Many U.S. real estate watchers gripe about the “overpriced” current market, but there are still decent property deals to be had. Pasadena’s fabled Dynasty mansion is a prime example of sublime residential bang for buck — that is, if one considers any $15 million house a bargain.
Officially christened the Arden Villa but far more commonly known by its soapy nickname, the Dynasty mansion was built in 1913 by acclaimed architectural firm Marston & Van Pelt for railroad heir and mining tycoon William Lennon Jewett. Tucked away in a particularly ritzy corner of Pasadena just steps from the even ritzier city of San Marino, the estate is considered one of the area’s architectural gems, remarkably well-preserved despite some modern interior upgrades and a tumultuous ownership history.
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The 106-year-old villa has changed hands many times over the years, suffering through at least two foreclosures and a long period of vacancy. After Jewett’s passing, it eventually came to be owned by finance guru Coleman Morton, a pioneer in the asset management sector, and later by David Zander, a prolific producer of TV commercials.
In the mid-90s, the house was briefly owned by a somewhat shadowy Mainland China-based businessman named Geoffrey Ren, who — according to records — lost the property to foreclosure in 1997. Nonetheless, in May 2013 Ren forked out a whopping $28 million in a highly leveraged off-market deal to buy back the estate, an amount that remains the most ever paid for a home in L.A.’s San Gabriel or San Fernando Valleys.
For unknown reasons, Ren never moved into the property following his 2013 splurge, and the high-maintenance compound has been left vacant in the six years since. Within three years, Ren again defaulted on his mortgage payments; records show house has been in and out of foreclosure since 2017, when it was first put up for sale with a $28 million ask.
With no takers, the home’s list price quickly sank. This month, with the threat of foreclosure continuing to loom, Ren accepted a lowball $15.58 million offer for the place, a stunning $12.4 million loss for him before realtor fees, maintenance costs and hefty taxes are included.
Despite the discounted amount, the transaction still ranks as one of the biggest deals ever consummated in the Pasadena/San Marino area. And the bargain-minded buyers, records reveal, are prolific Hollywood film director Anthony Russo and his longtime wife Ann. As one half of the Russo brothers directorial team, Russo is responsible for four of Marvel’s biggest blockbuster films, including “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest-grossing film of all time. The ultra-busy Ohio native — he and his brother Joe helm their own production company, AGBO — is currently adapting “Grimjack” and “Battle of the Planets” for the big screen.
Over the years, Russo’s stately Pasadena mansion has become a veteran filming location for numerous industry productions — TV shows like “Matlock” and “Knight Rider” and films like “Billy Madison” and “Terms of Endearment” among them. But the property is indisputably most famous for its starring role in the 1980s campfest “Dynasty” — it’s the location of Linda Evans and Joan Crawford’s legendary lily pond catfight.
That lily pond still lies on the property, as do a large swimming pool, extensive formal gardens, sculpted hedges, a full-size tennis court and sweeping lawns. The entire compound is completely invisible from the street; a towering gate allows access to a long drive that meanders into a formal brick motorcourt. The 10,290 sq. ft. main house, currently painted a dusky shade of tangerine, has nine bedrooms and a total of seven full bathrooms, several fireplaces and hardwood floors. The unstaged interiors show the structure includes formal living and dining spaces, lounges, and a large basement with a wine cellar.
Tucked into the north end of the 3-acre estate — hidden behind tall hedges and accessible via its own private driveway — is a nearly 2,500 sq. ft. guesthouse with three additional beds and baths, a second swimming pool, and a two-car garage plus a secondary motorcourt for household staff or guests.
Despite the property’s long-vacant status, it doesn’t appear the place needs substantial work. Despite the foreclosure, Ren maintained the premises — in photos, the grounds are still exquisitely manicured and the residences themselves look to be in decent shape.
Nestled into L.A.’s oft-overlooked San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena isn’t exactly celebrity central — though famous folks like Meryl Streep, Kristen Wiig, Oscar De La Hoya and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi do call it home. But the Russos already have a well-documented affinity for this leafy part of town and its historic architecture. Last year, they forked out $5.8 million for another Pasadena property, the so-called “Cordelia Culbertson House” designed by venerated architects Greene & Greene. Located just a quick jog away from their new $15 million abode, their other landmark estate has seven bedrooms in more than 8,000 square feet of living space.