Curbed LA: All Posts by Hadley Meares Love where you live 2019-10-31T08:00:00-07:00 2019-10-31T08:00:00-07:00 2019-10-31T08:00:00-07:00 The sordid and possibly murderous secrets of the Sowden House <img alt="" src="" /> <small>The Sowden House in Feliz. | Jenna Chandler</small> <p>A short history of the Lloyd Wright-designed fortress</p> <p id="tzERpe"><em>From any room one could step into a central courtyard full of exotic foliage and beautiful giant cactus plants reaching straight into the sky. Once inside this remarkable house one found oneself in absolute privacy, invisible to the outside world. —</em><a href=""><em>Steve Hodel</em></a></p> <p class="p--has-dropcap p-large-text" id="1IOBE7">It has been a source of mystery and chatter since its construction in 1926. The enigmatic <a href="">Sowden House</a> is an anomaly on otherwise charming and SoCal-bright Franklin Avenue in Los Feliz. Designed by <a href="">Lloyd Wright</a>, the Mayan Revival style house has been called “cultic,” “brooding,” “a <a href="">gothic pile</a> out of ‘Vathek,’” like “<a href=""><em>Raiders of the Lost Ark</em></a>,” and the “Jaws house.” In recent years it has gained a new, much darker notoriety—as the alleged murderous lair of <a href="">the Black Dahlia</a>’s killer.</p> <hr class="p-entry-hr" id="d87NoM"> <p id="o4GxJc">This story is essentially a story of fathers and sons. In the late 1910s, the young architect Lloyd Wright came to Los Angeles at the request of his father, the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. Over the next few years, the younger Wright worked with his father on many commissions, including Los Feliz's famous <a href="">Hollyhock House</a>. In 1924, the elder Wright left LA, <a href="">telling his son</a>, “I'm fed up here. You're young enough to take Los Angeles.” Take Los Angeles Lloyd did. </p> <p id="PlaUiL">Determined to emerge from his father's shadow, Lloyd Wright would go on to a distinguished career, designing avant-garde orchestral shells for the <a href="">Hollywood Bowl</a>, and creating spectacular buildings like Wayfarer's Chapel in Palos Verdes, the <a href="">Samuel-Novarro</a> House in Los Feliz, and the Otto Bollman House in the Hollywood Hills.</p> <p id="dMH1bu"><style>.site-cla .post .post-title { width: 1000px !important; padding-bottom: 8px; padding-top:6px } .site-cla .post a { font-size:35px !important} .site-cla #leadintro { width:1000px; font-size:16px } .site-cla .post .post-body .post-more {width:660px;} .site-cla .post .post-body img.bigpic {width:640px; max-width:640px !important; height:auto } .site-cla .post .post-body #leadphoto {width:640px; max-width:640px !important; height:auto } .site-cla .post .post-body .pullquote { float:right; width:250px; margin: 0 0 10px 14px !important; padding: 8px 4px; font-family:TradeGothicLTStdBoldCondensed; Helvetica, Arial; font-size:32px !important; line-height: 35px !important; border-top: 4px double #FF0000; border-bottom: 4px double #FF0000; } .post p { font-size: 17px; line-height:27px; margin-bottom:10px } .post h3 { font-family:TradeGothicLTStdBoldCondensed; Helvetica, Arial; font-weight:normal; font-size:38px; width: 640px; padding: 18px 0; } .post h4 { font-family:TradeGothicLTStdBoldCondensed; Helvetica, Arial; font-weight:normal; font-size:36px; width: 660px; padding-bottom:5px; padding-top:14px; } .site-cla .post .post-title { font-size:36px !important; width: 660px; padding-bottom: 8px; padding-top:6px; line-height:40px !important } .post-metadata {margin-top: 460px !important } #column-right { padding-top: 126px } .post .post-body object, .post .post-body img { max-width: inherit !important; } .firstcharacter { float: left; color: #FF0000; font-size: 75px; line-height: 60px; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 8px; padding-left: 3px;</style></p> <p id="4LN6Jz">During the 1920s, Los Feliz was a flower-filled enclave of silent movie stars and middle-class professionals. Retired artist John Sowden and his wife Ruth commissioned Lloyd to design a unique showplace where they could throw parties and put on amateur theatrics. </p> <p id="Hokfho">The result was a Mayan Revival-style fortress, complete with a stage, secret room, central courtyard, and ornamented concrete blocks. The blocks were actually an improvement on the senior Wright's experiments with the form (seen at the nearby <a href="">Ennis House</a>), leading him to <a href="">praise his son's</a> “treatment of the block that preserves the plastic properties of concrete as material.”</p> <p id="DNWPFy">The unique house quickly became a Los Angeles curio. In <a href="">a 1938 article</a> in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, a writer profiled the home, which “sure makes persons from the hinterland stop and stare on their trip to Hollywood”. According to the <em>Times</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p id="5cCwWp">“It's the sculptural style of architecture,” explains Mr. [Lloyd] Wright. Sculptural architecture, it seems, fits the building right into the landscape. One of the striking features of the Franklin Avenue structure is the mass of stone and cement which project out from the roof line. “My goodness, I wouldn't want to live in a place like that,” one viewer gasped. </p> <p id="YEbO4A">“That darned stuff might come tumbling down on you while you was trying to open them gates to get in the house.” </p> <p id="4afk6G">“Them gates," are huge, iron affairs constituting what would be the door into an ordinary home. There is no danger of the mass of stone and cement tumbling down. The entire building is constructed of steel placed both horizontally and vertically.</p> </blockquote> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Elizabeth Daniels</cite> </figure> <p id="iAJQmR">In 1945, Dr. George Hodel purchased the already iconic house, which was so confusing to most average mortals. There was nothing average about Hodel. The suave, brilliant doctor's VD clinic catered to many elite Angelenos, and his friends included Surrealist artist Man Ray and director John Huston. </p> <p id="hryRyw">Hodel moved into the “gothic pile” on Franklin and his ex-wife Dorothy and their children soon joined him. Hodel's son Steven <a href=";qid=1445705594&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Black+Dahlia+Avenger&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">remembered</a> the magic of growing up in the labyrinth-like home:</p> <blockquote><p id="Q52b1K">Once through the gate, you turned immediately to your right and continued up a dark passageway, then made another right turn to the front door. It was like entering a cave with secret stone tunnels, within which only the initiated could feel comfortable. All others proceeded with great caution, not knowing which way to turn. Growing up in that house, my brothers and I saw it as a place of magic that we were convinced could easily have greeted the uninvited with pits of fire, poison darts, deadly snakes, or even a giant sword-bearing turbaned bodyguard at the door. Right out of Arabian nights.</p></blockquote> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Elizabeth Daniels</cite> </figure> <p id="7DnSj2">But like many fairytales, life in this secluded fortress was not all white knights and fairy godmothers. George frequently beat his sons in the basement. He also threw drug-infused, hedonistic parties and orgies in his gold bedroom.</p> <p id="xiCkcY">In 1949, Hodel’s beautiful teenage daughter Tamar ran away from the house. When questioned by the police, <a href="">she said she had left</a> because “her home life was too depressing,” on account of “all the sex parties at the Franklin House.” Tamar then accused her father and other adults of raping her during a party at the house.</p> <p id="AcPiUa">When questioned by police, George responded bizarrely, stating that he had recently been “delving into the mystery of love and the universe,” and that the acts of which he was accused were “unclear, like a dream. I can't figure out whether someone is hypnotizing me,” he insisted, “or I am hypnotizing someone.” When police raided the home, they seized pornography and questionable objects.</p> <p id="QE0GCO">George was acquitted after launching a smear campaign directed at his daughter. He soon sold the Sowden House and left the country. For decades, the house was quiet—the home of the upstanding Mazur family. George Hodel died in 1999. But this was not the end of the story of George Hodel and the Sowden House. Not by a long shot.</p> <p id="KrAfUC">After George died, his son Steve, a retired LAPD detective, was going through some of his father's possessions when he found two pictures of a lovely dark-haired girl. He soon became convinced that the photos were of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, whose unsolved 1947 murder and mutilation had long been the stuff of Hollywood legend. </p> <p id="Ssror5">Memories of whispers and drunken accusations linking his father to many evil deeds flooded back to Steve. Family members and old friends then filled in the gaps, suggesting his father may have participated both in the murder of Short and that of an an unidentified “secretary.”</p> <aside id="6M720U"><div data-anthem-component="readmore" data-anthem-component-data='{"stories":[{"title":"The Black Dahlia’s Los Angeles, mapped","url":""},{"title":"Haunted Los Feliz","url":""}]}'></div></aside><p id="46Rfpp">Over the next few years, he became convinced that not only had his sadistic father murdered the Dahlia, he had also been responsible for a number of unsolved, brutal murders that had taken place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. And he believed that some of these murders had taken place in the Sowden House’s basement. In 2003, Steve made these allegations public in the book <a href=";qid=1445705594&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Black+Dahlia+Avenger&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Black Dahlia Avenger</em></a>.</p> <p id="eBvsXO">As is often the case, the sordid new story only increased the house’s profile and market value. Its transformation from private family home into hip showplace had already happened in 2001, when flamboyant real estate entrepreneur Xorin Balbes bought the home from the Mazur family for $1.2 million. </p> <p id="l6QgJj">“When I walked into this house, I didn't move,” he told a reporter for the <a href=""><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. “I said, ‘I have to buy this house.’ I turned around and walked out and got my checkbook. There's some connection for me.”</p> <p id="T8okYX">In 2003, the house was listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Balbes transformed the house, spending $1.6 million dollars in the process. He added a pool in the central courtyard, covered the interior walls in metallic bronze and silver, opened up the kitchen, and added Asian-inspired statuary and ornamentation. </p> <p id="GdAGSx">Lloyd Wright’s son Eric, also an architect, gave his final verdict on the new, improved structure. “It's a mixed bag,” <a href="">he said</a>, “but most of the work he did is very good.”</p> <p id="ZOgYD7">In 2011, after almost a decade of hosting society parties, fashion shows, and reality TV productions, living in a bedroom where the original stage once stood, <a href="">Balbes sold</a> the 5,600-square-foot house to a man named Stephen Finkelstein for $3.85 million. In spring 2018, Dan Goldfarb, founder of founder of <a href=";xs=1&amp;;" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">Canna-Pet</a>, a CBD company for pets, acquired the property for $4.69 million. He and his his wife, Jenny Landers, use it as a venue for fundraisers and parties.</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Elizabeth Daniels</cite> </figure> <p id="D6I0aY">So is the legend of the monstrous doctor in the roadside fortress true? After <em>Avenger</em> was published, <em>LA Times</em> reporter Steve Lopez went through long-forgotten police transcripts related to the Dahlia's murder. Not only did he find proof that Hodel was a suspect in the murder, he also <a href="">discovered</a> that the Sowden House had been bugged by the DA's office in the months after the incest trial. </p> <p id="k10yfo">A transcript appeared to record a woman being assaulted in the basement, followed by the sounds of digging. Later that night, the DA’s microphone recorded George on the phone with a German friend. </p> <p id="PXl7P9">“Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia,” the good doctor said. “They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead.” (No concrete proof of the secretary's existence has ever been found.) </p> <p id="cAWphI">In 2013, Steve Hodel claimed that <a href="">a cadaver dog</a> had indicated that human remains had been or were present in the basement and behind the house. As of fall 2015, there have been no excavations at the house.</p> <p class="c-end-para" id="d8r6xr">But perhaps the best answer to the question can be found in the following tale. Decades after George Hodel left the country, a transient woman appeared at the back door of the house. She had detailed <a href="">recollections</a> of George Hodel's all-red kitchen and his all-gold bedroom, and seemed intimately familiar with the layout of the house. “She looked quite old,” the owner at the time told Steve Hodel. “I spoke to her and she said, ‘this house is a place of evil.’”</p> <hr class="p-entry-hr" id="PVyz4X"> <div id="Iyurhc"> <div data-analytics-viewport="video" data-analytics-action="volume:view:article:middle" data-analytics-label="Haunted Houses|23796" data-volume-uuid="604368ec0" data-volume-id="23796" data-analytics-placement="article:middle" data-volume-placement="article" data-volume-autoplay="false" id="volume-placement-314" class="volume-video"></div> </div> Hadley Meares 2019-10-30T09:45:31-07:00 2019-10-30T09:45:31-07:00 The spellbinding storybook houses of Los Angeles <img alt="A large cottage-like home with a drooping, thatched roof is surrounded by mature trees on a corner lot on a gloomy day." src="" /> <small>In the 1930s, kids would surround the Witch’s House in Beverly Hills “looking for candy” and “mischief.” | Getty Images</small> <p>How storybook style—drawn from the pages of fairytales and Europe’s cobblestone streets—came to have a bewitching effect on Los Angeles</p> <p id="SQu2kn">A gray-and-white kitten stares out of a heavily ornamented triptych window. A red collar around its furry neck mimics the red wooden trim framing the window’s exterior. The cat is a resident of what appears to be a slightly sinister, yet charming, medieval cottage. But this is not Sherwood Forest. It’s Dunn Street, in the middle of bustling, decidedly modern Palms. </p> <p id="2OGTe5">The cottage is part of a complex commonly called the Hobbit Houses, one of the best surviving examples of a peculiar offshoot of revival architecture—known as the fairytale or storybook style—that has attracted curious passersby since its evolution in the 1920s.</p> <p id="zI3PnV">According to historian and architect Arrol Gellner, author of <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties</em></a>, this dramatic, strange architectural fad consists of structures designed in an exaggerated medieval or otherwise “exotic” style, with features like thatching, crooked walls, and swayback roofs. Artificial aging of finishes and use of ancient artisanal decorative motifs are also important components. </p> <p id="S2YDXx">Ironically, this light-hearted style sprang out of one of the bloodiest conflicts in the world. “The Great War sent many young American soldiers to Europe for the first time, and many came back charmed by the romantic architecture of rural France and Germany,” Gellner says. </p> <p id="sEkeS1">The development in the halftone process also brought photographs to magazines, replacing old-fashioned engravings. For the first time the public could easily view “exotic” locations and architecture in Europe and elsewhere. “This meant the public could view European architecture, and even more exotic Middle Eastern, Indian, and Egyptian architecture as it really was, not as fancifully interpreted by illustrators,” Gellner says. </p> <p id="88GgbZ">Capitalizing on America’s newfound fascination with mysterious lands became a guaranteed money maker for the rapidly expanding movie industry. </p> <p id="SCYCNm">“Hollywood, as always giving the public what they wanted, began cranking out exotic stuff,” Gellner says. Films like <em>The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, </em>and<em> Robin Hood,</em> set in historic time periods and featuring recreated foreign locations, were smash hits. “The backdrops constructed for these films were works of art in themselves, and many of the same techniques were eventually applied to storybook style buildings,” he says.</p> <p id="1rqH5C">By the 1920s, Los Angeles was filled with talented craftspeople and artists from across the globe, lured by studio work. The city was flush with dramatic, newly monied movie moguls and stars looking for luxurious living quarters befitting their new status. Los Angeles became a paradise of unique revival styles of architecture. Picturesque, idealized versions of everything from Mediterranean villas to Spanish Missions and Greek Revival plantations began to pop up everywhere. </p> <p id="dOxy4G">In 1921, Einar C. Petersen, a Swiss-trained Danish artist, designed and built the still-standing <a href="">Petersen Studio Court</a> on Beverly Boulevard, considered the forerunner of the storybook style. The cottage community was based on Petersen’s hometown, the port of Ebeltoft, Denmark, a fishing village known for its ancient half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets. In what is now Koreatown, Studio Court’s eccentric caretaker would live on-site until his death at the age of 101, constantly adding on to his own little sliver of Denmark in LA.</p> <p id="dNpBk9">But it was the equally unconventional Minnesota native Harry Oliver, the “father of the storybook style,” who would put this playful architectural genre on the map. One of the talented artists lured by movie work to Hollywood, Oliver became a celebrated art director on numerous silent films, working often with superstars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. According to a 1930 edition of the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>: </p> <blockquote><p id="DSU7rL">Harry Oliver probably has more field experience creating true atmospheric settings and locale for backgrounds of motion pictures than any other art director in Hollywood… Oliver has traveled in France, Italy, England and Ireland in search of colorful backgrounds for motion-picture productions. He spent some time in Italy designing the settings for <em>Ben Hur</em>.</p></blockquote> <p id="dZa00H">Oliver would be nominated for Oscars for his art direction of <em>Seventh Heaven</em> and <em>Angel Street</em>. In the 1940s, he became a self-described “desert rat,” moving to the Coachella Valley and refashioning himself as an artist, writer, humorist, and preservationist. During his decades “haunting Palm Springs,” Oliver lived in a mud adobe called Fort Oliver, which he had made by hand. </p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A pond fronts a cottage with a thatched roof and a facade that’s partially timbered. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Photo by Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images</cite> <figcaption>Lawrence Joseph designed and built his Hobbit Houses, with spooky exteriors and interiors reminiscent of the cabin of boats.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="AQwlrH">But Fort Oliver was not Oliver’s first attempt at historically elaborated architectural design. Around 1920, Oliver designed the most iconic storybook structure in Los Angeles, now known as the Spadena House—or the <a href="">Witch’s House</a>, if you’re spooky. </p> <p id="Kf7U36">This drooping, intentionally dilapidated, patchwork English-style cottage was constructed at 6509 Washington Boulevard in Culver City<strong> </strong>as part of the Willat Studios. The structure’s purpose was twofold: The interior contained offices and dressing rooms, while the exterior was to be used as an outdoor set. It was also used as a calling card for the short-lived Willat Studios, which featured it in ads in papers and trades. It was said that its unique style <a href="">caused traffic accidents</a> as people craned their necks to get another look. </p> <p id="kSsgWM">After the house’s appearance in numerous silent pictures, including 1921’s <em>The Face of the World, </em>the studio and its quirky structure came into the possession of film producer Ward Lascelle, who converted it into a home. In the mid-’20s, the Lascelles moved the structure to Walden Avenue in <a href="">Beverly Hills</a>. The converted home soon became a local landmark. Postcards were printed featuring what was quickly dubbed the Witch’s House. Tour bus companies included it in their tours of movie stars’ homes, much to the chagrin of Lillian Lascelle, Ward’s wife. The <em>Los Angeles Times </em>reported: </p> <blockquote><p id="AdIlJZ">It makes the ordinarily amiable Mrs. Lascelle so mad that she almost cries when she talks of it. “I don’t know what I can do about it, but if I find anything I can do, I am going to do it. You wait and see.”</p></blockquote> <p id="LfwIk7">But Lillian (whose second husband was named Spadena) and future owners would find that instead of dissipating, interest in the Witch’s House only grew as the years went on. According to <a href="">LAist</a>, Phil Savenick, president of the <a href="">Beverly Hills Historical Society</a>, recalled the scene outside the house during the Halloween season in the 1930s: </p> <blockquote><p id="o3FOpj">The greatest memory of the Witch’s House is that’s where all the kids would convene on Halloween, so sometimes they’d get 3,000 to 5,000 kids in front of the Witch’s House, looking for candy and some of them looking for mischief. That was the corner where the police would always go looking for kids who had eggs in their pockets or whatever nonsense they would do on Halloween, so it came to represent Beverly Hills at Halloween.</p></blockquote> <p id="xpytIU">Today, the Witch’s House is owned by the real estate agent Michael Libow, who has had it lovingly restored. Oliver’s other storybook style masterpiece is also still an LA landmark. This is the famous <a href="">Tam O’Shanter</a>, originally called Montgomery’s County Inn, which was the brainchild of Lawrence Frank, one of the co-founders of <a href="">Van de Kamp’s Dutch Bakers</a> (Oliver would also design its iconic windmills). Frank hired Oliver in 1922 to design a building that would garner as much public attention as the Witch’s House, and Oliver delivered. </p> <p id="yAOEc8">“Oliver borrowed many of his set-design tricks to give the Tam O’Shanter a venerable look,” Gellner writes in <em>Storybook Style</em>. “The building’s walls were purposely framed off-plumb, and its plasterwork was distressed to resemble aged masonry. Exposed timbers were first charred in a local lumberyard’s incinerator and then wire-brushed to produce the effect of great age.”</p> <p id="9YUAur">The fairytale architecture also served as a powerful promotional tool for those passing through sleepy Atwater Village. “The Tam O’Shanter … was on a stretch of Los Feliz Boulevard that was still rural in the 1920s,” Gellner says. “Harry Oliver’s design—which was more exotic in its original form than it is today—served to make sure motorists going 20 or 30 miles per hour couldn’t miss it.”</p> <div> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A waitress stands in front of the thatched roof Tam O’Shanter Inn. A sign at right reads “Good Food.” . Two umbrellas and tables have been placed outside for outdoor dining." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>When it opened, the Tam O’Shanter’s design was even more whimsical than it is today.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="TrKcd3">Soon the storybook style was proliferating all over Los Angeles, then in the midst of a massive building boom. The 1920s Hollywoodland development in Beachwood Canyon featured a civic center designed in storybook style and included fairytale cottages featuring accents including rubble stone chimneys and picturesque drawbridges. The style became particularly popular in Northern California, with mountains and forests perfect for a haunted cottage or mansion.</p> <p id="6IjWuf">The style also probably inspired Walt Disney, then a small-time animator living in Los Feliz. Disney became a lifelong patron of Tam O’Shanter and included many stylized storybook structures in his films and parks. </p> <p id="CKyY63">“The old Disney studios on Hyperion Avenue were in the neighborhood of a well-known storybook enclave, ironically now known as ‘Disney Court,’ that predated the studio,” Gellner says. “It was probably seen by many a Disney background artist on the way to work, and it’s not unlikely that it might have inspired the background art in some early Disney work.” </p> <p id="WQv9mm">Despite its faddish success, the heyday of the original storybook style would be brief. “By the early 1930s, the Great Depression had slowed all building to a crawl,” Gellner says. “The style’s popularity had been limited to begin with, and its over-the-top design made it date very rapidly in an era that was increasingly turning toward modernist architecture. By the mid-1930s, all revivalist architecture, and particularly the theatrical storybook work, was seen as embarrassingly outdated.” </p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="The Tam O’Shanter restaurant at present day. It has a turret with a timber roof and a wood and neon sign that reads “The Tam O’Shanter established 1922.”" data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>By Liz Kuball</cite> <figcaption>The timbers on the Tam were charred in a local incinerator to “produce the effect of great age.”</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="BSijWE">But for eccentric designers, the fad would never end. In the 1950s and ’60s, former World War II fighter pilot and architect <a href="">Jean Valjean Vandruff</a> designed affordable tract homes that his wife, Eleanor, dubbed the “<a href="">Cinderella House</a>.” Variations of his $14,000 ranch-style cottage with storybook style elements like gables, shake roofs, and gingerbread trim would be built all over Orange County and suburban Los Angeles. </p> <p id="QD3e6o">Then there are the Hobbit Houses, designed by Lawrence Joseph, a nautically obsessed carpenter and aerospace engineer who worked at Disney for two weeks before being escorted out of the studio, according to longtime resident Vince Tanzilli. In the 1940s, Joseph began creating his own fairytale land, which featured a fish-stocked pond, cottages with spooky exteriors, and interiors reminiscent of the cabin of boats, with plank flooring and built-in furniture. Joseph would officially complete the project in 1970, but tinkered with it until his death in 1991. </p> <p id="FoQHk4">“He was a tough old bird,” says Tanzilli, who has heard many stories of Joseph during his tenancy. “He didn’t allow your parking anywhere in the courtyard; you had to put your car in your designated garage or carport. You didn’t, he would start rapping the top of your car with his cane until you came out and moved it; he gave you five minutes to unload your groceries but that was it. He used to jump in a sailboat and just take off for a week or so out in the sea.” </p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A zoomed-in shot of an original sign and building for the Beachwood Canyon development in Hollywood. An arched wood sign spells out “Holywoodland” (the second L is missing) and “Realty Co.” in blue font. The building’s roof is pitched." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>By Liz Kuball</cite> <figcaption>The 1920s Hollywoodland development in Beachwood Canyon featured a civic center designed in storybook style.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="zgWGqG">For almost two decades, Tanzilli has lived in a microscopic apartment of only 180 square feet. “I’ve always been interested in living in either a tiny house or a small sailboat,” Tanzilli says. “So, when I had this opportunity, I jumped on it. I was living across the street on Venice Boulevard in a regular apartment. When I first saw it, I was immediately enamored. I knew it would be perfect for me, then I found out the rent was only $450 a month.”</p> <p id="ebgKJR">A new resident at the Hobbit Houses, who gave her name as Erica, had a similar story. <em>“</em>I used to work at Culver Studios, and five years ago, I’d always walk to this one sushi place, which no longer exists,” she says. “I’d always walk past here. And I was like, someday I’m going to live there. I’d go, and we’d look at the turtle pond, and I would just think, this is the most enchanting place.”</p> <p id="rPXS2c">Years later, Erica hit pay dirt.<em> “</em>I was just bored one day at work because I just started working in Culver again and it was out of the blue,” she says. “It’s like, I’m just going to check Zillow. And they just posted it like a minute prior, and I was the first person to call.”</p> <p id="Tls0XA">Living at the Hobbit Houses required a change of lifestyle. She had to fit her possessions in a one-bedroom apartment with a plethora of built-ins. She sold her dresser, dining room table, and chairs. “But I get to live in Snow White’s cottage,” she says.</p> <p id="rTLMbx">For Gellner, the magic and playfulness of the storybook style harken back to the dreamy era when it was created. “For me, the storybook style exemplifies the exuberance of the 1920s,” he says. “It was an unapologetic era that loved theater. Take, for example, the <a href="">Hollywood Sign</a>, which originally read ‘Hollywoodland’ and was originally built to advertise a housing development in the hills below. How far would a 500-foot-long light-bulb-studded advertising sign get with the planning commission these days? It was also an era that didn’t take itself too seriously.”</p> <p class="c-end-para" id="bvdAOm">It is the playful aspect of the storybook style that still entrances children and adults today. “The ‘secret sauce’ of intentional whimsy or humor are essential for a storybook house,” Gellner says. “These houses aren’t dry academic studies like so much revivalist architecture—they were meant to entertain. They’re really ice cream sundaes for the eye.”</p> Hadley Meares 2019-10-29T08:20:00-07:00 2019-10-29T08:20:00-07:00 Mapping LA’s most incredible lost mansions <img alt="A large mansion with multiple turrets and towers. The entrance to the mansion is large and has an arched doorway. The mansion is surrounded by trees and plants. " src="" /> <small>Lewis Leonard Bradbury's mansion held 35 rooms, five chimneys, and five turrets. It was demolished in 1929. | <a href=''>Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection</a></small> <p>These estates were torn down, but their stories are not forgotten</p> <p id="VZNzRB">For a new city, Los Angeles has an awful lot of lost architecture. From the lush rural estates of early Angeleno pioneers to the midcentury masterpieces of Hollywood royalty, many architectural treasures have been torn down in the name of commerce, greed, and progress. </p> <p id="UEjHEl">In the case of personal homes, this also means many individual stories have been almost completely forgotten—bulldozed over to make way for high-rise apartment buildings and larger, more opulent mansions. Below are a few of the most significant lost houses of Los Angeles—their stories live on, even if their walls are long gone.</p> <p id="ytzkvH"></p> Hadley Meares 2019-10-21T14:40:01-07:00 2019-10-21T14:40:01-07:00 LA’s many varieties of Victorian mansions, mapped <img alt="" src="" /> <small>Some of the best Victorian homes can all be found in one place at Heritage Square Museum, which calls the French Mansard style roof of the Valley Knudsen Garden Residence “rather unusual” for the West coast. | Shutterstock</small> <p>A guide to some of the very finest</p> <p id="8iDXbr">It was during the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901, that Los Angeles transformed from a small, dusty Mexican outpost into a Gilded Age American boom town. Thousands of homes were built during this time, and though many were lost, the structures mapped here survive. </p> <p id="2oGdzH">They are a testament to the wide variety of Victorian architectural styles, from the Far East- and past-obsessed Moorish Revival and Richardson Romanesque to the Arts and Crafts-inspired Foursquare and Eastlake movements. There are also several brilliant examples of exuberant Queen Anne-style houses. Take a look.</p> <p id="UD6nxB"><em>See also: </em></p> <ul> <li id="hzIybZ"><a href="">An illustrated guide to Los Angeles architecture</a></li> <li id="m7sONy"><a href="">Mapping the most incredible lost mansions of Los Angeles</a></li> </ul> <p id="6HeA1c"></p> <p id="b7A0tz"></p> <p id="Ts3xmF"></p> Hadley Meares 2019-10-17T09:35:00-07:00 2019-10-17T09:35:00-07:00 The stories behind LA’s famous (and strange) street names <img alt="Dozens of palm trees envelop a green street sign reading “Sunset Bl”." src="" /> <small>Sunset Boulevard started out as 600-foot dirt road near the old Plaza. | Getty Images/iStockphoto</small> <p>The origins are both common and weird, from cult leaders to old Mexican ranchos to the pets and family members of real estate subdividers</p> <p id="tseN0y">There are more 50,000 streets in Los Angeles County. They are named after cult leaders (L. Ron Hubbard Way), martyred astronauts (Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street), the view of a lighthouse (Signal Street), and even a deadly element (Radium Drive). But for the original 44 founders of Los Angeles in September 1781, the only passable throughway was Mission Road, the dusty, ancient Native American trail they traveled from Mission San Gabriel to their new pueblo on the banks of the LA River.</p> <p id="MsoX1u">As Los Angeles grew, and the Spanish and Mexican ranchos prospered, roads were cleared and named by settlers. According to historian Bernice Kimball, author of the insanely informative <a href=""><em>Street Names of Los Angeles</em></a><em> </em>and<em> </em>whose research is now in the <a href="">Los Angeles city archives</a>, “early street names, as in most communities, in Los Angeles indicated where the homes or farms of the local inhabitants were.” </p> <p id="udBcqY">There were Wolfskill’s Road, Foster’s Road, and Chavez Street. Other early street names denoted location or a geographical marker. For example, Aliso Road was named for the huge Aliso tree near the Louis Vignes vineyard. According to historian Cecilia Rasmussen, one particularly descriptive street name, <a href="">Calle de Los Chapules</a> (street of the grasshoppers), came about “because pedestrians used to leap about while sour-faced policemen whistled and chased the crowds from one corner to the other.”</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection</cite> <figcaption>Los Angeles city map No. 1, showing streets, drainage, block and lot lines and numbers, vineyards, cornfields, fences, gardens, churches as they appeared in 1849.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="9Mm6Np">It was not until 1849 that Los Angeles officials finally commissioned an official map to document and record the names of their streets. The reason? The town was broke, and they needed to sell off land, but first they needed a map to document the land they owned.</p> <p id="yYcrIO">The 1849 map was surveyed by Edward Otho Cresap Ord, a West Point graduate, Army lieutenant, artist, and surveyor. According to map historian and <a href="">author Glen Creason</a>, Ord was aided greatly in his survey by his assistant William Rich. Together they recorded early street names, including: Adobe, College, Olive, Hill, Main, and Flower, which was named for a hill just behind the road that was covered in wildflowers. </p> <p id="ANi0Ef">Over the next two decades of slow growth, new streets were recorded, including Colorado in 1851 and Aliso and Los Angeles in 1854. With street names, “homesick settlers recalled the cities or states of their origin or other places of fond remembrance,” Kimball writes. She continues: </p> <blockquote><p id="TSAySl">Subdividers indicated their political interests by naming streets for presidents (Lincoln streets were mostly eradicated or omitted) and southern generals and evidencing their confederate sympathies. Napoleon, his battles and his horse found a place; other famous battles were used as well. The first street naming after Ord’s in 1849 was Hansen’s submission which gave streets of East/West orientations names of Presidents; and streets of North/South bearing, those of Governors of California. </p></blockquote> <p id="Z3cqDU">These political names are still evident today. There is Alvarado Street, for the Mexican-era California Gov. Juan Bautista Alvarado; Adams Boulevard, for President John Adams; and Washington, for President George Washington. In 1855, Calle de Los Chapules was officially renamed Figueroa Street to honor the Mexican-era Gov. Jose Figueroa. The famed Olvera Street, recorded in 1858, was named for Agustin Olvera, the first judge of the County of Los Angeles. </p> <p id="6n19qy">During the 1880s, California, and Los Angeles, experienced explosive growth and a rush of land speculation. According to Kimball, in 1887, a record breaking 169 new street names were recorded. </p> <p id="H0QV8E">While some names were literal—Rampart Boulevard was named for an embankment on the terrain, for example—many more had a supposedly “refined” British and continental air. Street names recorded that year included Manchester, New Hampshire, St. James Park, London, Lancaster, and Mont Clair Court. Rowena Avenue was named in honor of the heroine in Sir Walter Scott’s <em>Ivanhoe</em>. “During the boom of the eighties many subdividers included their own given names and that of their wives, children or even pets,” Kimball writes.</p> <p id="XMMJxl">Many of these names reflected the increasingly Anglo-Saxon whitewashing occurring in LA during the time. Attempts to erase LA’s Hispanic history came to a head in 1897. According to <a href="">Rasmussen</a><em>: </em></p> <blockquote><p id="PN6YEa">In 1897, Mayor Meredith Pinxton “Pinky” Snyder suggested changing the names of such streets and avenues as Arapahoe, Juanita, Cerro Gordo and Santiago because, he said, “newcomers cannot spell or pronounce” such names... Angelenos were highly insulted; the names survived.</p></blockquote> <p id="ClV1z9">Despite attempts to preserve the past, many streets were named and renamed on whims, as demographics and power dynamics shifted. </p> <p id="v1Ntbo">“As the city expanded, the first streets around the pueblo spreading across Los Angeles needed to be distinguished from the old plaza,” says Creason. “Streets like Bull or Hornet or Bath got added to larger throughways, but sometimes portions were renamed after property owners.”</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A painting of actor Edward James Olmos and teacher Hymie Escalante (from the movie “Stand and Deliver”) is painted on the side of a building. A blue “Alvarado” street sign and traffic signal in the foreground." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Photo by George Rose/Getty Images</cite> <figcaption>Alvarado Street is named after the Mexican-era California Gov. Juan Bautista Alvarado.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="4E7NmP">Some of Creason’s favorite street names that got lost in the endless shuffle include Badger, Bowl, Flink, Jennie Belle, P street, X street, Confidence, Wasp, Lardo, Aztec, Bonanza, Burtz, Concha, Ensenada, Fireman, Hemlock, Joplin, Juan, Mary Lane, Otter, Poe, Ruth Upham, Star, Turtle, and Kentucky.</p> <p id="9u76C3">The next wave of street naming came during the boomtime construction bonanza that was the 1920s. The biggest year, 1923, saw an astounding 582 new street names recorded. That year, new streets including Oakhurst, Petroleum, Narcissus, Norwalk, McKinley, Maryland, La Cienega, Hermosa, Hazelhurst, Canoga, Bixby, Bamford, and Bellagio Road were recorded. In 1925, Elsie Beason named Rainbow Avenue in Mount Washington because it curved like a rainbow. </p> <p id="DroKsL">With the endless naming and renaming of streets, and the never-ending construction of new subdivisions with new streets, confusion often reigns when it comes to the history of LA street names. </p> <p id="y2aOAK">“My personal favorite is the non-existent Faith street, which was once said to be part of the holy trinity of street names Faith, Hope, and Charity,” Creason says. “This was a story repeated by historian Harris Newmark; that Susie Childs, the wife of real estate magnate Ozro William Childs, named some streets for the three Christian cardinal virtues. Later, the story goes Faith was changed to Flower. If there was a back in the day that story might have been debunked, but no map shows a Faith street, and even Charity was later changed to Grand.”</p> <p id="amwUKQ">Over the past decades, street naming has continued at a steady clip, but nothing like the boom in the 1920s. Occasionally controversial names, such as the one honoring L. Ron Hubbard in East Hollywood, have been approved much to the dismay of detractors. But not every egotist has had his day. </p> <p id="lGKF3A">“In 1971, Jazz Age megaphone crooner and actor Rudy Vallee attempted to have a short section of his street in the Hollywood Hills, Pyramid Place, renamed ‘Rue de Vallee,’ French for “Vallee’s Way,’” <a href="">Rasmussen writes</a>. “When the neighbors objected, he called them ‘disgruntled pukes.’ But the city agreed with the neighbors. Vallee put up his own sign, christening his long driveway Rue de Vallee.”</p> <h5 id="J36d2Q"><strong>Spring Street </strong></h5> <p id="82JIMN">This busy thoroughfare, running through dDowntown Los Angeles, was reportedly named by Edward Ord during his 1849 survey. (Ord would later get a street himself in Chinatown). “The story goes that while Ord was laying out the city’s streets, he was smitten with a young woman named Trinidad de la Guerra, whom he nicknamed ‘mi primavera,’ or ‘my springtime,’” according to librarian and <a href="">historian Kelly Wallace</a>. “She was the granddaughter of Jose Francisco Ortega, the Spanish explorer credited with discovering San Francisco Bay. Ord paid tribute to her by naming a street Calle Primavera. Today we know it as Spring Street.”</p> <h5 id="2ZIaiv"> <strong>Sunset Boulevard</strong> </h5> <p id="bX1X7A">One of the most iconic streets in Los Angeles—and the world—<a href="">Sunset Boulevard</a> first appeared in city clerk records in 1888. The famed thoroughfare had already existed for decades, starting out as a dusty, 600-foot dirt road <a href="">near the old Plaza</a>. According to Rasmussen, as it expanded west toward the sea, portions were named Short, Bread, and Marchesseault (after Mayor Damien Marchesseault). Historian Amy Dawes, author of <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Sunset Blvd: Cruising the Heart of Los Angeles</em></a>, credits its naming to a city employee who may have noticed that the road afforded a beautiful view of the sun setting over the Pacific. </p> <p id="bneyf8"><a href="">According to Rasmussen</a>, the view was particularly lovely on the portion of the road which traversed a hill owned by California Sen. Cornelius Cole (whose family would have 11 streets named after them in Hollywood).</p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>By Bethany Mollenkof</cite> <figcaption>Crenshaw Boulevard is named after developer George L. Crenshaw, credited with the “upbuilding” of Los Angeles.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <h5 id="WnnuzI"><strong>Crenshaw Boulevard</strong></h5> <p id="VlSqPx">Named in 1904 for banker and developer <a href="">George L. Crenshaw</a>, this iconic, over 23- mile street runs through neighborhoods including Crenshaw, Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills. Originally from Missouri, Crenshaw developed Lafayette Square and Wellington Square, as well as owning the Crenshaw Security Company. When he died in 1937, The <em>Los Angeles Times</em> memorialized him thusly: </p> <blockquote><p id="rdMKIi">His name will continue to be known because of the designation of the great boulevard in the West End area. His contributions to the upbuilding of Los Angeles from the time of his arrival here… was unceasing. He was one of a dwindling group of early day real estate leaders whose monuments are the homes of countless thousands. They did much to acquaint the world with the attractions of Southern California. Mr. Crenshaw deserves a place in the front rank of those developers. They formed the bone and sinew of a metropolis. </p></blockquote> <p id="k63CjM">The heart of black LA since the 1950s, Crenshaw Boulevard was a source of controversy in the early 2000s, when the City Council explored naming the road after LA’s first African American mayor, Tom Bradley. Eventually, residents’ desire to preserve the historic name won out, and Crenshaw Boulevard remains. </p> <h5 id="IPHzKF"> <strong>Future Street</strong> </h5> <p id="xUp2oJ">Winning the award for LA’s most dystopian street name, Cypress Park’s Future Street was first recorded in 1921. Its origin remains fuzzy, though Kimball surmises it may have been a take on the Fusano family, olive growers who owned the land that was being developed. Kimball also believes that “Future” may have simply been a placeholder “intended for later dedication.” If so, the dedication never occurred. </p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Shutterstock</cite> <figcaption>Rodeo Drive, not to be confused with Rodeo Road, which is now named Obama Boulevard.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <h5 id="cVvQfC"><strong>Rodeo Drive</strong></h5> <p id="0UZ3Zb">This iconic Beverly Hills street is on land that was once part of the massive Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, meaning “gathering of the waters” originally granted to Maria Rita Valdez Villa. According to an 1893 article in the <em>Los Angeles Times,</em> the ranch at that time spanned 3,200 acres.</p> <p id="XOhjl0">Cattle, sheep, and pigs were raised on the ranch, and acres of sugar beets and barley were grown. According to Creason, the land went through many owners until the turn of the last century, when the Rodeo Land and Water Company, a consortium of businessmen headed by <a href="">Burton Green</a>, bought it hoping to find oil. They didn’t find any, and instead built the subdivision of Beverly Hills. In 1907, the company named one of the main streets running through the fledgling neighborhood Rodeo Drive, after the rancho of long ago. </p> <h5 id="MnA8mZ"> <strong>Rodeo Road</strong> </h5> <p id="QmHB5f">Before it became Obama Boulevard in May 2019, this 3.5-mile long street in Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw was known as Rodeo Road. Originally named in 1911, Rodeo Road harkens back to LA’s Wild West past, when ranchers herded thousands of cattle across the county. Its new designation as Obama Blvd., according to <a href="">the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>, is to “further establish a ‘presidential row’ that includes Washington, Adams and Jefferson boulevards.”</p> <h5 id="tGZRa2"><strong>Rosslyn Street</strong></h5> <p id="gjHGaO">This small street off San Fernando Road was first recorded in 1922. According to Kimball, it is named in honor of the indomitable, Hungarian-born <a href="">Ida Hancock Ross</a>, as were Rossmore Avenue, Rosswell Street, and Rosswood Terrace. One of the forgotten pioneering landowners and oil moguls of Victorian Los Angeles, Ross was the owner of the sprawling Rancho La Brea. Known as Madame Ida, she was also an early benefactor to charitable and artistic institutions in what was then the cultural backwater of Los Angeles. When she died in 1913, the <a href=""><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> credited her with growing Los Angeles from a “tiny vallage to the great, thriving metropolis of today.” </p> <h5 id="rgIGq7"><strong>La Cienega Boulevard </strong></h5> <p id="ZyoIy5">La Cienega is a <a href="">misspelling</a> of la cienaga, which means swamp. It is taken from the Rancho La Cienega, a land grant in what is now West LA, which was awarded by Gov. Manuel Micheltorena to Don Vicente Sanchez in 1843. La Cienega Boulevard was opened in 1924 and advertised as a straight line from the Hollywood valley to Baldwin Hills. In 1949, it was expanded through Baldwin Hills and planned to be a section of the fabled <a href="">Laurel Canyon State Freeway</a>, which was never built. </p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Downtown Glendale at dusk with Downtown Los Angeles in the background. The skyscrapers of Glendale in the foreground and Los Angeles in the background." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Getty Images/iStockphoto</cite> <figcaption>Brand boulevard connects Glendale to Los Angeles in the distance. </figcaption> </figure> </div> <h5 id="rVuCbU"><strong>Brand Boulevard</strong></h5> <p id="yFPJ9R">This thoroughfare was named after <a href="">Leslie C. Brand</a>, the tiny daredevil developer who is considered “the father of Glendale.” </p> <p id="laHs0r">Brand also named streets after his wife Louise, and his brothers-in-law Dryden, Stocker, and Randolph. “M Street, also renamed by Brand, honored a flourishing romance,” Katherine Yamada writes in the <a href=""><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. “One of Brand’s tract managers had a daughter named Mary. She was engaged to a young man named Land. Brand combined their two names and the street became Maryland Avenue.”</p> <h5 id="InOq7u"><strong>Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko Way</strong></h5> <p id="doYw5M">This small access street on Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles is named after Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Revolutionary War hero who was born in Poland. He was also a composer, artist, and architect, and helped construct forts for the continental army. </p> <p class="c-end-para" id="zXPmOX">In 1977, the City Council rejected the suggested name for the small street, citing its length and tricky pronunciation. That’s when Burbank resident <a href="">Mary Dziadula</a> stepped in and schooled the council on Kosciuszko’s rich legacy. The council quickly accepted the two-block street’s new name, thrilling Revolutionary War enthusiasts and Polish-Americans across the country. </p> Hadley Meares 2019-10-16T10:10:21-07:00 2019-10-16T10:10:21-07:00 The surviving beach shacks of Los Angeles <img alt="A little white home with blue trim and a screened-in front porch surrounded by a white picket fence. " src="" /> <small>A cottage on Fraser Avenue in Santa Monica.</small> <p>In the era of multimillion-dollar mansions, the early days of beachfront housing sound too good to be true&nbsp;</p> <p id="OXbVB8">In 1974, a young teacher named Stephen Anaya and his family moved into an early-20th-century shingle-style bungalow on the historic beachside street of Fraser Avenue in Santa Monica. Five years later, they bought it. “It was our dream to live on the street,” he says. <em>“</em>It was our philosophy to buy the worst house on the street and fix it up. That’s the only way that we could really do it.” </p> <p id="2w3FTc">The wood-frame cottage, measuring 25 by 95 feet, had been through many lives. For decades it was owned by a carpenter named Max Demme, a refugee from the Austro-Hungarian empire. During the depression, Demme had kept the aging cottage together the best he could, using an overabundance of nails. Throughout the 1980s, the Anayas would lovingly bring their seaside home up to code, thus preserving one of best examples of Southern California’s humble beachside architecture, far removed from the elaborate multi-floored mansions that dot the coast today.</p> <p id="BDy3ui">In the era of multimillion-dollar beach homes—out of reach to all but the wealthiest of Angelenos—the early days of beachfront housing sound too good to be true. </p> <p id="7ML3St">All across the shores of the Southland, early beach homes were fashioned from telephone poles and the wood from old piers. Architect Thomas Harper, who built the first cottage in Laguna in 1883, used wood from defunct boats, according to <a href=";xs=1&amp;;" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>The Cottages and Castles of Laguna</em></a>.</p> <p id="fx1c09">Vacationers began to set up simple tents on the north and south beaches of Santa Monica in the 1870s and ’80s, according to Nina Fresco, <a href="">Santa Monica Conservancy</a> board member. While the owners of North Beach dealt harshly with commercial squatters, they were generally tolerant of “tenters,” who would set up from the shore to the bluffs of Palisades Park. </p> <div class="c-float-right"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A new angular home with a slanted roofline and gray stucco and wood facade towers over an old little home." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>Today, the average home in Santa Monica is 2,993 square feet. </figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="4RI2hR">“The tents in those days were like platforms with a frame and canvas walls,” Fresco says.<em> “S</em>ome people would even build small, really cheap, simple wooden shacks, which were really one step up from the tents.”<em> </em></p> <p id="LzmVq8">The powers that be quickly learned that tenters were actually good for business. “People didn’t care that much because they weren’t competing with <a href="">bath houses</a>—they were just hanging out, and they would come and rent bathing suits from the bath houses,” Fresco says. “The<em> </em>hardware stores would advertise in the beginning of the summer season that they had a whole new stock of tents that people could buy.”</p> <p id="0li5Lq">When the grand <a href="">Hotel Arcadia</a> opened in 1887, investors quickly pounced on this newly fashionable beachfront area. Small lots next to the hotel were subdivided, and investors built “slightly more commodious shacks” that were rented to vacationers, many from the East and Midwest. On the bluffs around Strand Street, wealthy lawyers and politicians constructed large vacation cottages. </p> <p id="Gci6TH">In the Ocean Park area, longtime land battles that had held up construction finally ended around 1900. Real estate agent Alexander Fraser, who was advising the developer George Hart (owner of the <a href="">Rosslyn Hotel</a> in Downtown LA), decided to bring some order to beachside development. </p> <p id="jhkRZi">“He’s like, okay, we’re getting all the shacks out of here, and we’re going to put <a href="">deed restrictions</a> and people have to build houses that cost a certain amount of money, and they had development standards,” Fresco says. “They had to be set back, they had to have porches. And all of a sudden those houses sold like gangbusters.”</p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A residential street with homes—in shades of pink, cream, and green, packed tightly together. A yellow jeep is parked out front." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>After 1900, beach homes started selling “like gangbusters.”</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="p4hV7k">This new seaside neighborhood, developed between 1902 and 1905, boasted a grid system with streets named after both Fraser and Hart. The homes were small, and built with the goal of keeping a view of the nearby ocean. </p> <p id="qguWcn"><em>“</em>They’re basically all stock beach cottages, but there’s a variety of different styles,” Fresco says. “Some of them are more Craftsman looking, some of them are more Queen Anne… and you know they would have shingles and Victorian house parts that were factory made and decorated.”</p> <p id="WY7vDm">Today, Fraser Avenue—one of the four remaining streets with intact original homes from the development—has the most concentrated grouping of historic beach cottages in Santa Monica. During World War II, however, the cottages and neighborhood were dramatically altered. </p> <p id="rwaUAd"><em>“</em>We bought our house, which is a single-family dwelling,” Anaya says. “But it had been made into multiple units, as most of the houses were, for the <a href="">World War II aircraft workers</a> at Douglas. So, some of the houses had been raised. Some of the rooms had been bisected. There were shared bathrooms. That was throughout the neighborhood—to facilitate the workers for the war effort.”</p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>The original homes on Fraser Avenue were small, and built with the goal of keeping a view of the ocean.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="e63GXU">In the 1950s, half of the neighborhood was demolished to build high-rise condos. By the time the Anayas moved in, Fraser Avenue was a rundown, bohemian enclave, dominated by folks who worked in the music industry. </p> <p id="gUism5">“It was pretty funky during the ’70s,” Anaya says. It could also be dangerous, and the nearby Ocean Park Pier was constantly being vandalized and burned. Slowly but surely the Anayas lovingly fixed up their home, correcting previous owner Demme’s makeshift handiwork and the alterations of the war years. <em>“</em>We had to really work hard in the ’80s to bring it up to code,” he says.</p> <p id="J6LUfR">The shotgun nature of early-20th-century beach cottages and their often-slapdash upkeep is evident across the Southland. </p> <p id="Laz5Ck">“We have a member who once told me they purchased one of these houses in the ’40s with their husband as newlyweds, and as she went to hang up their wedding photo, the nail went right through the wall to the outside,” says Jamie Erickson, museum director at <a href="">Hermosa Beach Historical Society</a>. </p> <div class="c-float-left"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>Original oceanfront homes weren’t much more than ice shacks. </figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="mxkjLF">Not all early beach dwellings were even constructed with the sea in mind. In Hermosa Beach, vacationers would hunker down in “skid homes,” tiny wood-frame dwellings built by the oil companies to house employees. </p> <p id="vjN7fU"><em>“</em>A lot of people bought them, and they brought them down here to the beach, and they would tow them by mule right to the seashore in the summertime, and in the wintertime tow them back,” says longtime resident and contractor Rick Koenig. “They’re pretty much not much more than an ice-fishing shack.”<em> </em></p> <p id="KCVgxf">Koenig has spent his life restoring and retrofitting historic beach cottages in and around Hermosa Beach. Strengthening foundations, unclogging and replacing cast-iron water pipes, redoing wooden floors and molding, undoing the damage of kids with skateboards—it’s all in a day’s work for Koenig, whose family arrived in Hermosa in 1897. He has also done work on his own home, a gingerbread-style three-story beach cottage at Manhattan Avenue and 18th Street, designed by his grandfather on a lot that cost only $400. </p> <p id="NetGim">“In 1917 they didn’t have many of the things that we take for granted today, like insulation, weather stripping, and building codes. There was no building department when this place was built,” he says. “I must say that my grandfather was a big proponent of dancing with nature. When there’s an earthquake, you kind of move with it. As with all these old places, they have their creaks and cracks. But that’s part of the romance.”</p> <p id="8aSQnF">By the 1920s, landowners and developers fully caught on to the beach cottage craze. In Ventura, developers opened <a href="">Hollywood Beach</a>, offering 520 cottage-ready lots for as low as $200. On <a href="">Balboa Island</a>, small, kitschy beach cottages featuring distinctive double doors rose up, while in Laguna, a small compound of cottages was commissioned by the film producer Harry Greene. Even the insular Rindge family got in the act, opening up a small portion of their vast <a href="">Malibu</a> holdings to create what would become the famed “movie colony.” This seasonal resort of 100 temporary beach shacks would be inhabited by stars like Bing Crosby and Constance Bennett. </p> <p id="htvkoz">No doubt the best-preserved example of these 1920s beach shack communities is <a href="">Crystal Cove State Park</a> in Orange County, right off Pacific Coast Highway. There, more than 30 restored, brightly colored wooden beach shacks still hug the shore, instantly putting any guest in a laid-back mood. These ramshackle structures are the product of decades of work, often by the same families who started out as squatters, in the early 20th century, on beachfront land owned by the Irvine Company. </p> <p id="deIEPs">In 1927, the schooner Ester Buhne <a href=";dq=crystal+cove&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjO08LzvfvkAhUvHjQIHajmCOwQ6AEwAnoECAQQAg">wrecked off the coast</a>, proving a boon for these amateur builders, who used the lumber that washed ashore to fashion simple beach shacks. Over the years, “coveites” would come back to their second homes year after year, adding on to their uninsulated shacks until they became rambling, large-scale homes. </p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt=" " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>Homes on Fraser Avenue now sell for more than $4 million.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="2uBGIn">But an influx of money and architectural advances during the 1920s and ’30s would also signal the eventual death knell for the simple wood-frame beach cottage. As Elizabeth McMillian notes in <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Beach House: From Malibu to Laguna</em></a>, the rich and famous began to throw their money around, transforming the concept of the beach retreat. Such big-name architects as Stiles O. Clements, Green and Green, and Rudolph Schindler “designed houses inspired by images of the Mediterranean, Spain, Greece, Italy, France and of American bungalows, adobes and pueblos, and New England cottages.” </p> <p id="xeQGkR">This change is best exemplified by the <a href="">Gold Coast of Santa Monica</a>. During the 1920s, early movie stars and moguls built large, revival-style mansions on the northern shore of Santa Monica, commissioning estates focused more on status than the enjoyment of simple pleasures. The vacation home became increasingly out of reach to middle-class Southern Californians as the wealthy gobbled up the plots along the shore, and beach shacks were bulldozed over in the name of progress and prestige. </p> <p id="70u2g2">Today, the average home in Santa Monica is 2,993 square feet and costs more than <a href="">$1.6 million</a>. But for those lucky enough to live in the remaining beach cottages of the Southland, life is still simple and sweet.</p> <p id="rbO49N">“It’s a wonderful place to live,” Anaya says of his cottage on Fraser Avenue in Santa Monica, where homes now sell for upward of $4 million. </p> <p id="jPV1HC">“We have a<em> </em>nice balance of young and old,” he says. “We’ve had an annual July Fourth and Independence Day parade, and it’s been going on since 1971. That’s where everybody dresses up, and the street is closed, and banners are put up. And sometimes there’s not enough people to view it. So they take turns. One group goes down the street and the others are the spectators, and vice versa.”</p> <p id="ho6JLa">For Koenig, Hermosa is his <em>“</em>Mayberry by the sea.” His historic house, now worth well more than $1 million, is a connection to his family—past, present, and future. “Some<em> </em>people believe in ghosts, some people don’t, but I do feel like there’s six generations that have been in this house, counting my grandkids, and I can feel my grandparents, my great-grandfather, and stuff here,” he says. “It’s a very comforting, kind of a Westernized feng shui.” </p> <p class="c-end-para" id="Eh45Bo">But asked his favorite thing about his home, Anaya is emphatic: “I have a view of the ocean.”</p> <aside id="fOVaog"><div data-anthem-component="readmore" data-anthem-component-data='{"stories":[{"title":"Why LA’s beloved bungalow courts might go extinct","url":""},{"title":"How Old Hollywood and starchitecture built Santa Monica’s Gold Coast","url":""}]}'></div></aside> Hadley Meares 2019-10-02T10:10:00-07:00 2019-10-02T10:10:00-07:00 How LA became the land of strip malls <img alt="A surface parking lot filled with cars anchors a strip of low-rise businesses with large wood signs painted shades of red and blue." src="" /> <small>Gower Gulch—one of the rare strip malls with non-utilitarian flair—was built in 1976 at the site of former movies studios.</small> <p>As car ownership boomed, unremarkable commercial centers became an integral part of the LA landscape</p> <p id="nxhIgB">Architecturally, it’s just another nondescript, drab corner strip mall, fronted by a wide parking lot dotted with pigeons (and their droppings). It happens to be on the gray corner of Hollywood and Winona boulevards, in <a href="">Hollywood</a>’s Thai Town. </p> <p id="SpJogd">Its appearance might be unimpressive, but this strip mall teems with life and culture. It is anchored by the tiny Jumbo’s Clown Room, a locally legendary strip club and bar, where drunken patrons young and old spill into the parking lot smoking cigarettes and vaping. Next door is the Phukaw by Ya Ya, a clothing store that sells elaborate and colorful Thai tradition dresses. Then there is a pet store and Kruang Tedd Thai, a hip restaurant serving comforting som tum and jungle curry.</p> <p id="qOGeom">This is just one of the thousands of aging corner strip malls all over Los Angeles County, so embedded in the landscape that Angelenos hardly notice them, even as they patronize them daily.</p> <p id="BHQVJ3">“It’s been a very popular phenomenon,” says professor Richard Longstreth, who wrote <a href="">the definitive book on the subject</a><em>. “</em>The idea of not having to search for a parking place and just driving up to a store is still an appealing one to many Americans, particularly in a city where pedestrian activity isn’t very strong in most places.”</p> <p id="AWiPy4">Strip malls in Los Angeles were not always such a non-event. On October 24, 1924, Los Feliz Boulevard in Glendale was backed up with 11,000 cars, boasting license plates from 34 states. They were there to experience an innovation in convenience, Ye Market Place, the Southland’s first drive-in market—and the grandmother to the corner strip mall. </p> <div class="c-float-left"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A restaurant patio on a strip mall sidewalk is shaded by orange and yellow striped awning and curtains. The noses of cars put up against the sidewalk. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>The prototype for the modern strip mall was born in the 1920s, as car ownership swelled.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="oTddmS">Throughout the day, Longstreth writes in<em> </em><a href=""><em>The Drive-In, The Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles</em></a><em>, </em>40,000 people crowded into the U-shaped, $65,000 structure dreamed up by insurance adjuster C.I. Peckham. The drive-in was his response to the frustrations of automobile-centered life in Los Angeles. </p> <p id="EC8LaD">“Peckham reputedly initiated the project because of his frustration at having to drive around a block two or three times in order to find a parking space while running errands,” Longstreth writes. </p> <p id="aoOQm5">The task to design this new concept was assigned to Pasadena architect Frederick Kennedy. He designed a U-shaped retail building that surrounded a large parking lot covered in crushed white granite, much like the gravel used at gas stations of the time. There were modern conveniences, including covered walkways that led to public bathrooms and spotlights that lit the complex at night. </p> <p id="i5smPI">Despite the drive-in’s thoroughly modern purpose, the facade of Ye Market Place was highly ornamental. Designed in a style labeled “post-medieval English,” the building “suggested a handsome stable compound of some grand estate,” Longstreth writes. “The image was reassuring—quaint, ornamental, intricate in detail—and would be viewed as an asset to nearby residential tracts then being developed.”</p> <p id="KMylnS">During the 1920s, automobile ownership <a href="">exploded in Los Angeles</a>, from 161,846 in 1920 to 806,264 in 1930. Soon, drive-in markets were popping up at the intersections of increasingly busy roads across Los Angeles County. In 1927, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> reported on the first large-scale drive-in market erected on Vine Street: It was designed to accommodate 20 cars and featured a 12-foot canopy to “provide protection from sun and rain.”</p> <p id="VTZWP4">Although the vendors in the markets sold unexciting wares—food, gas, and health and beauty staples—the facades were pure 1920s fantasy. Many of the buildings, including the Aurora Drive-In Market in Glendale and Tower Market in Beverly Hills, were constructed in the familiar L-shaped form of modern corner strip malls. They were also ornamented with Moorish, Spanish, Art Deco, Chinese, and Old English motifs so popular at the time. </p> <p id="OSk0Cm">The Mandarin, at the corner of La Mirada Avenue and Vine Street, was one of the most elaborate drive-ins constructed. Designed in 1929 by Hollywood architect H.L. Gogerty, the complex, according to the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, was given the “Chinese architectural treatment,” replete with pagodas and bright red and gold ornamentation. </p> <div> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A street view of a strip mall against a blue sky with puffy clouds. The businesses are named: Salon of Beauty, The Phukaw, Jumbo’s Clown Room, and Kruang Tedo." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>The strip mall has survived even as big-box stores and chains proliferate.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="T79HTL"><a href="">According to journalist Mary Melton</a>, around 250 drive-ins opened in California by the end of the 1920s. Even modernist master <a href="">Richard Neutra</a> dipped his toe in the water by designing two speculative drive-ins. According to Longstreth, the first, titled “Los Angeles Drive-In Market,” was a sleek, fantastical semicircular structure surrounding a large parking lot. The second design was a modernist dream of mirrors and lights. <a href="">Longstreth writes</a>: </p> <blockquote><p id="OZ5UqG">The front was to be two stories high, completely open, surmounted by a thin parapet with large illuminated signs… between the supporting cantilevered trusses, probably of wood, were to be a series of mirrors, each tilted at a slightly different angle to form a cove and provide multiple reflections of the scene below, so that from the street the impression would be of a signboard suspended above an ethereal interplay of machine, people and products. At night, the effect would have been more dramatic, with a rotating beacon casting polychromatic light across the signs and recessed fixtures illuminating the mirror plates.</p></blockquote> <p id="gVnEs4">Longstreth speculates that the prolific Wright may have been inspired by Neutra’s drawings when he was designing the modernist Yucca-Vine Market, which was completed in 1930. But it was the fortress-like Chapman Park Market Place on Sixth Street, in what is now <a href="">Koreatown</a>, that would take the humble drive-in and turn it into a prototype of the modern outdoor mall.</p> <p id="zFPTMj">Designed by the architectural firm of <a href="">Morgan, Walls and Clements</a> (architect of El Capitan Theater), the Moorish-Spanish style structure, spread over two acres, boasted 28 commercial market spaces and a post office. Borrowing from Spanish architectural forms, the markets surrounded not a park-like courtyard but a parking lot. </p> <p id="tmlrcR">But the Depression soon stunted the growth of commercial development in Los Angeles. The advent of pioneering supermarkets like Ralphs took business away from drive-ins, and many were torn down, converted into body shops, gas stations, and even furniture stores. “A number of drive-ins have survived,” Longstreth says. “But they just weren’t built anymore, and many were converted to other other functions.” </p> <p id="xs934G">Then came the mammoth shopping mall, with its supersize conveniences and giant parking lots. “In the postwar years, the regional mall—pioneered in Southern California with the Broadway-Crenshaw Center (now Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza)—came to replace the neighborhood-serving drive-in market as the dominant new retail space,” writes Benjamin Schneider of <a href="">the<em> Urbanist</em></a><em>.</em> </p> <div class="p-fullbleed-block"><div class="c-image-grid"> <div class="c-image-grid__item"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="An aerial view of a major Los Angeles thoroughfare lined with strip malls and a motel. Hills in the background. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>By 1985, Southern California had been dubbed “the mini-mall capital of the world.”</figcaption> </figure> </div> <div class="c-image-grid__item"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Close-up of a business in a strip mall. Customers lined up outside. Flowers—roses, baby’s breath—spill out of a window box in the forefront. A church is in the background." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption> <em>“</em>The idea of not having to search for a parking place and just drive up to a store is still an appealing one.”</figcaption> </figure> </div> </div></div> <p id="lMOiXY">It was a worldwide political crisis that would resurrect the drive-in market, this time dubbed the corner strip mall or the mini-mall. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973-’74 and the subsequent gas crisis caused hundreds of Los Angeles-area gas stations to go bust. </p> <p id="Mto70q">“Those abandoned sites, surrounded by chain-link fences and strewn with ripped-up chunks of concrete, were usually at busy intersections chosen with the motorist in mind; oil companies were eager to get rid of the properties, and they were priced to sell,” writes Jade Chang in <a href=""><em>Metropolis</em></a><em> </em>magazine<em>.</em> “Later, in the mid-1980s, Standard Oil sold off the last of its iconic gas stations in Los Angeles, again providing a bonanza of cheap real estate for developers.”</p> <p id="rZqZSg">According to Melton, the first modern LA “mini-mall” was constructed in Panorama City, in 1973. Located at Osborne Street and Woodman Avenue, the Italian-themed strip mall was designed by La Mancha Development Co., which would become a leader of corner strip mall development in Southern California.</p> <p id="9Tnz8i">“Our original concept… was to building convenience centers that you could get into and out of without having to drive miles into a parking lot,” Sam Bachner, president of La Mancha, told the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>. “We’ve taken these stores out of the large shopping centers because you may not want to go to the supermarket if you only want to buy a bottle of milk. The buying habits of people have changed.” </p> <p id="NUtOEs">These new strip malls, sometimes one-story, sometimes two, almost always L-shaped and surrounding a small parking lot, were a far cry from their gilded, glamorous predecessors. An exception was the Western-themed Gower Gulch at Western and Sunset in Hollywood, which was built in 1976 at the site of former movie studios that cranked out Westerns. But most of the new strip malls were purely utilitarian, and these unremarkable commercial centers soon became an integral part of the LA landscape.</p> <p id="NuLg1U">“In the 1980s this is going to be the architectural symbol of our city,” Rick Joseph, a member of the Architectural Revitalization Coalition of Hollywood said in the <em>Los Angeles Times </em>in 1984. “You have the red roofs of Paris, the piazzas of Rome, the beautiful Victorian homes of San Francisco—and in Los Angeles… the convenience shopping center. They are everywhere.” </p> <p id="5Ufd20">His prediction was correct. That year, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> reported that there were an estimated 2,000 in Southern California.</p> <p id="XBNTDc">From 1974 to 1984, the number of gasoline retailers in Los Angeles dropped by 32 percent. Bachner, dubbed the “mini-mall king,” would snap up many of these old gas station lots, and by 1997 he had built an astounding 650 strip malls in Los Angeles County. According to the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>: </p> <blockquote><p id="9x5iVo">The company’s signs, “For Lease, La Mancha Development, New Shopping Center,” festooned with a Picasso-esque silhouette of a bowlegged Don Quixote grasping his lance, were raised at so many construction sites in the ‘80s that they became more than one Valley kid’s first exposure to Cervantes.</p></blockquote> <p id="oLTM8S">But La Mancha was not the only one in the game. Other firms became prolific strip mall machines, including T.W. Layman and Associates, which would design approximately 400 strip malls in the Southern California area. </p> <p id="78HZmy">“They were not popular from a planning point of view, but the public voted with their feet,” says Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. “They were very convenient, and that’s why they got built. They rented to businesses which served the needs of people, and they made money for the developers.”</p> <div class="c-wide-block"> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Young people walk through a parking lot in a small, beige stucco strip mall. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>The corner strip mall survives and thrives, especially in immigrant communities.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <p id="XzzsUu">By 1985, it was estimated that there were around 3,000 strip malls in Southern California, which was dubbed “the mini-mall capital of the world.” A vigorous backlash to what many saw as cheap, ugly, utilitarian concrete blocks—whose parking lots attracted “undesirable” loiterers—began to grow throughout the 1980s. </p> <p id="N7k8nQ">“What really bothered urban planners, and me, was that most of them provided parking on the front side of the mini-mall, and that broke up the pedestrian character of the streets they were built on,” Yaroslavsky says. “Historically, parking for retail stores [was] provided in the rear and the stores were more conducive to pedestrians. I viewed the new mini-mall model as troublesome.”</p> <p id="IuFASF">In 1986, Proposition U, a slow-growth initiative sponsored by Yaroslavsky, then a member of the Los Angeles City Council, was passed by 70 percent of voters. Opposed by then-Mayor Tom Bradley, the proposition limited the amount of commercial development in Los Angeles. </p> <p id="zfZW0k">“Prop U was not a response to mini-malls,” Yaroslavsky says. “It was a response to massive buildings like the Beverly Center, Westside Pavilion, the Fujita Building on Ventura Boulevard in Encino. It was the massive shopping centers, massive office buildings, the consequent traffic, shade and shadow problems. People were fed up with the changing scale of new buildings in commercial zones adjacent to residential neighborhoods.” </p> <p id="sOcy60">Although Prop U was not targeted specifically toward strip malls, it did mean there was less available space to build. “Of the 29,000 acres zoned for commercial and industrial uses throughout L.A., 70 percent saw their development capacity sliced in half,” according to <a href="">Better Institutions</a>.</p> <p id="jn3nYa">Measures designed to curb strip-mall construction were enacted in earnest in the late 1980s. “A series of retaliatory anti-mini-mall edicts went into effect all over L.A. County,” Melton wrote in the <a href=""><em>LA Times</em></a> in 1997. “In May 1987, a two-month halt on mini-mall construction in Hollywood; a yearlong moratorium in Eagle Rock; blanket bans in San Marino and West Hollywood, restrictions in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.”</p> <p id="3S9da8">That same year, Bradley, facing a potential election battle with Yaroslavsky, changed his tune. In April of 1987, Bradley called for vigorous enforcement of Proposition U and the passage of a “mini-mall” ordinance to further combat their rapid growth. “These mini-malls, are frequently the site of loitering, littering, noise, not to mention traffic congestion and unsightly parking lots,” <a href="">he said</a>.</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="People young and old file into Mario’s Peruvian Restaurant in a small strip mall. The buildings are clad in yellow brick. Next-door is Ramen Koo." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>Strip malls are home to some of the best food in LA.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="1UaeY3">In November 1988, the Los Angeles City Council passed the rather weak “mini-mall ordinance.” It set basic guidelines for future mini-mall projects, which included the planting of one tree for every four parking spaces. “We passed a mini-mall ordinance to give us discretion over their approvals,” Yaroslavsky says. “After the ordinance went into effect, mini-mall construction slowed, but I’m not sure it was the reason or whether the city had simply been overdeveloped with them.”</p> <p id="WeUL21">What opponents of the modern corner strip mall overlooked was that their relatively affordable rent meant the many small-business owners were able to flourish. New entrepreneurs, particularly recent immigrants, opened (and continue to open) convenience stores, doughnut shops, laundromats, and a diverse selection of some of LA’s best restaurants. In 1992, during the <a href="">Los Angeles Uprising</a>, the mini-mall become a symbol of strife. Approximately 30 corner strip malls—many with stores owned by Korean-American proprietors—were damaged or destroyed. </p> <p id="0JRcTx">In the current era, the corner strip mall survives and thrives, especially in immigrant communities like Koreatown and the San Gabriel Valley. However, many of the older examples have fallen into disrepair, and business has been leached in some part by Target, Walmart, and luxury mega-outdoor malls. The website Better Institutions blames Proposition U, which limits new commercial development in many areas: “It’s the reason that so many commercial corridors in LA are still characterized by 1960s and ’70s-era, single-story, dilapidated strip malls. All those arterial corridors were the ones permanently frozen in time by Prop U.” </p> <p id="7OyvIF">Even at their most dilapidated, corner strip malls are home to restaurants with some of the most delicious food in the city, including such institutions as Versailles, Zankou Chicken, Palms Thai, and Mario’s Peruvian and Seafood. As Schneider notes, the late food writer Jonathan Gold was dubbed the “poet of the Strip-Mall Eatery” because of all the amazing restaurants he found in the unobtrusive L-shaped buildings. </p> <p id="pHPnWP">“Mini-malls manage to be at once pervasive and low-key, filling your neighborhood with Sri Lankan spice stores and Korean hot-pot joints—while you’re busy bemoaning the steady march of chain restaurants,” Chang writes in <em>Metropolis.</em></p> <p class="c-end-para" id="a1Bchk">For now, for better or worse, Los Angeles remains the capital of the corner strip mall. Next time you are grabbing a Slurpee or dropping off your laundry, take a look around—what seems like an architectural nonentity means more than meets the eye. </p> <aside id="vhGSJU"><div data-anthem-component="newsletter" data-anthem-component-data='{"slug":"la-curbed"}'></div></aside> Hadley Meares 2019-09-17T10:00:44-07:00 2019-09-17T10:00:44-07:00 How LA neighborhoods got their names <img alt="Young people sitting in yellow metal chairs dine on a sidewalk lined with trees. In the background, a vintage theater with green neon sign that reads in cursive print Los Feliz." src="" /> <small>Rancho Los Feliz, or the “happy farm,” prospered for decades before it was developed. | Liz Kuball</small> <p>From Los Feliz to Compton, the origin stories of 13 cities and neighborhoods</p> <p id="tAta0r">In the compact recorded history of Los Angeles, a surprising number of neighborhoods, developments, and village names have come and gone. <a href="">Glen Creason</a>, historian, author, and map librarian at the city’s Central Library, names a few of his favorites: Dusky Glen, Senorita, Bangle, Klondike Park, Montezuma, Poppy Fields, Cape of Good Hope, Devil’s Gate, Funston, and Barnes City. These monikers didn’t survive the wild west Los Angeles real estate frenzy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but many of the neighborhoods and cities we know and live in today were named during that heady time. </p> <p id="s8aMw3">With so many developments and subdivisions springing up over the past 150 years, names came about in a variety of ways. “They allowed the citizens of <a href="">Glendale</a> to vote for the name of their city,” Creason says. “It was decided in a narrow margin that Glendale would beat out Indianapolis.” </p> <p id="ETkbey">Many communities took their names from aristocratic or literary roots. According to <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">Janet Atkinson</a>, author of the highly informative <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Los Angeles County Historical Directory</em></a><em>, </em>the town of Chatsworth was named by Spencer Compton Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, for his family estate of Chatsworth. <a href="">Hawthorne</a> was named after the revered American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, while Montrose, inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s <em>A</em> <em>Legend of Montrose</em>, was the winning entry in a naming contest. </p> <p id="MQrt2A">Other names had more plebeian origins. According to Atkinson, Glendora was named for the glen behind founder George D. Whitcomb’s house and his wife, Leadora. Baldwin Hills and Village were both named after the infamous landowner and racetrack owner <a href="">Elias “Lucky” Baldwin</a>, who had once owned the development’s land. Still others derived from Spanish and Mexican ranchos, and a precious few from the native Californians who lived in the area for centuries. </p> <p id="eaiLud">To Creason, these names illustrate the “total melting pot aspect of LA.” They also illustrate “the see-saw between the Spanish roots and the carpetbagger and developer squelching of other cultures,” Creason says. “The other kind of sad truth is that much of the naming of things was done by those with money and not those who lived in certain places.” </p> <p id="3WTTPN"><strong>Tarzana</strong></p> <p id="TGuSkY">Yup, your guess was right. Tarzana is indeed <a href="">named after Tarzan</a>, the legendary (and fictional) King of the Jungle. In 1919, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, bought Mil Flores, a sprawling country estate in the mountains above Ventura Boulevard, from <em>Los Angeles Times</em> publisher Harrison Gray Otis. Always a master self-promoter, Burroughs renamed the estate Tarzana, and began to create a self-sustaining fairyland complete with a castle, golf course, riding trials, and a menagerie of farm animals. In 1922, Burroughs decided to subdivide 50 acres of his estate—using ads that read, “Tarzan of the Apes to Sell Lots in Tarzana.” In 1928, residents of Tarzana merged with the neighboring community of Runnymede. Thus the “City of Tarzana” was born. </p> <div> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Large homes in a variety of architectural styles, from colonial to Mediterranean, line a beachfront. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Getty Images/iStockphoto</cite> <figcaption>Manhattan Beach was named after Manhattan, New York.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <h5 id="tYLuMw"><a href=""><strong>Manhattan Beach </strong></a></h5> <p id="tA4T0I">According to Atkinson, in 1900 a group of businessmen led by Frank S. Daugherty incorporated the Highland Beach Company. The company bought 20 acres of beachfront land that had once been part of the Rancho Sausal Redondo and developed a new community, which they called Shore Acres. Next door, a man named Stewart Miller, who also owned a portion of the old rancho, decided to name his new development after his former home: Manhattan, New York. Deciding to merge the two, community leaders tossed a coin to decide between Shore Acres and Manhattan. Manhattan won. </p> <h5 id="c2IxEm"><a href=""><strong>Echo Park </strong></a></h5> <p id="ufDy1d">Around 1868, a reservoir for storing drinking water, <a href="">known as Reservoir No. 4</a>, was built by The Los Angeles Canal and Reservoir Company in the rural hills of what was then West Los Angeles. Historian Nathan Masters asserts that it had been constructed to lure potential developers, but the bustling suburb that investors hoped would spring up around it never came to fruition. Eventually, the owners donated the reservoir and some surrounding land to the city for a public park. </p> <p id="XATeEV">According to legend (and the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>), in 1886, Englishman Joseph Henry Tomlinson, a prolific landscape architect in early Los Angeles, was tasked with transforming the public utility into a park. While working at the site one day, Tomlinson called out to his assistant, only to hear his voice echo back to him off the nearby hills. Tomlinson was charmed and named the former Reservoir No. 4 site Echo Park. </p> <h5 id="EEROd6"><a href=""><strong>Alhambra</strong></a></h5> <p id="TqqX8E">In the 1850s, early English-speaking pioneer Benjamin Wilson purchased the Huerta de Custe ranch, which had once been part of the sprawling Rancho San Antonio. According to <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Los Angeles County Historical Directory</em></a><em>,</em> the ranch would eventually become the towns of San Marino, South Pasadena, and Alhambra. The fanciful name of Alhambra was inspired by Wilson’s daughters Ruth and Marie, who were enthralled with Washington Irving’s historical romance <em>Tales of the Alhambra</em>. Wilson took the novel’s exotic Spanish theme and ran with it. “All the streets also took the names of characters in the novel,” Atkinson writes. “There were Granada, Boabdil, Vega and Almansor.” </p> <h5 id="dTGyL7"><a href=""><strong>Outpost Estates </strong></a></h5> <p id="W7p2H2">In 1903, <a href="">Harrison Gray Otis</a>, publisher of the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, was looking for a refuge from the bustling<em> Times </em>newsroom and the constant controversy that his brash union-busting, SoCal boostering activities caused. To this end, he purchased twelve acres of land around what is now Sycamore and Franklin Avenues. Nestled in the small country resort of Hollywood, the property already boasted a small adobe that had been built by Don Tomas Urquidez in 1855. Always a fan of militaristic phrases, Otis <a href="">named his new vacation retreat</a> “The Outpost,” and built himself a chalet and garden, which included a flagpole said to be the “tallest in the country.” </p> <p id="gCLkdl">After Otis’s death, “The Outpost” went though different owners, including movie pioneer Jesse Lasky, before ending up the hands of Hollywood developer Charles E. Toberman in 1926. Toberman christened his new development “Outpost Estates,” and began to build upper-middle class homes in the Spanish, Mediterranean, and California modern styles. To promote the development, Toberman erected a large 30-foot high, red neon sign that advertised the “Outpost” neighborhood to all of Los Angeles for years. </p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A man in a gingham shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy hat rides a white horse on a residential street." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>AP Photo/Richard Vogel</cite> <figcaption>Methodist settlers originally named Compton “Comptonville.”</figcaption> </figure> <h5 id="dwDDAt"><a href=""><strong>Compton</strong></a></h5> <p id="vwEyXr">In 1867, a wagon train, led by Griffith Dickenson Compton, arrived on a portion of rural land which had once been part of the 75,000-acre Rancho San Pedro. As historian Cecilia Rasmussen notes in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, the wagon train consisted of 30 idealistic Methodist settlers. The small community set about building a utopian temperance colony where clean living was encouraged and alcohol was not allowed. According to Atkinson, the new village was originally christened Gibsonville, but soon renamed Comptonville in honor of Griffith Dickenson Compton. By 1869, it was known simply as Compton. </p> <h5 id="Lnetrg"><a href=""><strong>Los Feliz</strong></a></h5> <p id="JCJK8R">The story of Los Feliz is as old as the history of Los Angeles itself. Family patriarch Jose Vicente Feliz was a soldier from Sonora, and a member of the legendary Anza expedition. In 1781, he helped lead and guard the original settlers of the pueblo of Los Angeles. He was eventually named de facto mayor and credited as a firm and fair leader. In the 1790s, he was granted more than 6,000 acres of land (which includes Griffith Park, Los Feliz, and portions of what is today Silver Lake) on which to build a ranch. Called Rancho Los Feliz, or the “happy farm,” the estate prospered for decades. The storied Feliz family would not only give their name to the neighborhood that would flourish in the 1920s, they would also supply Los Angeles with some of its best <a href="">legends and myths</a>. </p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A street view of a commercial district lined with low-slug shops and restaurants. Signs for businesses include Laurel Tavern and Japanese Restaurant. A center median is populated with mature trees and shrubs." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Liz Kuball</cite> <figcaption>Mack Sennett intended to build a true factory town when he developed Studio City.</figcaption> </figure> <h5 id="Hdvnd4"><a href=""><strong>Studio City</strong></a></h5> <p id="m1YLTk"><a href="">Mack Sennett</a> was a true Hollywood renaissance man. The “King of Comedy” was not only an actor, director, producer, and studio mogul, he was also a real estate dynamo. Around 1926, he teamed up with a new real estate syndicate called the Central Motion Picture District Incorporated (which included investors like the actor Noah Beery and Paramount executive B.P. Schulberg) to develop over 500 acres of San Fernando Valley ranchland. Hoping to bring all “motion picture studios into a single district,” the syndicate struck a deal with Sennett to build a brand-new studio in the Valley. Hoping to create a true factory town, picturesque middle-class homes were planned to surround the studios. The name of this new endeavor? <a href="">Studio City</a> of course! </p> <h5 id="xKBZXs"><a href=""><strong>El Segundo</strong></a></h5> <p id="sNZ4OE">Around 1911, scouts for the Standard Oil Company discovered an old coastal melon patch in the South Bay. “The area they were looking for had to be adjacent to the seashore, where tankers could transport oil to all parts of the world,” <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">Atkinson explains</a>. Standard Oil snapped up the melon patch and named it El Segundo, meaning “the second” in Spanish. Some say that the name was inspired by a woman who enthusiastically stated, “El Segundo is second to none.” Others say the company chose this odd numerical name because it would be the home of the second oil refinery that Standard Oil constructed (the first was in Northern California). By 1912, <a href="">a tent city</a> of workers soon sprang up around the newly constructed refinery, and a community was born. El Segundo was officially incorporated in 1917. </p> <h5 id="Sybz1Q"><a href=""><strong>Eagle Rock</strong></a></h5> <p id="DcGSnp">Incorporated in 1911, this rustically hip neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles was home to the Tongva Indians for generations. According to Atkinson, they named a towering large rock now at the north end of Figueroa Street the “The Bird” or the “Eagle Rock.” The rock was so named because of the wing-shaped shadow it cast over the area below. For generations the rock was used as a landmark and a navigation tool by Native Californians, and later by Spanish and Mexican settlers. </p> <h5 id="cSyNOI"><a href=""><strong>Beverly Hills </strong></a></h5> <p id="EpoxPe">According to the <a href="">Beverly Hills Historical Society</a>, this famed enclave of the rich and famous has gone by several names over the years. The Tongva people called it “the gathering of the waters,” while the Mexican government referred to it as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas. </p> <p id="wLGkyN">In 1868, this rich, rolling land was purchased by Edward Preuss, who hoped to develop it into a German farming community that would be called Santa Maria. In the 1880s, different developers bought the land with plans to build a neighborhood called Morocco. None of these plans would come to fruition. In 1900, a group of oil industry veterans and businessmen, including Burton E. Green bought the land, hoping to strike oil. They didn’t, but they did strike water, so they decided on the next best thing: a real estate scheme. With plans to build an exclusive, luxury bedroom community, Green came up with the perfect name: Beverly Hills. <a href="">It is said</a> the name was inspired by the oceanfront community of Beverly Farms in Massachusetts. </p> <div> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Aerial view of palm trees and rooftops of buildings with various heights. In the foreground, radio towers and hills. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Liz Kuball</cite> <figcaption>Some say Hollywood was named for the California holly that grew in the Cahuenga Hills.</figcaption> </figure> </div> <h5 id="4sKiVj"><a href=""><strong>Hollywood </strong></a></h5> <p id="fkACOH">In the 1880s, a cultured, elegant woman named <a href="">Daeida Wilcox</a> was grieving the loss of her little boy. Many Sundays, Daeida and her husband, Harvey, would take long, meditative carriage rides from their home near USC to the rural Cahuenga Valley. The couple so loved the fragrant, arid valley that they bought 120 acres around what is now Hollywood and Vine. They began planning a temperate vacation community for religious, artistic Midwesterners like themselves, who were eager to spend more time in the sun. </p> <p id="TtzUk1">While we know Daedia decided to name the new subdivision Hollywood, there are different legends as to why. Some claim that during a train trip Daeida spoke with a woman who told her about her Illinois country estate named “Hollywood.” <a href="">Others say</a> it was named for the California holly that grew in the Cahuenga Hills. Its ring was undeniable, and in 1887 Harvey Wilcox printed the tract first map for the new community of Hollywood. </p> <h5 id="ql1Jhk"><a href=""><strong>Malibu</strong></a></h5> <p class="c-end-para" id="QVmipJ">For centuries, the area we now know as Malibu was home to the seafaring Chumash. Near the edge of <a href="">Malibu Canyon</a>, the Chumash built a settlement <a href="">known as Humaliwo</a> (where “the surf sounds loudly”). Since the Santa Monica Mountains that ringed the coastland made it difficult to reach, the land was not taken by the Spanish until 1802. That year, the Spanish government named the area Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, a phonetic interpretation of the Chumash name Humaliwo. Over the years this was shortened to the Malibu Rancho, and finally <a href="">Malibu</a>, the private fiefdom of the <a href="">legendary May Rindge</a>. </p> <p id="zTzL1E"></p> Hadley Meares 2019-08-21T13:00:12-07:00 2019-08-21T13:00:12-07:00 The lost bath houses of Los Angeles <img alt="A close-up of a colored vintage postcard showing young men and women crowded inside a massive swimming pool in the Redondo Beach Bath House. There’s a large fountain in the forefront and the pool is rimmed in observation areas.&amp;nbsp;" src="" /> <small>The Redondo Beach “plunge” offered an Olympic size pool, fountains, and observation deck. | California State University, Dominguez Hills, Archives and Special Collections</small> <p>At the turn of the 20th century, elaborate indoor swimming pools, often financed by railroad companies, popped up along the coast </p> <p id="cwzcuu">On July 2, 1909, <a href="">Redondo Beach</a> was the place to be in Los Angeles County. More than 6,000 day-trippers crowded into trains to make their way to the small beach town. They were there to witness the grand opening of the Redondo Beach Bath House. </p> <p id="BaFfbb">This imposing Spanish-Renaissance structure—financially backed by railway magnate <a href="">Henry Huntington</a>—was adorned with exotic domes and turrets. It featured 1,350 dressing rooms, 62 bathtubs, Turkish baths, showers, reading and smoking lounges, and manicure rooms. Most intriguingly, there were three hot saltwater pools, lined in pale green tiles, surrounded by bleachers and lit by a towering skylight.</p> <p id="NH13G8">The three pools included a deep-water diving pool, a general pool, and a novel baby pool. By midday, 1,136 bathers were splashing and frolicking in the water. “The baby pool was a scene of intense interest, with its hundred or more of little tots bravely dipping into the sparkling water then bowing to the applause of parents and friends who watched them with zealous interest,” one observer wrote for the <a href=""><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p id="5On7yO">As the day progressed, the Schoneman-Blanchard orchestra played. The night ended with an impressive electric light display. Fountains within the pools glowed with colored lights, and the exterior of the structure was outlined with hundreds of incandescent lights that reflected off the adjacent Pacific Ocean. </p> <p id="B2F5B9">The grandeur of the Redondo Beach Bath House was a far cry from the humble, rambling wooden shacks that once offered makeshift changing rooms; rentals of cumbersome, heavy bathing costumes; and ropes to hold onto as inexperienced bathers gingerly walked into the sea.</p> <p id="5aWC0q">The first bath house in <a href="">Santa Monica</a> (and perhaps in LA County) was a small, rustic structure, built by the founders of Santa Monica, John P. Jones and Robert Baker. In 1875, the two formed the Santa Monica Land and Water Company. They began to drum up interest in their new development, which they hoped would include major railway involvement and eventually a port that would rival <a href="">San Pedro</a>. </p> <p id="2PW92h">“They were preparing for their big land auction, and those were a really big deal,” says <a href="">Santa Monica Conservancy</a> board member and longtime Santa Monica landmarks commissioner Nina Fresco. “They hired this great writer to write all these really flowery brochures for them and built [the Santa Monica Hotel] on the bluffs… they also built a tiny little bathhouse on the beach below the hotel. And that was the very first bath house.”</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="Image of people, including children, swimming in the North Beach Bath House salt water plunge in Santa Monica, California. A sign that reads “deep water” hangs at the center of image above the indoor pool." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Ernest Marquez Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California</cite> <figcaption>The North Beach Bath House salt water plunge in Santa Monica, July 1901. Opened in 1894, it was considered the finest bath house in LA County.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="Poa129">According to Fresco, at a time when most people did not know how to swim, Victorian bath houses often offered lessons for a small entrance fee, and little changing rooms so that men and women could modestly change into their rented form-obscuring bathing costumes. </p> <p id="yzQDBd">(That, however, did not stop bathing women from being the object of men’s catcalls. One day, according to the <em>LA Times</em>, in the Santa Monica surf, a man stepped “up to a crowd of young men who were shouting over the dilemma of a lady in the water… ordering them to stop their hooting or he would trash every mother’s son of them.”)</p> <p id="TouZSH">Angelenos were soon flocking to the beach on warm summer days, and Jones and Baker began to expand their development on what came to be known as the North Beach of Santa Monica. In 1877, they tore down the original bathhouse and built a munch fancier structure. But they were not alone on the beach. </p> <p id="Kn8mM2">“Earlier that season, another guy named Michael Duffy had built another small bathhouse up the beach by Arizona Avenue,” Fresco says. “He was a squatter. They didn’t care so much at first. Then they opened their big establishment that they had actually invested money in building… There was a plunge, which is what they called a swimming pool. It had a lot of rooms with hot and cold running water to rinse off the sand... And then they booted Duffy out.” </p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A colorful vintage postcard of a crowded boardwalk with a large colonial-style bathhouse. The boardwalk is populated with smaller structures, including a gazebo.&amp;nbsp;" data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Los Angeles Public Library photo collection</cite> <figcaption>When the Pacific Electric line to Long Beach was built, the Long Beach Bath House and Amusement Company built this bath house on the beach near the end of the street car line. </figcaption> </figure> <p id="QMkdf1">Other entrepreneurs attempting to build their own Santa Monica bath houses met with more fatal results. “A carpenter, John V. Fonck, was working on a small bath house that was being put up on land in dispute. C. M. Waller, who was in charge of the bath house and beach property of the land company, ordered him to quit work,” Luther A. Ingersoll writes in <a href=";qid=1565756515&amp;s=gateway&amp;sr=8-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>A Century History of The Santa Monica Bay Cities</em></a>. “Upon his refusal to do so, Waller fired and wounded him fatally. He claimed that he thought the gun was loaded with bird shot and that he was acting under the orders of E. S. Parker, the representative of Jones and Baker.”</p> <p id="8m7w9f">Waller was later sentenced to only one year in jail. In the meantime, his wife ran the bath house throughout the 1870s and early ’80s. Mrs. Waller, known for her tact and experience, was said to have “suits to suit everybody” and to be able to handle the busiest of times. </p> <p id="5789bf">But the Santa Monica Hotel Bath House soon had a formidable North Beach neighbor in the form of the grand <a href="">Arcadia Hotel</a>, between what is today Colorado Avenue and Pico Boulevard. The luxurious Arcadia, catering to the elite of Southern California, opened in 1887 and included a large bath house, complete with a hot salt-water plunge. </p> <p id="TZBwvk">But Mrs. Waller’s former establishment (now managed by the appropriately named Mr. Suits) continued to increase in popularity with Angelenos of all classes. “The plunge in the North Beach Bath House is becoming very popular with the young people, who take absolute possession of it every afternoon, and furnish untold amusement to the spectators, who enjoy immensely their antics,” the <em>LA Times</em> reported in 1890.</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A black and white photo of the bluffs in Santa Monica." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>The Southern Pacific Railroad tunnel that ran under Ocean Avenue, shown here where it meets the beach in Santa Monica, California. Stairs next to the tunnel led to the North Beach Bath House.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="Ded9NG">The North Beach Bath houses would soon face competition from the sleepy beach to the south, known as Ocean Park, which had remained underdeveloped during Santa Monica’s early years. </p> <p id="lVuMbH">“In 1892,” Fresco says, the Santa Fe Railroad “brought their train into Santa Monica through Ocean Park. That’s when Ocean Park started to wake up. Because now there was a train with a train station. And <a href="">Abbot Kinney</a> was desperate to be a part of that although he wasn’t as much of a player, he wanted to be. He did manage through a hostile takeover of a poor little railroad company to acquire the beach land that is Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Beach and what became the first part of Venice.”</p> <p id="lSsYSn">Kinney donated part of Ocean Park to the YMCA, “so they could have nice, wholesome, Christian non-alcoholic beachfront,” Fresco says. That same year, the <em>LA Times</em> announced the construction of a YMCA. complex with a 50-room bathhouse on the beach near the Santa Fe Depot.</p> <p id="dowqS6">Faced with increasing competition, members of the Jones family decided it was time to upgrade the old Santa Monica Hotel bath house. “They tore down the old one in 1893 and rebuilt what is a pretty famous building called the North Beach Bath House,” Fresco says. “It was designed by <a href="">Myron Hunt</a>, who was a big shot architect. It was really fancy. It had a bridge that went over the train tracks up to the top of the bluff where Palisades Park was.”</p> <p id="toQ9ID">When the $50,000 North Shore Beach House opened in June 1894, it was considered the finest bath house LA County had seen. According to the <em>LA Times,</em> it featured a long veranda, 300 dressing rooms, a large ballroom, a second-floor restaurant, and rooftop promenade with “an excellent view of the beach.” </p> <p id="ELewQa">Throughout the 1890s, these affordable, egalitarian bath houses (often backed by railroad companies) sprung up and down the Los Angeles County coast, as railroads brought Angelenos to once isolated parts of the shore. In 1894, the new Redondo Beach Bath House opened. They became grander and more elaborate. </p> <p id="Ih53pz">“The North Shore built its own little beach house wharf in 1898, so they could look at the water in their heavy clothes,” Fresco says. “And they had a bowling alley there, and a pub where you could play cards with your friends and you know all kinds of things. So, it was really a beach club.” </p> <p id="1TxC0i">By the turn of the century, LA’s beach houses had become famous throughout the world. In 1902, Gov. Ezra Savage of Nebraska caused a splash when he took a dip in the North Beach plunge. The <em>LA</em> reported: “It was feared that there would be work for the life-savers as the water closed over the portly Nebraskans, but they bobbed to the surface like corks.”</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A colorful vintage postcard of an ornate bath house at night. The waves lap at the sandy shore, illuminated by moonlight." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <cite>Eric Wienberg Collection of Malibu Matchbooks, Postcards, and Collectables, Pepperdine University Special Collections and University Archives</cite> <figcaption>The Ocean Park Bath House, built by A.R. Fraser in 1905.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="WEoxdF">That same year, the Seaside Water Company opened its new state-of-the-art $85,000 bath house in Long Beach complete with innovative sanitary improvements. “Water for the plunge is obtained through an iron pipe leading out under the pleasure pier, where the supply may not be fouled with seaweed or sand,” the <em>LA Times</em> reported. “The interior work is in white and other light shades, and the dressing rooms and other places where the bathers are accommodated are constructed with drainage facilities designed to keep them in permanent sanitary condition.”</p> <p id="NnUrmy">The Long Beach Bath House was soon a popular place for men to ogle women as an orchestra played. Plunges also provided more official entertainments. “The plunges had stadium seating on either side, and they would give water shows, and people would do trapeze acts and acrobatics over the water and in the water—water ballet and all kinds of things that you could watch,” Fresco says. Swimming races and diving competitions, often featuring athletes from local universities and clubs, were also popular. </p> <p id="sMwTca">On July 4, 1905, the massive $185,000 Moorish-style Ocean Park Bath House opened to a throng of eager day-tripping Angelenos. “The doors swung open, and from that moment until the day had worn far into the night the two plunges were alive with human fish,” it was reported.</p> <p id="D5ekuM">There was also a dark side to bath house culture. Over the years, numerous accidental drownings were reported both in the plunges and the nearby ocean. The private changing rooms, rented by the hour or the day, were perfect for assignations, criminal behavior, and occasionally, mysterious deaths. In 1907, a man named Jon C. Riebe was found dead and badly scalded in the bathtub of his private changing room at the Ocean Park Bath House. </p> <p class="c-end-para" id="hawLVF">The era of the bath house would come to an end only a few years later. Tastes changed, and bathhouses became increasingly unfashionable. By 1909, the once grand Arcadia Hotel and its Bath House were abandoned ruins. That same year the North Beach Bath House was permanently closed. The 1910s and 1920s would usher in the era of luxury hotels, vacation homes, and private beach clubs. The public bath house, available to every Angeleno with a few quarters to spare, was a thing of the past.</p> Hadley Meares 2019-08-19T10:05:00-07:00 2019-08-19T10:05:00-07:00 Betty Hill’s ‘bath house’ battle <img alt="A black and white image of dozens of children splashing, smiling, and throwing their arms in the air as they pose for an overhead photograph." src="" /> <small>The swimming pool at Exposition Park in 1939, after it was desegregated. | Photos courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection</small> <p>Until 1931, public swimming pools were only open to black Angelenos one day a week</p> <p id="piR031">During the hot summer months there is nothing better than a dip in a cool pool. But in 1920s Los Angeles, public swimming pools were only open to black Angelenos one day a week. This injustice would be remedied not by an Olympic-level sports star or powerful government official, but by an upper-middle-class “housewife” named Betty Hill.</p> <p id="zdzOSX">“The world is in need of aggressive leadership, and aggressive leadership must come from the women,” Hill said in the <em>Los Angeles Sentinel </em>in 1947. </p> <p id="pQ6ROO">According to Robert Lee Johnson, author of <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Notable Southern Californians in Black History</em></a>, Rebecca Jane Perkins was born around 1882 in Nashville, Tennessee. The granddaughter of a man who had been enslaved, Rebecca, called Betty, studied at the first black school in Davidson County, which was started by her father. She then attended Roger Williams University, where she studied religion. In 1898, she married Army Sgt. Abraham Houston Hill, a member of the famed “Buffalo Soldier” regiment. </p> <p id="vhiPPz">The Hills were good friends with fellow Buffalo Soldier Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, who founded the utopian African-American community of <a href="">Allensworth</a> in 1908. The Hills purchased land in Allensworth, located in rural Tulare County, California, while they were stationed in New York.</p> <p id="RYbiX9">But upon Abraham Hill’s retirement from the Army in 1913, the couple did not move to rough-and-tumble Allensworth but to Los Angeles, which had long boasted a vibrant and cultured black middle class. They settled in a brand-new home in West Jefferson, the heart of black LA, at 1655 West 37th Place. </p> <p id="tFWIF3">Betty Hill immediately immersed herself in civic and political affairs. Their first year in LA, she and Abraham became founding members of the new Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP. She also taught Sunday school and helped found the LA branch of the Urban League, becoming a longtime board member. </p> <p id="CvYpAj">In 1920, Hill organized the Westside Property Owners Association to protect black property owners’ rights. Besides providing legal and political support, the association also sponsored teas and events to raise money for educational scholarships and legal funds. Hill’s tireless networking and community building were formed by a strong belief in self-reliance and the importance of civic groups to combat racism and discrimination. “Betty was an admirer of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, and took the best of each philosophy to develop her own brand of political activism,” <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">Johnson writes</a>.</p> <p id="Uw9LfI">One of her greatest battles would begin in 1926. That year, the playground commission of the city of Los Angeles officially segregated its recreation centers and swimming pools. Black children were only allowed to use public swimming pools one afternoon of the week, for the “public welfare” of LA, according to the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>. </p> <p id="50WRDF">The Los Angeles branch of the NAACP sprang into action and sued the commission with the help of lawyer <a href="">E. Burton Ceruti</a>, but was defeated.</p> <p id="cENZ2q">“After a legal contest lasting more than twelve months, and fought through two courts, a decision, drastic in nature, was rendered against the [NAACP] upholding the right of the commission as a unit of government under the guise of police regulation to segregate Negro citizens,” LA NAACP president Claude Hudson wrote in a letter to the head of the national organization.</p> <p id="qBj6Zp">According to the <em>LA Times,</em> the court had used the “separate but equal” argument to justify discrimination: </p> <blockquote><p id="pEppb4">The action of the commission was sustained in a decision by Superior Judge Shaw in Feb. 1926, in which he upheld the authority of the commission’s order, holding that it was not a violation of the fourteenth amendment, since provisions had been made by the city to furnish bathing facilities for the colored folks banned from the pools assigned for the use of Caucasians.</p></blockquote> <p id="YTFphT">With this order, the fight over public pools was temporarily put on the back burner. In 1928, the legendary Hotel Somerville (later the <a href="">Dunbar Hotel</a>) opened at 2445 Central Avenue. Hill was at the gala opening for this first black-owned and -operated luxury hotel. It had opened just in time for the 1928 National Convention of the NAACP, which was to be held in Los Angeles. Hill was put in charge of the program for the convention, which by all accounts was a monumental success. Douglas Flamming, author of<em> </em><a href=";keywords=bound+for+freedom&amp;qid=1565137061&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=bound+for+freedom%2Cstripbooks%2C266&amp;sr=1-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank"><em>Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America</em></a>, describes the scene: </p> <blockquote><p id="LYURnU">The local community held a giant parade that featured church groups, fraternal organizations, women’s clubs, and businesses—on foot and in automobiles—floats blooming, banners flying, fraternal uniforms glittering. Afro-Angelenos by the thousands made their way from Washington Boulevard and Main Street to the Shrine Auditorium. There, the NAACP Chorus sang, and an impressive lineup of local, state, and national leaders held forth, including Fred Roberts, California governor C. C. Young, and James Weldon Johnson.</p></blockquote> <p id="KJh1Ow">According to Flamming, the NAACP decided to capitalize on the momentum brought by the convention’s success. While other officials focused on a membership drive, Hill decided to renew the battle over public pool usage. According to Hudson, this injustice had become an “obsession with her.” And thus began the story, Hudson wrote in a letter to the NAACP, nominating her for the organization’s Walker Medal Award, “of a most remarkable fight of one woman when all the rest of us had lost hope.”</p> <p id="cMUdIM">Hudson understood why Hill was so determined to change the odious one-day-a-week policy. “The whole problem of racial contact and self-respect was at stake here,” Hudson wrote in the 1932 letter. “The humiliation of children daily does such harm, that it is impossible to calculate.”</p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A black and white image of seven women of various ages posing for a photograph in a driveway with trees in the background. The women are finely dressed, wearing blazers, dresses and skirts, and hats. " data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>Betty Hill, left, pictured with a group of unnamed women.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="MGImSF">Hill faced an uphill battle. To appease black Angelenos, the playground commission had built a state-of-the-art public pool on Central Avenue, near 23rd Street, that was open seven days a week to the black population that surrounded it (it was also open to white Angelenos). In 1928, a boycott of this “separate but equal facility” was organized, but it met with little success. “It was with great difficulty, that we held attendance at this pool below normal. Frankly, most members of the branch were discouraged,” wrote Hudson.</p> <p id="IoZNr1">Hill decided to use a different tactic. Under the guise of Westside Property Owners Association, Hill would file suit against the playground and recreation commission. She enlisted local resident Ethel Prioleau, who agreed to send her children to the local public pool in Exposition Park on a whites-only day. The children were subsequently ordered out of the pool by rec center director L.H. Breker.</p> <p id="4nF26W">“Prioleau allowed Hill to file suit on the Prioleaus’ behalf. Hugh Macbeth and Eugene C. Jennings served as Hill’s attorneys, pro bono,” Flamming <a href=";keywords=bound+for+freedom&amp;qid=1565137061&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=bound+for+freedom%2Cstripbooks%2C266&amp;sr=1-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">writes</a>. “The NAACP lent moral support, but Hill, Jennings, and Macbeth hauled the freight.”</p> <p id="yLX9HL">The action got the attention of the white press, which were usually loathe to report on black Angeleno activism. The <em>LA Times</em> reported on August 4, 1929: </p> <blockquote><p id="UQQRay">Trouble that has been fomenting for some months for the playground and recreation commission in its efforts to enforce race segregation in city swimming pools came to a head yesterday when Mrs. Ethel Prioleau, colored, of 1311 West thirty-fifth street obtained an alternative writ of mandamus in Superior Judge Craig’s court requiring the Playground and Recreation Commissioners to appear in his court next Friday to show cause why colored residents may not use pools assigned to Caucasians.</p></blockquote> <p id="MxJGJm">Prioleau’s argument was simple: She “seeks to have her children allowed to use Exposition Park pool on the ground that as a taxpayer she contributed toward it and that it is the nearest pool to her home,” reported the<em> LA Times</em>. </p> <p id="xm0ghp">But what followed would be anything but simple. <a href=";keywords=bound+for+freedom&amp;qid=1565137061&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=bound+for+freedom%2Cstripbooks%2C266&amp;sr=1-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">According to Flamming</a>, “twenty-five court appearances followed—with Hill present at every one.” </p> <p id="SqidZA">As the “bath house battle” wound its way through the courts, Hill focused on multiple projects at once. In 1929, she founded the Republican Women’s Study Club, the first of its kind in America. <a href=";keywords=bound+for+freedom&amp;qid=1565137061&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=bound+for+freedom%2Cstripbooks%2C266&amp;sr=1-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">According to Flamming</a>, the club “analyzed policies and politicians, disseminated information, lobbied, and championed selected candidates, hoping to mobilize black voters, especially women.”<strong> </strong></p> <figure class="e-image"> <img alt="A black and white image of girls and boys playing in a swimming pool." data-mask-text="false" src=""> <figcaption>LA public pools were opened to all races in August 1931.</figcaption> </figure> <p id="uarLqi">In early 1931, a ruling was finally rendered in the Prioleau case—and it was victory. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Walter S. Gates ruled that the playground commission had no right to make discriminatory regulations. He gave the city of Los Angeles 60 days to issue an appeal—or all recreation center pools would be immediately opened to all races at all times. </p> <p id="ZLAyb5">The city attorney refused to appeal unless the Los Angeles City Council authorized the action. Over the next 60 days, Hill lobbied around the clock to ensure that the City Council would not vote to appeal Gates’ decision. The <em>LA Times</em> hinted ominously that an “active negro politician” was “conferring” with individual council members, convincing them to not vote to appeal or suffer the consequences at the ballot boxes. </p> <p id="9tLG00">One such councilmember had vigorously protested Gates’s ruling, stating: “Judge Gates’ decision is so sweeping that the board will not be able to designate the days when boy scouts can go to the mountain camps. Why, the board can’t even set separate days for men and women to bathe.” Only days later, after a conference with the “negro politician,” he had changed his mind. According to Hudson: </p> <blockquote><p id="LwFMN7">On three successive occasions, between June 16th and August 16th, the Playground Commission fought bitterly for a vote of the City Council to instruct the City Attorney to take an appeal from Judge Gates’ decision to the appellate court. On each occasion Mrs. Hill worked vigorously to convince a majority of the City Councilors of the rank prejudice and injustice of the commission’s attitude and, in some instances, threatened indifferent councilmen with future political battles. </p></blockquote> <p id="1tCmtr">The council voted on the appeal three times, but either deadlocked or voted against it. On August 16, the playground commission was out of time. LA public pools were opened to all races at the height of the sweaty summer. Hill had achieved, according to Hudson, “one of the greatest victories in the history of the progress of the Race.”</p> <p id="uXglFG">Part of Hill’s victory was certainly attributable to the political power of the Republican Women’s Study Club (Hill changed the name to Women’s Political Study Club when Roosevelt came to power ). The club would expand to over 20 branches across the state. At its height, it would have 10,000 black women members. By 1932, Hudson wrote that the club’s “significance is already demonstrated in the increased respect for the Negro’s political support which recent office-seekers have manifested in many ways and for which potential office-seekers seasonably make their bid.”</p> <p id="CpbFZC">That same year, Hill became the first black woman in the U.S. to run a major political campaign when she ran the primary campaign for California Sen. Samuel M. Shortridge. </p> <p id="ikHj0d">Hill made good on her promise to help those who helped her people. Her influence was seen in the <em>Los Angeles Sentinel</em>’s endorsement for a city councilmember in 1935, four years after the pools had been desegregated: </p> <blockquote><p id="F0OzZa">Praise for Councilman E. Snapper Ingram’s policy in the now historic “swimming pool” case was uttered by residents of the tenth district this week as they predicted his re-election by an overwhelming majority May 7. Ingram was praised because of his consistent support in the city council of the fight, led by Mrs. Betty Hill, which resulted in the abolition of color lines at the municipal swimming pools.</p></blockquote> <p id="YtwP3h">Like all agents for change, the powerful and intense Hill had her detractors. One fellow Republican <a href=";keywords=bound+for+freedom&amp;qid=1565137061&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=bound+for+freedom%2Cstripbooks%2C266&amp;sr=1-1&amp;tag=curbed-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank">once griped</a>: “Leave it to Betty Hill to bring up some headache.” A more extreme political enemy, who was backing an opposing candidate for office, called her (according to the <em>Sentinel</em>) a “scoundrel and unfit to lead the race,” who “ought to be drummed out of the country.”<strong> </strong></p> <p id="Eovvrz">Hill didn’t let her critics stop her. In 1937, she joined other black LA leaders, including Charlotta Bass and Vada Somerville, at the opening of the new Olympic-size pool at Val Verde County Park in Castaic. The park, originally called Eureka Valley, had been created as a “<a href="">black Palm Springs</a>” in the early 1930s before being purchased by the county as a welcoming public recreation area for California blacks. </p> <p id="0FJDwB">In 1940, Hill became the first black female delegate from west of the Mississippi at the Republican National Convention. Throughout the 1940s she fought fascism, racism, and misogyny and continued to support leaders who championed civil rights through the Women’s Political Study Club. </p> <p id="67XexF">After her husband’s death in 1948, Hill kept up her busy schedule, even as her health began to fail. In 1955, she joined dignitaries at the opening of an Olympic-size pool at Will Rogers Park that had been championed by black civic leaders and the <em>Sentinel</em>:</p> <blockquote><p id="C9Sshf">A community dream came true last Saturday morning, with the formal opening of the new $200,000 swimming pool at Will Rogers park, as public officials and civic leaders joined with the people of the community to watch thousands of youngsters initiate the pool…more than 2000 persons were present at the dedication and more than 1000 children used the pool the first hour it was open.</p></blockquote> <p id="R4B6nM">Two weeks later a plaque honoring Hill was placed outside the new pool. </p> <p id="P6dlT2">Betty Hill died on May 12, 1960. Upon her passing, the “Mother of Political Leaders” was celebrated in an obituary in the <em>Sentinel</em>: “It has been said that no history of political life in California can be written without a chapter or two devoted to her... Through her efforts in the WPSC she is credited with accomplishing more to help elevate the Negro in the Southland than any other woman.”</p> <p class="c-end-para" id="ru5R6x">Betty Hill was buried in Rosedale Cemetery. In 1980, the Denker Senior Citizen Center, a stone’s throw from her longtime home, was renamed the Betty Hill Senior Citizen Center. Her home at 1655 West 37th Place is now Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 791. And every summer, thousands of kids, regardless of race, pack into the public pools of Los Angeles, enjoying the simple pleasure of being young. </p> <aside id="kQybDP"><div data-anthem-component="readmore" data-anthem-component-data='{"stories":[{"title":"The thrill of Sugar Hill","url":""},{"title":"When Nat King Cole moved in","url":""}]}'></div></aside> Hadley Meares