpose for $1.

An application is pending to redevelop the plot with a substantially larger mansion with an attached guest house, totaling nearly 20,000 square feet.

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The Big Blue House and a newer property next door sold together for $55 million in 2017. The two homes sit on a combined 3½ acres at the western edge of Corona del Mar, facing the entrance to Newport Harbor. The owner is CA Avocado 401415 LLC, which has a mailing address in Phoenix, according to city documents.

The Big Blue House is, by modern mansion standards, not especially large at 4,200 square feet. But it is notable for its Colonial architecture, prominent stepped roof feature and color scheme — a white roof with exterior walls painted a bold Bermuda blue.

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The “Big Blue House” at the western edge of Corona del Mar is seen in a view of the Newport Harbor entrance.
(Realtor.com)

The adjacent house, at 415 Avocado Ave., was built in 1987 and is not being redeveloped. It is listed for rent at $20,000 a month, according to Zillow and other real estate websites.

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A past listing for the Big Blue House, archived at realtor.com, said it “exudes an enduring ambiance of relaxed privacy, as was originally created here nearly 80 years ago. … Steeped in history, the vintage residence was built in the Bermuda style and retains all of its original character.”

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The harbor-facing side of the “Big Blue House,” its stepped roof feature prominent at right.
(Realtor.com)

The Big Blue House has historically paired with the “Big Blue Pool House” at the water’s edge, which also is not part of the redevelopment plan.

The pool house, at 2137 Bayside Drive, has a large indoor swimming pool, an attached apartment and a dock. It has the same azure shade and wavy roof edges as the main house. It also is no longer in the Irvine family holdings, having last sold in 2012.

Davis writes for Times Community News.


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