O’Neil Duplex No. 1

O'Neil Duplex No. 1
O’Neil Duplex No. 1, photo by Charles J. Fisher, 2007

O’Neil Duplex No. 1, Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #868

Built: 1953  Declared: 05/16/2007

This duplex is one of two built for Virginia O’Neill by Rodney Walker in 1953. The houses were both photo documented by Julius Schulman in 1954, Walker was a design build contractor whose Mid-Century Modern homes are frequently compared on par with many of the great architects of his time, Walker, however, never formally studied architecture and was never licensed as one. Later in his life, the AIA offered him a membership. Walker, always modest, declined the honor. He always considered himself to be a builder, who happened to design most of his work. The O’Neill Duplexes are set on two graded lots overlooking Silver Lake. No. 1 is situated above Duplex No. 2 in a manner that gives both residences unobstructed views of the lake and beyond. O’Neill Duplex No. 1 retains its original integrity in design and materials. Duplex No. 2 was remodeled into a single family residence in 2005 and then sold. Both interior and exterior materials were replaced with different surfaces. Although it was a well executed remodel, the home appears to have lost too much of its historical integrity. Prior to 2004, both duplexes were always under a single ownership. They still form a unique part of the Eastern slope above Silver Lake and could be contributing structures to a future Silver Lake HPOZ. However, only No. 1 appears to retain enough of its original material to make it a true historic example of the work of a modest builder who was to create some of the best examples of Modernism over a period of 20 years, doing this at the time when Mid Century Modernism was at its zenith. Walker decided to stop doing construction in the 1960s after he moved his household to Ojai. He eventually bought The Oaks Hotel there and became well known as a gracious host who loved to cook for his guests. He passed away in Ojai in 1986.