Riverside police say they’re continuing to investigate who was responsible for breaking into and vandalizing part of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Coonley Estate sometime prior to July 26.
While most neighbors have told police they didn’t notice anything unusual inside the long-vacant “bedroom wing” of the estate at 300 Scottswood Road, police found evidence of a party having taken place there at some point — including numerous beer bottles in different parts of the residence and a pipe used for smoking cannabis.
More dismaying was damage done to the home. One of the homes numerous original Wright-designed stained-glass windows on the second floor was broken — the point of entry into the home, police believe — and walls were tagged with graffiti.
A 2003 appraisal of the second-floor windows placed a value on them of between $15,000 and $18,000 apiece.
At least 26 windows in the living room and dining room are owned by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which bought them in 2003 from the home’s owner, Robert Erickson for $390,000.
Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, said that as far as she knew, none of the conservancy’s windows had been damaged.
“But we’re still concerned about the overall building,” said Halstead, who had been notified of the break-in but had not seen the damage herself. “It’s been unfortunate that the home has been vacant and allowed to deteriorate.”
A chair, not a Wright original, had the word “Ace” carved into the arm. Feces clogged the inoperable toilets inside the home.
“It looks like the place was being used for parties,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “Whether it’s been over a period of weeks or days, we’re not sure.”
Police were notified of the break-in on the afternoon of July 26 by Erickson, who had learned of the situation from his real estate agent.
According to the police report, a ladder left on the property may have been used to gain access to the second-floor window, which was broken.
Several days after police first learned of the break-in, on July 30, officers assigned to keep a 24-hour periodic watch on the property discovered that the home was still unsecure. Officers working the midnight shift on July 30 reported to Weitzel that doors to the garage and the home were still easily accessed, that a window to the basement was unsecure and that a doorway simply had cardboard placed over it and a tarp taped behind it.
Following a demand by police on Thursday that the building be made secure, a man was seen Thursday afternoon at the house boarding up the unsecure areas.
The bedroom wing of the Coonley Estate has been vacant and for sale since 2010, when the three-bedroom 3.5-bath residence went on the market for $1.3 million. The wing is separated by a firewall from the larger main wing of the home, which has been meticulously restored by its present owners.
On May 5, the bank which holds the mortgage on the bedroom wing started foreclosure proceedings. The property is now listed for sale for $354,100. Halstead indicated that a deal may be in the works for the property to change hands, but declined to comment specifically.
She indicated that the conservancy did not have an interest in buying the property, preferring it be purchased and restored by a private owner.
Police interviewed several neighbors on July 26, but most could not say they had seen anything suspicious happening at the house. However, one neighbor reported that a young male who appeared to be drunk showed up at the front door and rang their doorbell during the early morning hours of July 26.
Another neighbor said that since about June, a number of teenagers have been coming to the neighborhood on weekends and parking their vehicles on Fairbank, Bloomingbank and Scottswood roads.