January 15, 2015

Ray Bradbury’s home in Los Angeles is being demolished


What remains of Ray Bradbury's home. (via File 770)

What remains of Ray Bradbury’s home. (via File 770)

Ray Bradbury‘s home in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood in Los Angeles, where the science fiction pioneer lived and wrote for 50 years, is being torn down by the developer who bought the historic home for $1.76 million in June of last year.

According to The Los Angeles Times‘s Carolyn Kellogg, the home was filled with original details, such as built-in bookcases, that surrounded Bradbury for much of his life.” Bradbury’s beloved cat Hally—named after Bradbury’s favorite holiday, Halloween—is buried in the backyard. While these flourishes, along with the house’s historical significance, would understandably speak to many buyers, that was sadly not the case for award-winning architect Thom Mayne—the architect who designed the New Academic Building at Cooper Union, San Francisco’s Federal Building, and the Morse Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon—who purchased the house. It’s unclear why the “starchitect” decided to demolish the home or what he has planned for the property.

The house is currently in the process of being demolished. John King Tarpinian was on the scene earlier this week; he wrote movingly about the demolition and posted a series of devastating images.

Last Friday I got a panic call from one of Ray Bradbury’s old family friends, an English professor, back East. He learned that Ray’s sunny yellow house was being razed. Once the security fence went up we knew. In Los Angeles a home that cost $1,765,000 is considered a tear down. Very quickly I received emails from others begging me for photos of the sad event. In only one day half of the house was gone.

One friend wanted a rose, a music professor, from Maggie’s (Ray’s wife’s) garden. Others wanted a piece of anything as a souvenir. I’ve had many requests for the street numbers over the garage. Of course, this is no longer Ray’s home but owned by an “investor.” So I need permission to take a pebble from the property, I’m going to get permission…wink.

As I was taking pictures locals were walking their dogs. They’d stop to observe and we’d converse. One lady had no idea who had owned the house; she was new to the neighborhood. She walked away in tears. Another long time neighbor knew it was Ray’s home and we mutually agreed things like this are just wrong but money wins out. Another young couple had no idea who Ray was…the saddest encounter of all.

Sam Weller, Bradbury’s authorized biographer and the author of Listen to the Echoes and editor of Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview (which were both published by Melville House) wrote on Twitter that Bradbury wanted his house preserved: “Ray wanted the house left in tact [sic], with all of his stuff staying in it. The neighborhood wouldn’t allow a museum, from my understanding.” Weller has posted a series of tweets over the past two days about the demolition:








In the introduction to Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview, Weller wrote about spending time with Bradbury in the Cheviot Hills house and Bradbury’s connection to the home:

“Most of the hours we shared in the last two years were housebound, as I sat on the side of Ray Bradbury’s lift bed in his home in Cheviot Hills, California. He moved into this house in November 1958, raised his four daughters there, held annual Halloween parties, hosted famous writers and musicians and dignitaries, and lived with his wife of fifty-six years, Marguerite McClure Bradbury. Maggie passed away in 2003, and Ray remained in the house, alone, save for a live-in nurse, until his final days. When I would visit him, he often asked me to bring along a meal—hamburgers, Indian food, and deli sandwiches were the most popular selections. We occasionally had a glass of wine. He liked visitors to read to him. And of course we talked. This was not the Ray Bradbury I had first met back in 2000. He was, in his last days, a brilliant star in the sky, gently diminishing in light and intensity. Each time I visited him, I always feared it would be the last.”

In one of the interviews included in The Last Interview, Bradbury also discusses the inspiration for Farenheit 451—the need to preserve spaces devoted to culture and literature: “Libraries were the center of my life, and they were so precious to me. I wanted to protect them. So it was quite natural I wrote a book about the future in which libraries were endangered.”


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.