Paul Revere Williams was one of the most talented – and prolific – architects in Los Angeles in the 20th century. His work included some of the best-known commercial buildings in the city — notably the Los Angeles County Courthouse, Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills, renovations on both the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Ambassador Hotel (demolished in 2006) and Al Jolson’s tomb in Hillside Memorial Park. He was on the team that created the futuristic Theme Building at LAX.
There are two Williams buildings remaining in West Hollywood: Chasen’s Restaurant, now a Bristol Farms Market at Beverly Boulevard and Doheny Drive, and the Berman/Kohner Building on the Strip. A third, the luxurious Sunset Plaza Apartments on Sunset Plaza Drive, which Williams designed with L.G. Scherer, was demolished in 1987 despite having been designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1980.
Among the dozens of residences he designed were mansions for stars like Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney and Barbara Stanwyck – as well as the house Jane Wyman bought on South Beverly Glen, which also stood in in 2017 as Joan Crawford’s home in the series, “The Feud.”
Paul Williams’ accomplishments are all the more remarkable because he was black – in fact, he was the first African American Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the AIA. He designed more than 2,500 buildings in his 60-year career, working for most of that time in the shadow of Jim Crow.