William Mellenthin

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William Mellenthin (1896–1979) was a builder and contractor in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. He is well known for his iconic Birdhouse ranch homes built in the Valley from the 1940s to the 1960s. He built small birdhouses, cupolas, or dovecotes into the roofs of the homes, either on the garage, living room, or bedroom. These homes were very popular with families in a post-war Los Angeles.

By combining the indoor-outdoor domestic spaces, rambling floor plans, and sturdy construction methods, the Midwesterner became a force to be reckoned with during the nascent real estate bonanza that engulfed the region in the immediate postwar era. Until recently, however, Mellenthin's work had been largely forgotten due to its humble qualities and the ubiquity of the dovecote style in the San Fernando Valley, following the wholesale adoption of his “birdhouse” treatments by other contemporaneous builders.[1]

“As a San Fernando Valley builder after the war, Mellenthin kept pace with the democratizing influence of the Ranch House. The dovecote, or bird house, he incorporated prominently into gables facing the public street reinforced the straight-shooting, unpretentious utilitarianism and friendly rural values that the suburbs — and their builders, developers, and architects — clamored to reflect.” —Alan Hess, architect, author, advocate for twentieth-century architectural preservation[2]

Mellenthin's early work was featured in Architectural Digest, Volume IX, Number 3. His company, William Mellenthin Builder, was incorporated in the mid-1950s. During his career, Mellenthin built over 3,000 homes in Los Angeles and the Valley. Early on, he worked with architect Leo F. Bachman. Today, Mellenthin Birdhouse homes are still popular with home buyers in the San Fernando Valley, and are often listed as "Classic Mellenthin" by realtors.[3][4]


  1. ^ Antonio Pacheco (26 February 2018). "The "birdhouse ranch" legacy of L.A. suburb builder William Mellenthin". archpaper.com.
  2. ^ Lukather, Chris (2017). A Birdhouse in Paradise: William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes. page 7. ISBN 9780692965528.
  3. ^ "John Aaroe Group - Los Angeles Luxury Real Estate". aaroe.com.
  4. ^ Steve Vaught (8 April 2013). "Before the Birdhouse – Some Early Mellenthin Homes". wordpress.com.