Long Beach's One-of-a-Kind Casa Oceana
From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 14
By Steve Propes
When retired developer Bob Langslet read the Beachcomber piece about the Jonah Jones residence on 37th Place at Ocean Blvd., he doubted Jones had ever lived at that home.
No matter that the entire neighborhood consists of three residences, Langslet’s being by far the largest and most impressive, that doubt revealed there are still things to be learned about that gated community.
Born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Robert Langslet came to Long Beach in 1948 when discharged from the Army and began building apartments, condos and planned unit developments in 1950.
Among his better known projects are Spinnaker Cove, the Lakes, which he built in 1974, Clark Terrace, Lakewood Shores and Pacific View Apartments, names that reflected Langslet’s taste. “I 1iked to have a lake, a stream or a boulder in each development.” Langslet estimates he built 4,000 to 5,000 homes.
Known as Oceana, his expansive 37th Place residence was built in 1927 by Gertrude Matern Wieczorek, a German countess and her portrait artist husband, Max. “They came over with $200,000, bought land in Santa Fe Springs and began building a summer home in Long Beach, when Getty discovered oil,” said Langslet. “She suddenly was wealthy,” so the plans changed from a summer home to year-round living on 1.8 acres at a cost of $700,000.
In 1928, they permanently relocated to Long Beach. With an infirm relative, an elevator that was installed in 1936. With no breakwater, the ocean would wash against the side of a six-foot by 42-foot bluff sea wall built in 1942.
With the start of World War II, German nationals were not allowed to live on the coast, so she sold the house and the family moved to Pasadena, where the countess resided until her death in 1951, followed by her husband’s death in 1955. The residence itself was converted to house Seaside Hospital nurses.
In 1950, after the wife of Modestus Bauer recalled a dream she had about that very house by the ocean, Bauer, who built the Bauer Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and Bauer Art Museum in Santa Ana informed the realtor that he would top all bids by $5,000 and thus acquired the house. Bauer moved out in 1977.
In May 1978, Langslet who had lived on Rivo Alto Canal for 17 years bought the dilapidated residence. Restoring deteriorated balconies with ones duplicated to match the originals, adding 3,500 square feet, bringing in 85 full grown trees, changing the old garage into living quarters, the remodeled house was ready in November 1978, helped no doubt by Langslet’s building experience and building crew. With the added square footage, the home was now about 10,000 square feet.
Langslet restored the garden area with plants, put in a pool away from the bluff so that it wouldn’t catch too much wind in the afternoon.
While the house was being restored, Langslet was approached by a young man who offered to build the staircase. What was his background, Langslet wondered. He was trained by his father who was a master stair builder.
As the house occupies the entire area between two right-of-ways, Langslet owns the eastern half of 37th Place and half of Ocean Manor to the east. The western half of 37th Place is owned and maintained by the owners of the Jones residence and another homeowner at the bluff.
Langslet also added ocean facing windows with views of the include Catalina, a view of the coastline 40 miles to the south, a view of the Carnival Cruise, the Queen Mary and the harbor, of which he was commissioner from 1979 to 1991. “It’s a business and it should be run like a business,” he opined.
During their more active years, Langslet and his wife Audrey traveled extensively, flying their own plane through Mexico and the U.S. and taking a trek up the 19,000 foot Mt. Killmanjaro. While at home, it was used as a place for political receptions and an event built around the 1984 Olympics Torch Run, of which Audrey completed a leg.
The home was also used by film crews including “L.A. Story” with Steve Martin; “CSI Miami” and “The Event,” an NBC sci fi series that spent five days at the house.
Adjacent to the south facing living room is a sun room that’s warmer than the main house The living room has a German chimes clock and whimsical portraits by Barbara Wood. Among photos on the wall is one inscribed to Bob and Audrey by Frank Sinatra.
And about that misunderstanding as to who built the home across 37th Place. In fact, the home was built by the elder Jonah Jones in 1941, almost four decades before Langslet bought Casa Oceana, and not Jonah Jones Jr., who cofounded the Yacht Club and resided on Ocean Blvd., a few miles away.