A Cannabis Magnate Snatches Up the Lloyd Wright-Designed Sowden House in L.A.
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A Cannabis Magnate Snatches Up the Lloyd Wright-Designed Sowden House in L.A.

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By Kate Reggev
CBD entrepreneur Dan Goldfarb and his wife Jenny Landers plan to turn the legendary neo-Mayan home into a hub for hemp-based products and charity events.

In 1926, Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, completed a 5,600-square-foot Mayan Revival house in Hollywood for John and Ruth Sowden, an artistic couple with a flair for the theatrical. It would be, according to the New York Times, "a bohemian playhouse for aspiring actors and Hollywood bons vivants." Since then, the Sowden House has changed hands five times—and even linked to the Black Dahlia murder—with its most recent owners being CBD entrepreneur Dan Goldfarb and his wife Jenny Landers, who purchased the storied abode for $4.7 million with the hopes of making it a cultural hub for art and philanthropic events.

The neo-Mayan Sowden House’s imposing entrance has given the nickname "Jaws House."

The neo-Mayan Sowden House’s imposing entrance has given the nickname "Jaws House."

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"While it looks imposing from afar," say the owners, "once inside, it’s tranquil and spiritual, a complete separation from the noise and bustle of 21st-century L.A."

"While it looks imposing from afar," say the owners, "once inside, it’s tranquil and spiritual, a complete separation from the noise and bustle of 21st-century L.A."

The home was originally designed with four wings that each open onto a central, inner courtyard that today also contains a pool and jacuzzi. The exterior comprises custom, concrete "textile blocks" that were cast to emphasize the pliable nature of the material, and feature images of the harvest, water, clouds, and sun—all stylized in a neo-Mayan design. The unique exterior and central gathering space made the home a dramatic stage for live performances, hinting at Lloyd Wright’s experience as a set designer with Paramount Studios.

The home's courtyard originally featured a green lawn where guests could watch films and entertainers on a stage.

The home's courtyard originally featured a green lawn where guests could watch films and entertainers on a stage.

Through the years, the Sowden House has retained much of its original building fabric and design—one of the things that most attracted current owners Goldfarb and Landers. Although the home has been updated, it has also been preserved, imbuing a sense of "magic" that is, as Goldfarb and Landers say, "intimate and exclusive, yet open to the sky." 

The concrete textile blocks are a signature of Lloyd Wright and his father, Frank Lloyd Wright.

The concrete textile blocks are a signature of Lloyd Wright and his father, Frank Lloyd Wright.

The couple also see the imposing residence as the perfect venue for charity events. Goldfarb made his fortune on hemp-based supplements for pets, Canna-Pet, after being inspired by the needs of his own Persian cat, Mariano. Since then, he and his wife have established the PetConscious Foundation, an organization that supports animal rescues worldwide; the couple is also interested in fostering the arts, youth development, and plant-based wellness.  

The house is essentially a rectangle in plan, with a rectangular courtyard at the center. The four wings of the house open out onto the central area.

The house is essentially a rectangle in plan, with a rectangular courtyard at the center. The four wings of the house open out onto the central area.

Since moving in, they have hosted events for numerous organizations, including homeLA, FLAX Foundation, Kindred Spirits, and Food Forward. The house has excellent acoustics, and over the years, the home has led a colorful life, hosting everything from photoshoots and non-profit events to films, music videos, and TV shows. Goldfarb and Landers’s vision for the home is for it to become a entertainment hub, one that "truly comes alive with the creative energy of artists and manifests an immersive experience for its audience." 

The home, completed in 1926, is an early but important example of Californian design that incorporates indoor/outdoor living.

The home, completed in 1926, is an early but important example of Californian design that incorporates indoor/outdoor living.

For the most part, the home has been preserved, but selective upgrades and renovations include the bathrooms, which have been outfitted in materials that complement the original design.

For the most part, the home has been preserved, but selective upgrades and renovations include the bathrooms, which have been outfitted in materials that complement the original design.

When Goldfarb and Landers purchased the home, it came with all of the furniture and fixtures.

When Goldfarb and Landers purchased the home, it came with all of the furniture and fixtures.

Dramatic ceilings, textured walls, and fantastic acoustics characterize most of the spaces in the home.

Dramatic ceilings, textured walls, and fantastic acoustics characterize most of the spaces in the home.

The concrete textile blocks vary in pattern and are based on designs inspired by Mayan iconography.

The concrete textile blocks vary in pattern and are based on designs inspired by Mayan iconography.

At night, Goldfarb and Landers have often held philanthropic events in the central courtyard. The pool and jacuzzi are not original.

At night, Goldfarb and Landers have often held philanthropic events in the central courtyard. The pool and jacuzzi are not original.