Demolition starts on famed actor Buddy Ebsen’s former Balboa Island home


The Balboa Island home of late actor Buddy Ebsen began a slow demolition this week as crews worked to pave the way for a new house on the property overlooking Newport Harbor.

The home at 530 S. Bay Front was custom-built in 1965. Ebsen’s children sold it in August 2015 for $5 million.

Aside from its association with Ebsen — a longtime actor best known for TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Barnaby Jones” — the home was distinctive for its sweeping views of the water, its pool — a rarity for Balboa Island properties — and its midcentury modern architectural style that contrasted with the island’s commonplace cottage and Cape Cod-inspired homes.


What will replace the nearly 4,500-square-foot, six-bedroom, four-bathroom house has not been made public, but it likely will be more in line with the standard Balboa Island look, local historians said. Retrofitting the house would have been prohibitive under modern building codes, they added.

Judy Tucker, who lives next to the Ebsen home, said she’s excited that it’s being replaced.

She noted that the property has been vacant in recent years and occasionally attracted squatters.

“I’m excited that it’s coming down. It’s an eyesore,” Tucker said. “But it was fun when people were living there.”

Gary Egloff, a Hidden Hills resident who frequented Balboa Island as a child and still owns a home there, recalled seeing Ebsen around the island. Ebsen, who died in 2003, used to hang a picture of himself, with a captain’s hat, in his living room, Egloff said. It was visible from the waterfront walkway.

Ebsen’s home “holds a lot of personal memories for me, as it does for a lot of people down here,” Egloff said.

Tearing it down is “taking away the history,” he added. “There’s a lot to be said about memories. You get rid of memories, you get rid of your past.”

In December, the property’s new owners allowed the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society to hold a fundraiser there. Guests talked about how Ebsen often wore a bright red shirt and gave out Halloween candy to children.

Balboa Island residents Tim Leedom and Michael Brennan of American Nation Films are producing a documentary about the house for the historical society.

Sharon Lambert, a Balboa Island resident and a board member for the historical society, said it’s always sad to see a home with historical significance go.

“But we all have to be realistic about the future,” she said. “Someone else has purchased the property.”

In a news release last year, Bonnie Ebsen Jackson said of her father’s home: “That wooden house stood for more than 50 years and fulfilled its purpose. Now the property is moving forward with a new owner and purpose.”

Twitter: @BradleyZint