May 2017 | ISSUE NUMBER 331
Westmoreland Heights Tour
Who is West Adams?
The Power of Place
What's in a Name?
WAHA celebrates Preservation Month with a special issue by the Preservation Committee.
On the cover: Jefferson Park and freeway sign, Suzanne Cooper;
Matsuura Family, courtesy of Wally Matsuura.
Left: Paul Williams, Public domain; Golden State Mutual Building, Suzanne Cooper
The West Adams newsletter is a publication of West Adams Heritage Association. Members and supporters of WAHA are invited to submit articles by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters and articles will be subject to space restraints and may be cut for length. Articles will be published subject to the editors.
Advertising is subject to the approval of the publishers. Although WAHA appreciates its advertisers, the Association does not accept responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Services and products are not tested and the appearance of advertising does not imply, nor does it constitute, endorsement by the West Adams Heritage Association.
Rights to use photos are supplied by the author of the associated article.
Copyright 2017. All rights for graphic and written material appearing in the newsletter are reserved. Contact the publisher for permission to reprint.
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West Adams Farming Past Lives On
west adams Farmhouses
Buster and Earl Eat Out
Harold and Belle's
The Old University District/Expo Park West
The Childs Mansion
The power of place
Join at any level:
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To pay by check, send the following information (Name(s), Address, Phone, and email along with your level of choice) with your check to:
2263 S. Harvard Boulevard
Historic West Adams
Los Angeles, CA 90018
— Laura Meyers and Jean Frost
May is Preservation Month, not just in California, but across the United States. The National Trust created Preservation Week (now Month) in 1971 to spotlight preservation efforts across America, and now historic preservation enthusiasts celebrate May as an opportunity for discovering, honoring, and sharing the unique heritage of their local regions.
For this year’s Preservation Month, WAHA is emphasizing “The Power of Place.” In 1984 Dolores Hayden, who was at that time a UCLA professor of architecture, urbanism and American studies, founded the nonprofit organization "The Power of Place" in order to commemorate and make visible “forgotten” sites across the city, what she called “the vernacular landscape.” The Power of Place, said Hayden, is “the power of ordinary urban landscapes to nurture citizens' public memory.”
In the pages of this special issue of the WAHA newsletter, the WAHA Preservation Committee explores how buildings, even the most ordinary of vernacular buildings, tell a story of heritage along with design, and how our neighborhoods are expressions of the past along with the present. The Power of Place can be found in many places: the naves of stained glass cathedrals, on a tree-lined shaded street, in a mansion entry hall, by a garden gate, in a Streetcar Commercial shopping district.
That little Carpenter Gothic farmhouse reminds us that, 130 years ago, much of West Adams was agricultural and grazing land, with cultivated farmland and orchards near the center of town. The grand mansions and elaborate churches along Adams Boulevard from Flower to Crenshaw remind us that a century ago it was “The Street of Dreams.” The scores of Craftsman Bungalows from the early 20th century tell a story of strivers: people who moved to Los Angeles and West Adams to find their fortunes in a place with opportunities for anyone willing to work hard. The Spanish and Mediterranean Revival homes remind us that there was another wave of development following World War I, on the West Adams District’s western reaches. Mid-century institutional buildings remind us that a new generation of residents built banks, medical buildings and modern churches.
The Historic West Adams District, the name itself, expresses the Power of Place. But where is West Adams exactly? (We “ask” this now because the Los Angeles Times and other media seemingly do not know the answer – but we do, more or less: the 110 Freeway on the east; West Boulevard on the west; Pico/Olympic on the north; Exposition on the south. This history-based geography includes what is now the Staples/Convention Center complex, a good example of the evolution of L.A. neighborhoods as homes were relocated from that spot in the 1920s and again in the 1980s to other parts of the West Adams District to make room for commercialization.)
Who is West Adams? That answer changes with each changing decade and era. Generations of diasporas of many diverse people and cultures have come, and gone. But their footsteps echo and are expressed through the buildings – both homes and institutional structures – where they lived, worked and worshiped.
What is West Adams? It is a place where we respect, embrace and celebrate our heritage, and the character of our community. The West Adams District is a collection of historic neighborhoods, each with their own distinctive architecture and personality – and name. West Adams is a place where people fight to save history. West Adams is a place where we know we are stewards for those who came before, and for those who will follow us.
Photos (top to bottom)
St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church: Suzanne Cooper
USC: Courtesy of University of Southern California
Stimson Residence and Theda Bara: Courtesy of Bison Archives
Guasti Villa: courtesy Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens
Photos (top to bottom)
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church: Michael Smith/"Kansas Sebastian"
South Seas House: WAHA archives
Young Korean Academy: USC Korean American Digital Archive
Hattie McDaniel: Publicity still
Lucy Wheeler House designed by Greene and Greene: Reggie Jones
What’s in a Name?
Photos: Frank Cooper, Suzanne Cooper, Reggie Jones
On April 1, 1984, news came over the airways that Motown singer Marvin Gaye had been shot and killed by his own father at the family home on Gramercy Place. Aside from the fact that many initially thought the announcement was an April Fools joke, the media couldn’t seem to agree on where the house was located. The Los Angeles Times said it was in “the Crenshaw District.” Other outlets referred to it variously as South Los Angeles, Mid-Wilshire, and even Hancock Park. Actually, the house is right here in West Adams. How could they get it so wrong? (For the record, several publications also referred to the house as “Victorian” in style, but perhaps we can forgive them for architectural ignorance.)
Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, in which a portion of the 10 Freeway was damaged, people were directed to alternate routes that included Washington, Adams, and Jefferson Boulevards. Trying to turn a difficult situation into something positive, longtime WAHA member Norma Reynolds took it upon herself to lobby CalTrans for freeway signage which acknowledged the east/west edges of the West Adams District. Those signs are still there, stating “Historic West Adams, Next 6 Exits.”
So one would think that it has become easier to identify what is or is not West Adams, but apparently it has made it easier for the media to get it wrong. It’s the first name they see on their way to cover a story, so rather than do a little active journalism to establish an accurate location, they designate everything in sight with the same moniker.
About a year ago a shooting occurred at a Jamaican restaurant on Rimpau, near La Brea and Jefferson. That area is adjacent to Baldwin Hills, a significant distance from West Adams, and yet, in a reversal of the Marvin Gaye situation, in which the neighborhood was called everything except West Adams, this recent incident was so widely reported as having happened in West Adams, that I received a call from a friend in Washington State asking if I was okay.
While this may seem like a minor issue, consider this: statistics showed a rise in violent crime in West Adams in the last year. Depending upon how West Adams is defined, that may impact your insurance rates as well as property sale prices and a host of other situations. When you own property, you have something to protect, so it begs attention. Sometimes we have to take the bad with the good, but what we don’t want is to be painted with a broad brush, to have to bear responsibility for events or situations which have nothing to do with our community.
Unfortunately the confusion of the media has a bad habit of influencing others, thus the problem is compounded.
The “West Adams District” (which we now call the “Historic West Adams District”) or the “West Adams Section” was a well-known place name when newspapers used it a century ago. It held cachet. And it covered quite a distance – all the way from Flower Street to, by 1915, the elegant neighborhoods west of Crenshaw Boulevard. We see the “West Adams District” referred to all the time in historical newspapers.
Since WAHA was established in 1983, the organization has tried very hard to re-establish the name “West Adams District” according to its historical usage and made every effort to “re-brand” the name back to its original boundaries, rather than being lumped into a huge swath of land from Downtown to San Pedro with an all-purpose designation of “South Los Angeles.” Ironically, perhaps WAHA’s effort has been too successful. Thirty years ago it was difficult to get people to use the name “West Adams.” Now it is applied so liberally, to such a wide area, that it is losing its ability to convey its place both in history and on the map.
West Adams was and still is a district, as opposed to a neighborhood, which is more local and specific. “Neighborhood” is defined as a group of houses or buildings that are together in an area or that are grouped together as a unit. For instance, Harvard Heights is a neighborhood within the West Adams District. So are University Park, Arlington Heights, Jefferson Park, Lafayette Square, the Charles Victor Hall Tract (“Halldale”), and others. These are the original tracts names; they have precise boundaries and it is helpful to utilize them when describing a particular section of West Adams. Not only is it helpful to those who don’t live here, but it helps residents to understand the context of their neighborhood. It provides a sense of place by offering a unique identity rather than a general location.
Sometimes specific place names have far-reaching historic significance. West Adams Heights, now located between the 10 Freeway and Adams Boulevard, Western and La Salle, was developed as a high-class neighborhood by wealthy white businessmen. When prominent African-Americans began to buy property there, racism reared its ugly head. Eventually, a landmark court case was fought over the right for African-Americans to live in the neighborhood—indeed any neighborhood of their choosing. In 1945 history was made when the case was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court and was the first to invoke the 14th Amendment to disallow the enforcement of restrictive racial covenants. It was the precedent used in an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court which effectively canonized the decision as law. West Adams Heights and the events of 1945 hold a unique place in legal history as the “ground zero” for the early steps in the modern Civil Rights Movement with regard to housing discrimination. It is important that this issue occurred in West Adams Heights, not just West Adams. Not Arlington Heights, not Pico Heights, not Crenshaw Heights.
At times it makes more sense to pinpoint a neighborhood; other situations need only mention the general area. However, what is most important in any given circumstance is that whichever is used, it be correct.
In Historic Preservation there are two recurring themes that are used to describe the importance of a historic landmark. One is context, which refers to the setting of the story or background and its role within the grand scheme. The other is the power of place, which is the psychological or emotional effect of a landmark. While we frequently use these terms when making a case for saving a historic structure, it also applies to the use of an established, historic name. The subtleties of what a name means can impact our lives. Names give us our identity; we want them to be accurate. It’s who we were, are, and will always be.
Call It the Power of Place
What’s in a Name? (COntinued)
Spring Historic Homes & Architecture tOUR
Every June, WAHA invites visitors to explore unique aspects of the Historic West Adams District.
For the 2017 tour, we will explore the Westmoreland Heights Tract, a small pocket of the Harvard Heights neighborhood and HPOZ, spotlighting a nice selection of pre-1910 historic Craftsman, Tudor/Craftsman and American Foursquare homes, a restored original barn adapted for home office/studio use, plus one of Harvard Heights’ newest art venues, a recently-restored 1920s Streetcar Commercial style brick building.
The neighborhood is more than a century old. In 1899 Western Avenue was just a narrow dirt crossroad, Charles Stuart’s farm stretched out at Washington and Western, Henry C. Jensen’s brick manufactory sat a little bit to the north, and trains from Downtown barely reached this section of the countryside. But within a few years, the Harvard Heights neighborhood experienced wild development. By 1902, the Westmoreland Heights Tract (originally named West Moreland Heights) was well on its way, and Hobart and Westmoreland boulevards quickly filled with large, stately homes.
The tour will be self-guided, with doors opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 4 p.m., with visitors touring at their own pace. As always, we will need plenty of docents, who will be able to volunteer for one half-day shift (morning or afternoon) and tour during the other half of the day. The tour will raise funds for WAHA’s historic preservation advocacy efforts.
Advance purchases and reservations are requested. Tickets purchased in advance (online by June 2, 4 p.m.) are $20 per person for WAHA members (two tickets at this special price only), $30 per person for non-members. Tickets purchased day of tour are $35 per person.
Tickets can be purchased at www.WestAdamsHeritage.org or by sending checks to West Adams Heritage Association, 2263 Harvard Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90018 (mailed no later than May 27).
Mitzi March Mogul is a historic preservation consultant and longtime member of WAHA’s Preservation Committee. She also wrote the “official” historic preservation theme song, Preservation Emergency Response Team (PERT) Anthem, along with If These Walls Could Talk, a ballad about the loss of historic buildings.
Reaching New Heights: Exploring Westmoreland Heights
Saturday, June 3, 2017
who is west adams?
Photo: Reggie Jones
Often when we take a look at the history of the West Adams District and its many architectural treasures, we find ourselves reviewing a narrowly focused heritage of the City’s pioneer civic leaders, businessmen, and institutional founders. But in truth the West Adams District, with a past that began as early as the Spanish land grants and flow of the water in the Zanja, then with the farms and orchards of the 1870s, has witnessed many waves of pioneer emigrants and immigrants of every color and faith. The West Adams District, particularly from the 1920s through the 1950s, also became a welcoming harbor and nurturing environment for many “hyphenate”-Americans from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
We can still see much evidence of that in the West Adams District, from the Estonian House on West 24th Street and the United Magyar House (Hungarian Community Center) on Washington Boulevard to the Polish Parish; from the Bank of Tokyo/Union Bank on Jefferson and the former United Centenary Methodist Church on Normandie, to the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Family Home on USC’s campus and the Korean Independence Memorial Building nearby on Jefferson; from the Paul Williams-designed Bojangles Residence on 36th Place to another Paul Williams landmark, the Golden State Mutual Insurance Building (Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 1000) building at Adams and Western; from historic synagogues now used as churches, to Saint Sophia, still the spiritual center of Los Angeles’ Greek community.
Despite the cultural, social and historical contributions of many discrete minority groups in America, each with their own birthrights and traditions, fewer than 3% of California’s designated historic resources are associated with diverse cultural heritage. On a national basis, less than 1% of resources designated on the National Register of Historic Places and/or as National Historic Landmarks are associated with the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Indeed, National Trust President Stephanie K. Meeks has long urged preservationists and historians everywhere to “reconsider what is important, taking into account the layers of history,” when documenting and landmarking heritage places in this country.
WAHA has taken these words to heart for some time now. Buildings are important not just for their vintage character and beautiful architecture but also for the stories they tell about the many legacies of the West Adams District – not just who built the structure, or who designed it, but over the years who added to its tapestry of time? Who raised a family there, went to work every day, studied, and perhaps even changed the course of the world?
Now the City’s Office of Historic Resources (OHR) is preparing a new series of cultural heritage Context Statements reflecting the “mosaic” (no longer referred to as a “melting pot”) that is Los Angeles. This Spring, SurveyLA team members have been holding a series of community meetings to solicit information for a half dozen new Context Statements: African American and five Asian American (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Filipino), with a request that community members (that means YOU) forward contributions regarding significant places, people, dates, and events associated with Los Angeles' African American and Asian American history.
Each of these context statements will be added as components of the Los Angeles SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement and will provide guidance to historians when they are identifying and evaluating potential historic resources relating to Los Angeles' rich and culturally diverse history. The SurveyLA team has previously completed Latino, Jewish and LGBTQ citywide Context Statements, as well as an initial Chinese American report. For the current effort, SurveyLA is looking for proposed historic resources that represent associations with important African American and Asian American individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses; plus social and cultural institutions that cover themes such as religion and spirituality, social and civic life, commerce, labor, deed restrictions and segregation, civil rights, architecture, and the entertainment industry.
The OHR was awarded two grants to conduct this project: a $72,000 Underrepresented Communities Grant from the National Parks Service (NPS) for the Asian American Context Statements, and a $40,000 grant awarded by the State Office of Historic Preservation for the African American Context Statement.
The final slated community meeting, for the Japanese American Context Statement, is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 1-3 p.m., at the Union Church of Los Angeles, 401 East 3rd Street in Little Tokyo.
Here in West Adams, we are not necessarily only looking for fancy mansions or architectural wonders to document our multicultural legacies. Rather, a historic resource may be a humble, unassuming house, a café or hotel room, or even a street intersection if it was the site of a historically powerful event or is associated with a trailblazing personality.
We have already identified many historic resources associated with African American heritage in WAHA’s previously-published West Adams Landmarks of African American History (look for a second edition soon). We have pinpointed more than 150 locations representing African American pioneers in medicine, law, education, and business, including Edwin Jefferson, the first African American judge west of the Mississippi, Bessie Bruington Burke, Los Angeles’ first African American school principal, and Dr. Ruth Temple, the first female physician practicing in Los Angeles. We identified dozens of homes of African Americans in the arts and music, including saxophonist Eric Dolphy, classical composer William Grant Still, soprano Georgia Laster, R&B star Nellie Lutcher, music producer Ted Brinson, and record label owner Reb Spikes, among many others. Celebrities like Hattie McDaniel, Louise Beavers and Lou Rawls all lived here. And let’s not forget homes designed by African American architects Ralph A. Vaughan and James Homer Garrott, along with, of course, Paul R. Williams.
SurveyLA is also actively researching the city’s Asian American history. The Asian American heritage in West Adams is a complex medley representing several major East Asian and Pacific Island countries.
In University Park, during the Depression, grocer Tommy Lee asked for approval by the prominent Dockweiler family members of Adams Boulevard before he could open the first market owned by a Chinese person west of Main Street, at a time when a small East Adams-area pocket was one of the few places families of Chinese descent could live outside of Chinatown itself. Lee’s Market overcame that boundary line, and still serves the neighborhood at 23rd Street and Portland.
Freedom is a theme for many immigrant groups, and the experience in West Adams is no different. For the Korean Americans who called West Adams home a century ago, a central part of their activities revolved around the fight for freedom of their homeland from Japanese rule – efforts spearheaded by Dosan Ahn Chang Ho in his family’s American Foursquare home near USC (now absorbed onto the campus). Dosan died in 1932 after being imprisoned by Japanese forces in Shanghai.
At the April 22 SurveyLA community meeting at Korean Memorial Independence Hall (HCM No. 548), participant Ed Park declared, “This is an incredible gift from the City to the Korean community. He lauded the concept of “location being the starting point of a narrative.” Even before the gathering, the SurveyLA team had identified additional historic resources associated with the Korean American experience in the first part of the 20th century, including the Young Korean Academy, a patriotic youth organization founded by Ahn Chang Ho and located at 3421 S. Catalina; the Korean Methodist Church of Los Angeles at 1276 West 29th Street; and the Korean Culture Center/Sung Kwang Presbyterian Church, located in the former Danish Hall at 1359 West 24th Street.
The Yin Kim Residence at 1201 S. Gramercy Place in Country Club Park represents a different aspect of history. Yin Kim, a second-generation Korean American, was an army veteran in 1947 who faced resistance from neighbors when he attempted to move into the home he had purchased, due to restrictive covenants that were overturned a short while later.
West Adams’ buildings commemorate other Asian American heritage. The Filipino Federation/August Marquis Residence on Arlington stands as a reminder of Gen. Hilario Camino Moncado, a politician and religious leader who in 1925 founded the Federation, a mutual aid foundation. The Foundation emphasized the centrality of God and an ethic of brotherhood. General Moncado attempted to create a bridge for harmonious relations between Filipinos and Americans, while at the same time he advocated for independence of the Philippines from the United States. This residence served as one of his headquarter buildings and today houses a museum devoted to General Moncado’s papers and artifacts.
Japanese immigrant families began to settle in Jefferson Park and surrounding neighborhoods as early as the 1920s, and for half a century the influence of these Japanese American families was strongly felt in the community.
For Japanese Americans, Jefferson Park was the “Westside.” Businesses, some of which still exist, sprang up along Jefferson and, later, Crenshaw Boulevard. There was Tak’s Hardware, Kay’s Hardware, L.A. Southwest Japanese Credit Union, Enbun Market, Kinokuni Bakery and Grace Bakery, Seihan Bank and the Bank of Tokyo, and at least three real estate firms focusing on the Japanese American community: Seinan Realty, Asia Realty, and Kashu K. Realty.
However, ALL of the Japanese American families in Jefferson Park were relocated during World War II. In a memoir, Momo Nagano, whose family had just built a home on 27th Street, recalled that Jefferson Park “became a ghost neighborhood in a single day when every Japanese family was ordered to report to the Japanese Methodist Church at Normandie and 35th Street, from where they were put on buses that took them to the Santa Anita racetrack for incarceration.”
The Japanese United Centenary Methodist Church at 3500 S. Normandie Avenue closed down during the war years, but immediately afterwards the church became the community hostel and resettlement center for thousands of Japanese Americans returning from relocation camps with neither homes nor financial resources.
Even though the City is currently only requesting information related to Asian American and African American resources, WAHA’s interest stretch beyond those parameters.
For instance, although SurveyLA’s identifed Latino heritage is rooted mostly in neighborhoods outside of the West Adams District, we do have a few key resources. Best known, of course, is El Cholo, the oldest Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, serving nachos and margaritas at 11th and Western since 1927. El Rescate in Pico Union/Alvarado Terrace was the first agency in the United States to respond with free legal and social services to the mass influx of refugees fleeing the war in El Salvador.
In Harvard Heights is the Francisco Estudillo Residence. Descended from an original California land grant family, Francisco Estudillo was well-known throughout California. His grandfather was one of the Mexican Alcades of San Francisco. His father, Jose Estudillo, owned the Rancho San Jacinto Viejo, later famed for the Ramona Pageant. Francisco Estudillo was San Jacinto's first Postmaster (1870), second mayor (1890), and the local Indian Agent for the Federal Government. By 1908, Estudillo and his wife, Felicitas, had sold the remaining rancho lands, and moved, along with their son, also named Jose, to Harvard Heights. Family members retained ownership of the gabled Craftsman until 1989.
For a time, Historic West Adams was also home to many Armenian, Greek, Danish, Estonian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants, who were often seeking freedom from strife in their homelands.
The first Armenian families began to settle in the Los Angeles area starting in the late 19th century, and by the 1930s West Adams was home to a growing enclave. In 1941, congregants dedicated the Armenian Gethsemane Congregational Church, a Gothic-Mission Revival-Churrigueresque edifice in West Adams Heights designed by architects David Scott Quintin and Peter Westberg. Nearby, St. James Armenian Apostolic Church was erected on Adams Boulevard in 1947.
West Adams also was a center of a Jewish population from the 1920s through the 1940s. According to SurveyLA, “During the 1930s, the Jewish population of Los Angeles nearly doubled from 91,000 at the beginning of the decade to 130,000 by the end. After World War II, the city's Jewish population continued to rise and by the early 1960s only New York had larger numbers of Jewish inhabitants. As a result of their geographic dispersal, resources associated with Jewish history are found in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.”
In the West Adams area still stands the City’s oldest extant Jewish temple, the Sinai Temple in Pico Union, HCM No. 173; it became the Welsh Presbyterian Church in the 1920s, and recently transitioned again, into a cultural heritage center. There’s a unique 1925 Art Deco style Congregation Mogen David at 1518 Gramercy Place (now the Church of Divine Guidance). Also now hosting Christian congregations are Rodef Shalom Congregation Temple in Jefferson Park, dedicated in 1928; and the Romanesque Revival-style Temple Tifereth Israel, a former Sephardic synagogue, at Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. In addition, Los Angeles’ oldest Jewish funeral home, Groman Mortuary at 830 West Washington Blvd., was founded over 80 years ago by Harry and Robert Groman and is still maintained by the Groman family.
Starting in the late 1940s, Greek Town was located along Pico and south to 14th Street west of Normandie, in the northeast corner of Harvard Heights. With the significant Greek population concentrated in this area came an influx of Greek goods and culture – and food!
Ever-popular C & K Importing Company and Papa Cristo’s Taverna still operate today. In 1952, Charles Skouras, the head of Fox West Coast, erected the magnificent Saint Sophia Cathedral, with an interior lavished with gold leaf, which soon became the pillar of Los Angeles’ Greek Orthodox community. Today the area is known as the Byzantine Latino Quarter, reflecting yet another wave of immigrants to the West Adams area.
So who is West Adams? We are a diverse mosaic of the men and women who sought freedom, fought for equality and civil rights, and built churches and business enterprises. We walk in their footsteps, and we honor them when we identify and, ideally, designate sites and structures associated with their legacies.
[If you live in a home with a cultural heritage you’ve discovered while researching its history, or you know of a building associated with one of these heritage groups, please do share your information with SurveyLA. Please e-mail your questions and/or proposed resources to Sara Delgadillo Cruz, firstname.lastname@example.org, by May 30.]
United Magyar House and Estonian House: Suzanne Cooper
Ito family: Courtesy Roy T. Ito
Papa Christo portrait: Courtesy Chrys Chrys
Y & Y Market: USC Korean American Digital Archive
Lou Rawls' house: City of Los Angeles
Who is west adams (continued)
Lou Rawls: Courtesy of TJL Productions
Photo: Laura Meyers
Laura Meyers is a journalist and historian who serves on the WAHA Board. Meyers advocated to save the Bank of Tokyo/Union Bank branch office building, successfully nominated both the Filipino Federation (August Marquis Residence) and the Polish Parish as Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monuments (among many other HCMs credited to her efforts), and wrote the narrative about the two integrated murals included in the successful HCM nomination of the Golden State Mutual Insurance Building. (These large Social Realist style murals, The Negro in California History--Exploration and Colonization by artist Charles Alston and The Negro in California History--Settlement and Development by artist Hale Woodruff, are together a panoramic depiction of African-American history in California from 1527 through 1949.) Meyers is the author of West Adams Landmarks of African American History.
Courtesy of St. James Armenian Church
Photo: Laura Meyers
Courtesy of William Grant Still Arts Center.
Willliam Grant Still home at 1262 S. Victoria is a city landmark.
Photos: Laura Meyers
Jean Frost is the current Preservation Committee Chair. Contact her at email@example.com.
Welcome to the Renovation
Welcome to the renovation. The picture tells the story. By anyone’s lay perspective, the house is gone, gone, gone.
We would call it a demolition. Who wouldn’t? NOT Building and Safety, nor Building and Safety Plan Check.
If all character-defining features of a 1903 Craftsman home can be removed, including the porch, the gable, all interior elements as well as the entire second floor, with just sticks left standing on the first floor, and this can still be defined as a renovation, we are in serious trouble. The City of Los Angeles supposedly has a 30-day demolition notification procedure in place for buildings over 50 years old. That procedure requires notification to the Council office, neighbors and posting on site. Since not every historic property is already designated, it allows action to protect not yet designated historic resources. This requirement appears to have been evaded.
I became aware of this demolition on Friday, March 31, when I was contacted by a neighbor about a house being torn down at 1259 West 36th Place. She inquired if I knew what was going on.
On Zimas, a permit was issued on March 14, 2017 to demolish 210 square feet at the first floor rear of the property plus add 420 square feet. There was no permit to demolish the entire building.
I contacted Building and Safety because surely the developer was exceeding the scope of work on the permit. Pascal Challita, Chief, Permit and Inspection Bureau, contacted senior inspector for Council Districts 8 and 9 Javier Alipio, who in turn sent an inspector out to review the situation. There was no permit to demolish the 1903 home. It appears the developer had greatly exceeded the scope of work on his permit. But then I was told that the work was consistent with the plans approved, even though that was not what the permit stated. The plans were not onsite as required, and had to be brought to the site. No permit was posted as required.
It also now appears that the developer has “split” his project because on March 30 another permit was applied for, to build a 3-story duplex rear structure with an address of 1263 37th Place, behind the Craftsman home. The permit (reference #16010-10000-06241) was listed as “verifications in progress” and had not been issued.
Our expectation was that work would immediately cease on this project because there are obviously two related projects going on which have been split – not allowable under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). We were wrong. Instead, Building and Safety issued a “supplemental permit” legitimizing the extensive work being done. I was incredulous.
If the March 14 and April 4 permits are allowable by law, something must be done to change the permit issuing process in these circumstances. Or a terrible mistake has been made. Only investigation will illuminate which scenario applies.
We are losing our housing here in the CD8 Old University District/Expo Park West, which is quickly being decimated of its entire neighborhood context. Each day brings creative ways to demolish our community character defining housing stock. And this is usually affordable housing being replaced by luxury units.
No matter what protections earnest officials attempt to build in to the law, many, many buildings slip through the cracks and are gone. One of the most creative ways around the process happened in 1992 when developers claimed the historic Hodgeman House (a National Register contributor to the St. James Park Historic District) was the site of “riot damage.” While the City was attempting to help those actually affected by the riots, these guys took advantage and got a permit under false pretenses.
Then there were the developers that demolished a Victorian cottage within 48 hours of learning their demolition permit was in the process of rescission. The permit should never had been issued at the counter in Van Nuys in the first place (it was part of a larger discretionary project that was filed for and pending.) And Building and Safety refused to do a “scorched earth” investigation. Section 188.8.131.52(10) of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, known as the "Scorched Earth Ordinance” allows Building and Safety to withhold any permits for five years if it finds demolition was done without permits.
There was also the instance in the West Adams Terrace HPOZ where an owner received a permit to do some partial removal of walls, but then demolished the building. When there was a “scorched earth” investigation, the owner was found guilty of violating the LAMC, but the penalty was instead of stating that “no permits for any new development shall be issued on the property for a period of five years,” he was only penalized for the time it took to conduct the hearing and render a decision.
While there are some protections afforded by the eleven HPOZs, over a hundred HCMs, and eight National and California Register Historic Districts in West Adams, we are still losing homes that should not be gone. 1259 West 37th Place should not have been demolished under the guise of renovation. And vernacular architecture that provides context to the more distinctive mansions is being lost every day.
The failure of SurveyLA to recognize many contributing structures is being used as a sword to cut these buildings down. One example is the Tolchard Cottage, a farmhouse that was not surveyed and, even when extensive research was provided, SurveyLA would not budge. That which was supposed to be a boon to preserving Los Angeles is actually having a chilling effect on the recognition of what is a historic resource.
We have seen a crescendo of demolitions in the old University District and the absence of any adequate survey is a damning factor. The City needs to immediately halt demolitions in this area and conduct a detailed all-encompassing survey. In University Park, the City Council needs to act upon the “six orphan blocks” motion introduced in February of this year and moved forward by PLUM with 4-0 positive recommendation.
What is happening in the Old University District/Expo Park West and also in the so-called “Six Orphan Blocks” north of Adams is that not only buildings are being lost, but also the sense of community that people who live in a neighborhood enjoy is disappearing. The impact goes beyond buildings as a resident wrote in a letter to the City: “For more than 50 years this neighborhood has maintained the collective community resiliency needed to shift with changing demographics, economics, City growth, and the general cycle of life. Further displacement of families is and will continue to have a negative impact. The high level of student occupants is creating a “transient” community that has no stability because of the constant turnover of people. There is no vested interest in the stability and advancement of their temporary communities.”
Historic structures provide a sense of place and instill neighborhood pride and stewardship. These structures are being lost and not enough is being done to prevent it. We need to have adequate surveys and comprehensive identifications particularly when we are on the verge of a new community plan.
The Childs Mansion,
and the Beginning of a Preservation Movement
Ozro and Emeline Childs: Childs Mansion: WAHA archives
Courtesy of the Childs family
Almost 40 years ago, after a long day of interviewing and reading with actors for Universal Television’s latest series, I sat down with my husband, Jim Childs, for a quiet evening in front of the TV in our new home – a beautiful Victorian just north of USC. Settling into our chairs, Jim and I suddenly saw that our new neighborhood was on the news. And not in a good way.
We saw pictures of a wrecking ball removing the columns of a stately West Adams estate, the “Childs Mansion.” There were protestors, but clearly they could not stop the demolition. The Childs Mansion was gone along with its splendid carved oak doors, handmade tiles, oak floral carvings, oak benches and painted ceilings. The alarming images racing across the small screen, and subsequently in the daily newspaper, raised immediate questions. First, what was going on in this City in its protection of its historic resources? Was there no protection for this unique building? No resources to save what appeared to be an important and stately Adams Boulevard Mansion?
And two, who were these Childs? By chance were they related to Jim?
Three: Since I had already come to love the ambience of West Adams and the insight into history that the neighborhood afforded, I wondered, what can we do?
As it turned out, Ozro W. Childs and his wife, Emeline Huber Childs, were no relation to us. But they had played an extremely important role in the development of Los Angeles. O.W. Childs was a wealthy horticulturalist and orchardist who had arrived in Los Angeles in 1850. He started his 50-acre orchard in 1856 in the heart of present-day downtown, near Main and 11th Streets, also planting four acres in grapes and vegetables.
As Ozro Childs turned his attention to real estate development, setting aside some of his Downtown acreage for sale, Emeline named some of the streets after the three Christian graces: Faith Street (which became Flower), Hope Street and Charity (which became Grand Avenue).
Childs is best remembered here in the West Adams District as one of the three original benefactors of the University of Southern California. Along with Childs, John G. Downey and Isaias W. Hellman donated 308 wild mustard-covered lots near Jefferson and present-day Hoover for the new university. Childs Way on the campus is named for O.W. Childs.
Ozro died in 1894, leaving Emeline and their children a sizeable fortune (his estate was valued at $1.5 million). In 1899, Emeline Childs built the grand three-story estate on seven acres “out in the countryside,” at the intersection of Adams and Arlington. Cows from a dairy farm grazed on the acres below her hill. In 1903, she planted the Morton Bay Fig that still stands prominently, shading the front of the property. The tree itself is now a designated landmark.
“MANSION GOING PIECE BY PIECE”
Emeline Childs lived to be nearly 100 years old, dying in 1935 while still residing at her grand mansion. Her children owned the estate for some years longer. Ownership eventually transferred to an organization housing orphaned children, and then to the Los Angeles Unified School District. And then, the demolition happened swiftly and without notice.
The Los Angeles Times on Monday, March 27, 1978, bore the headline: “A City Landmark Falls to Bulldozers and Bureaucracy.” A second headline read: “Mansion Going Piece by Piece.” A revolution began in West Adams. Seminal events like the shocking demolition of the Childs Mansion have the capacity to redirect our history and energize communities. The destruction of the mansion galvanized the West Adams community. As reported in boldface in the Times: “Council, School Board, Heritage Panel Enact a ‘Comedy of Errors’ Ending in Mansion’s Demolition.” The Childs Mansion was very well maintained, and neighbors thought of the mansion as “our own White House,” according to the newspaper report. It was a designated city landmark, and the Los Angeles school district board was to either adaptively utilize the historic building or find a sensitive purchaser.
Los Angeles Times reporter Cathleen Decker documented the sequence of tragic bureaucratic blunders and misspent good intentions. “Demolition began on a turn of the century landmark that was felled as much by bureaucratic snafus as by the wrecking crews and bulldozers that tore into it.”
Just as the demolition in 1963 of the legendary Beaux Arts Penn Station in New York City caught the preservation community napping -- leading to public outcry and then the establishment of the New York City Landmark Commission -- the demise of the Childs Mansion here helped establish the historic preservation movement in West Adams.
The community reaction to the Childs Mansion demolition was one of overwhelming shock. Longtime residents and early “urban pioneers” united into action. Activist Doug Carlton created KOLA (Keep Old Los Angeles) from his home at 1190 West Adams Boulevard and raised the alarm: “We are losing our roots each day!!”
It is hard today to imagine a West Adams District without its dozen HPOZs, without its National Register Districts, and without the scores of designated Historic Cultural Monuments (about 120) we now have. That was not the case in 1978. The current status is the result of energized WAHA members and West Adams residents fighting for neighborhood pride and recognition. On that night watching the TV news with images of the Childs Mansion being demolished, I had asked, What can we do? The answer, for Jim Childs and myself, was to become involved in that fledgling preservation effort. Eventually, Jim nominated dozens of individual properties as HCMs, and he also helped designate four National Register Historic Districts.
There may always be instances of the bureaucratic bungling that resulted in the 1978 demolition of the Childs Mansion. We have seen a few lately, unfortunately. I have learned that even with careful stewardship of our architectural and cultural history safety cannot be assumed, given the enormous development pressures within our historic communities. And each day we are losing affordable historic housing.
That’s why it is important that, this month, WAHA celebrates National Preservation Month with a newsletter issue dedicated to preservation and “the power of place.” When I first came to West Adams, our historic resources were largely undocumented. The Community Redevelopment Agency funded extremely useful surveys and we built upon those foundations for local and national designations and HPOZs.
As for the Childs Mansion itself, although it is a distant memory, it still echoes with the power of a place. Drive by the school on the southwest corner of Arlington and Adams and you will see -- along with the magnificent Moreton Bay Fig -- echoes of the past in the estate’s arroyo stone retaining wall, now also designated as a contributing feature of the Jefferson Park HPOZ.
It reminds us that, as preservationists, we cannot forget our own past and that we must continue to build on it to avoid future losses.
UPCOMING waha EVENTS
To have your classified ad placed in this newsletter, please send your proposed ad to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than the first of the month prior to the month of publication of the ad..
As always the elections for WAHA Board of Directors takes place in April at a General Meeting. This elections meeting was just held on Sunday April 9, 2017 along with a wine and cheese tasting.
This year there were six open Board positions. Several current board members were reelected bringing their experience and expertise to the Board for another three year term. They are SeElcy Caldwell, Laura Meyers and Roland Souza.
Two new Board members were elected to Board positions, bringing with them exuberance, new ideas and a fresh outlook to our existing board. They are Kim Calvert, from Harvard Heights and Lisa Raymond, from Arlington Heights.
All these folks are volunteering their time, talents and efforts over the next three years to keep the WAHA organization running. They are top notch folks and we all owe them a big thanks. If you see them out and about, please take a minute of your time and thank them for stepping up and taking on this vital community organization leadership role.
At the end of April, with the last WAHA Board Meeting the Board will complete the yearly term, per the WAHA Bylaws. Newly elected Board members take over in May when the Board holds a retreat to define goals for the coming year, organize committees with Chairs, as well as elect the Executive Officers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Janel Glover for being on the WAHA Board of Directors for the last 3 years. Her term is completed (at the end of April) and she has decided to retire. She has always been a balanced voice of reason who provided valuable comments during Board discussions. I value her input and want to extend my heartfelt thanks to her for being on the Board for the past 3 years. Thank you Janel!
John Kurtz can be reached at email@example.com.
Fefu & Her Friends at Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House
May 27, 2016
Directed by WAHA resident Kate Jopson
On a seemingly ordinary day in 1935, a group of women gather to plan a philanthropic fundraiser. The host Fefu is impulsive, unapologetic and boldly leads the women until Julia enters the picture. Once brilliant and fearless, Julia’s spirit was broken when a mysterious hunting accident left her paralyzed. Or did it? Featuring an international cast of women, Fornés’ 1977 play explores how subtle pressures work on women across the world to conform to an ideal of meekness and femininity.
Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Art Park
800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tickets: $60 Free Lot Parking
A number of WAHA members plan to attend on May 27th but tickets may also be available for other dates as well. More information is available at http://circlextheatre.org/fefu/
If you would like to volunteer to bring the play to West Adams at a later date, please email Suzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please email Suzie at email@example.com if you are interested in hosting any sort of event at your home or if you have an idea for an event you would like us to plan. We’ll do all the work if you just open your home!
Before there was a Jefferson Park, or Harvard Heights, or Kinney Heights, the land to the south of Downtown and west of the University of Southern California was a mixture of marshland, farmland and orchards. In the 1880s, Harrington Brown owned 130 acres on the west side of Vermont Avenue at University Avenue, and farmed for a few years before selling some portions of his rural acres to other farmers, such as Col. John J. Warner (his recently-restored home and his daughter's adjacent Victorian cottage still stand at 1598 and 1602 West 36th Place, respectively). In the same year, Joseph Lee Starr established a dairy on 20 acres on Arlington, where his farmhouse, a barn/bunkhouse and outhouse still stand. In late 1902, the streetcar tracks were extended farther west along Jefferson, leading to development of suburban tracts. But to this day, we are discovering old farm houses that survived, like those pictured on these two pages. If you look carefully, there are still bits and pieces of West Adams’ rural heritage to be discovered. Look for a barn in a backyard, or even a small silo on an alley. If you spot a farm building, please let WAHA know.
Photos: Laura Meyers and Mitzi March Mogul.
Map: 1894 Birdseye map ofLos Angeles, Library of Congress
West Adams' Farming Past Lives On
West Adams Farmhouses
The Old University District/Expo Park West
I have always had a reverence for a sense of history and the power of place that emanates from both the architecture and the people. Recently I had an experience of discovery – for me – of a neighborhood that had not been on my radar until one day when I drove through it for the first time.
This area, originally developed outside of the L.A. city limits in the 1880s and early ‘90s as a Township called “University,” lies just west of USC and Vermont Avenue, south of Jefferson, north of Exposition and east of Normandie. It is a neighborhood that first had farms, and then was developed into residential tracts at the end of the 19th century/early 20th century. It is composed of some of the original farmhouses, plus a number of wonderful large Victorian homes, and also single-story and 1 ½ story early streetcar (then suburban) cottages and bungalows. It was a neighborhood that later became a home to many African American and Hispanic families as well as moderate-income USC students and USC grad students, faculty instructors and staff. The neighborhood is often referred to as the Old University District or Expo Park West. I’ll call it “Old University.”
Because of its proximity to USC, the neighborhood developed many mutually beneficial formal and informal relationships with the institution. USC collaborated and partnered with the neighborhood schools including Weems Elementary, in the heart of Old University, providing special supplemental services such as tutoring, mentoring and enriched classes. These collaborative efforts encouraged many local students to imagine the possibility of going to college. Many became the first in their family to attend college. Additionally many neighborhood families shared their homes, taking in students from all over the world and the United States, providing safe and affordable housing within walking distance of USC.
Walking around and talking to neighbors, I discovered a lot about this unique community with its many levels of history, architecture and culture. Their collective remembrances tell an optimistic story of people pursuing their educational dreams sometimes against the odds.
My education began about a year ago, when I first drove past a home at 1155 West 36th Place and realized that I was looking at an early 1880s farmhouse (the Tolchard Cottage) in the midst of turn-of-the-century homes. WAHA did research and soon learned that 36th Place was actually the renamed “University Avenue” that ran from Vermont to Arlington in the late 1880s. I learned that a developer was proposing to demolish this early farmhouse at 1155 West 36th Place and, using provisions of the City’s “Small Lot Subdivision” ordinance, build four 4-story towers for high income student housing on this same lot.
I returned the next day and took pictures of the farmhouse and other historic homes on the block surrounding it, talking to the residents surrounding the farmhouse, and the neighboring students next door. They verified that the students in back of them on 36th Street had been evicted last year to make way for another 4-story tower then under construction (now nearly completed) and that their friends next door had been evicted a few months ago for the same kind of project. They wondered if they were next to be evicted, and expressed concern about what would they do as they looked at the rents at the newly constructed buildings being built in their neighborhood. They realized that they would be priced out. They wondered if anybody cared about the displacement of low/moderate income students. I honestly didn’t know much about this USC adjacent neighborhood and probably believed the stereotype that most USC students were from wealthy families. But now I was about to learn a bit more about Old University.
I spoke to the principal at Weems Elementary in the heart of Old University. She took great pride in the school in the center of this community and the amenities it afforded the families that lived there over decades, many of whom began their education at Weems and went on to attend USC. She was alarmed at the loss of families and students and a diminishing relationship with USC.
I learned that the neighborhood church, St. Mark’s, was also experiencing a reduction of parishioners with the changing community demographics.
There are extreme development pressures throughout USC-adjacent areas, not just Old University/Expo Park West. I own a house in the Urmsted tract, AKA the “Six Orphan Blocks” west of Hoover and just north of Adams. A year ago I received yet another letter from a real estate firm in Orange County with a request for me to consider an all cash offer from a buyer, and receive my money in two weeks! Also there was a list of addresses and photos of properties that had been sold near my Victorian home, each shown as a potential tear-down for development of high end student housing. I took a look at the flyer and realized that these tear-downs appeared to be Victorian and Craftsman homes from 1900 and earlier. I assumed they would have been identified by “someone” as being worthy of some kind of evaluation and possible protection prior to any demolition. I was given a little bit of hope when I learned that, in fact, SurveyLA had identified my little pocket as historic, and that the South Los Angeles Community Plan as now written would give it a new kind of “character residential” overlay plan.
But the Old University District/Expo Park West was not really surveyed as a neighborhood by SurveyLA, and remains unprotected in the current proposed community plan. And there are currently at least four development proposals to demolish historic homes and replace them with more 4-story luxury student housing towers, also using the Small Lot Subdivision ordinance. These properties are all within blocks of each other and have the potential cumulative effect of irreparably destroying the character of the Old University neighborhood. Just imagine what it is like to live next door to, and in the shadow of, one of these student housing complexes! Would you want to stay?
As far as I can see, this area has not been adequately researched by any entity, including SurveyLA. WAHA and the local neighborhood council are currently advocating for a proper evaluation of this historic neighborhood before it is lost. They are seeking its recognition under the South Los Angeles Community Plan, the same way other character neighborhoods will be.
The loss of affordable family and student housing is a loss to our West Adams community and the city as well. The potential destruction of the fabric of a historic neighborhood (its homes and its families), and, with it, the loss of visible reminders of people’s stories and accomplishments is not a positive outcome.
The story of the Old University District is about its architecture and its people, from original resident Theodore W. Tolchard (among the pioneer Angelenos who first settled here, and who was one of the founders of the University Township), to today’s Joanne Russell (resident and neighborhood council member) and Lynn Brown, the principal at Weems. I ask your support for the effort to preserve a community. Please join in the effort to advocate for better evaluation of, and the preservation of, this historic area in the challenging face of so many ill-conceived, out-of-scale developments currently being proposed.
Roland Souza is a WAHA board member
Buster and Earl are award winning food critics for WAHA.
The city of Los Angeles has been founded and built with a diverse set of people. This dynamic is still in the population of the city today and it’s a vital part of what we think of as Los Angeles.
During the period of post WWII the society of the USA became a much more mobile one. Many people fled the racially segregated and discriminating South and immigrated west to California. Multitudes settled in Los Angeles. By the 1960s in Jefferson Park and along Jefferson Boulevard there was a large Creole population, so much so that it was an area known as “Little New Orleans.” There were many Creole owned businesses such as the Big Loaf Bakery, which is now defunct. Several artifacts of this era can still be seen in the area, with one of them being Harold and Belle’s. More can be found about this area and its Creole influence in the 2007 book, “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets” by Bliss Broyard.
Harold and Belle’s opened in September of 1969. The original proprietors, Harold and Mary Belle Lagaux, were Créole people transplanted from the New Orleans area. Harold wanted a casual place where they as well as family and friends from New Orleans could hang out, play pool, socialize, and perhaps have something familiar to eat. There was a small kitchen with a limited menu served only on certain days. If you step back from the existing building you can see the dormers and roof line of what must have been their house around which the existing business must have grown.
Harold died in 1979, and his son, Harold, Jr., and daughter-in-law, Denise, took over. They preferred a more formal dining experience and with Harold, Jr.’s passion for cooking they transitioned the business into a full restaurant and bar, offering more classic Creole dishes. When Harold, Jr., passed away in 2011 the restaurant was taken over by his son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Jessica Lagaux, and once again expanded with a new bar, banquet space, and private dining. Even more remodeling took place only recently in 2016, and we found it to be a clean, modern, welcoming, vibrant restaurant.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived was how friendly and happy all the employees seemed to be. It must be a great place to work. The Bar Capri is right by the entrance, where those who imbibe are entertained with live music. A list of specialty drinks is there to tempt you, as well as their Happy Hour from four until seven p.m. Monday thru Friday.
The restaurant is divided into different dining areas so that it still retains a somewhat intimate feel. Now there is no carpet and no tablecloths, leaving it with an atmosphere of cleanliness and simplicity. As we normally do before writing a review, we dined there several times; each time was superb.
The dinner menu is split into three areas – Seafood Dinners, Sautéed Specialties, and Off the Grill. It’s a difficult decision trying to choose amongst the different tempting meals.
For appetizers, both the Catfish Nuggets and the Fresh Oysters are recommended. The Catfish Nuggets are a meal in themselves, and wonderfully delicious. The oysters can be had raw or cooked, and we chose the latter, charbroiled in “Bayou Butter.” They were seasoned perfectly, without being spicy, and left us wanting many more.
Over the course of the several visits Earl tried entrees that got better each time. The Fried Chicken did not seem to be better than most restaurants, but the Jambalaya was quite good. The Etouffee came recommended, and it was easy to see why. It is crawfish and shrimp in a thick crawfish gravy, served with rice or pasta, and it had a flavor that made you sit up and take notice. Buster thinks the Gumbo is much better than that which he has learned to cook. Eating at H&B’s is the kind of dining experience that makes you want to go again and again and sample everything on the menu. The servings were so ample that any sort of dessert was out of the question. So we still need to go back and try those.
The Po’Boy sandwiches that Harold, Sr., initially served are still on the menu, along with some tempting salads, that would make Harold and Belle’s a wonderful lunch experience as well.
Harold and Belle’s is indeed a way to experience New Orleans in Los Angeles (“NOLA”). It’s a treat to find such a nice sit-down restaurant right in West Adams. Prices are reasonable given the quality of the food and welcoming and diverse atmosphere. We are quite pleased to highly recommend this historic eating spot!
Harold and Belle’s
2920 West Jefferson Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90018
Mon-Thur 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sun 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Buster and Earl eat out
Jim Childs and his uncle building a picket fence. Courtesy of Jean Frost.
When my wife, Jean Frost, and I, as the typical simple folk who “fell-off-a-turnip-truck” and became the new owners of an old-house in a quaintly odd West Adams District neighborhood called University Park, we were quickly confronted with the reality of “Historic Preservation” as both a concept and a responsibility. It turned out that our charming old house was in fact a very important historic structure in the community with a stellar provenance.
Unknown to us before our purchase were the facts that it was designed in 1887 by a leading architect, Joseph C. Newsom, for the very prominent family of William W. Seaman, Superintendent of both the county and state Departments of Education. We were uninformed and directionless about what we would need to do to secure the future “preservation” of our old house as its newly empowered stewards.
There was not yet any North University Park Community Association, nor West Adams Heritage Association, no Los Angeles Conservancy to turn to for advice. These organizations were still just over the horizon. We were, however, fortunate to discover the then-newly published and seminal book for all urban preservationists:
Return to the City
How to Restore Old Buildings and Ourselves in America’s Historic Neighborhoods
by Richard Ernie Reed (Doubleday & Company 1979)
The cover notes explain that: “Return to the City may well become the key book in the national urban revitalization movement, a grass-roots reaction against the bulldozers of official urban renewal programs. It tells how to get started, obtain financing, permits, and variances to hurdle the bureaucratic road-blocks, wherever a reader may live, where to find authentic ‘parts’ for restoration…as well as the nuts and bolts of actual renovation/restoration that contribute to the sound values and individuality old houses offer and the diversity and excitement only a city can provide.”
This 37-year-old treatise is still a “must-read” and “should have” in your bookcase, not only for the committed urban historic-preservationists but especially for our city planners in the Office of Historic Resources. It establishes a literary benchmark for the execution and philosophy of urban revitalization. One of my favorite passages for reflection discusses an insightful observation of the evolutionary process of the urban revitalization itself, “The Five Stages of Preservation”:
The first stage is one of abandonment. The community's attitude is usually one of a total lack of self-pride, self-confidence, and respect of the larger city community. Buildings have been on the market for years but still have not been sold. Most structures are not owner occupied. Large homes may sell for a few thousand dollars. Commercial property stands vacant. Residents' sense of hopelessness is expressed in crime and neglect. Restoring a building in this environment takes the greatest amount of courage and energy, but could require the least amount of money.
2). POCKETS OF PRIDE
Stage Two is a neighborhood which shows pockets of pride. One or more structures on a block may be in the process of rehabilitation. One or two young couples may be seen working on their home or storefront. Maybe one or two news items appear in the local paper referring to positive things happening in the neighborhood, instead of just the usual crime statistics. At this stage absentee landlords may be aware of some renewal potential, so the fourteen-room house you may have bought in Stage One for $6,000 now costs $12,000.
Stage Three is the restoration phase. A neighborhood association has been formed. Maybe half of the structures in the neighborhood have new owners and new paint jobs. Local real estate people are tentatively driving by, wondering whether they have found a new market. The deteriorated fourteen-room house, still in the same condition as Stage One, is now for sale at $24,000.
Stage Four is the respectable phase. The president of the neighborhood association is now on a first name basis with the mayor. A councilman or two may have bought a home or building in the community. Ninety per cent of the buildings have been restored, half with a period kitchen, half with stainless-steel kitchen chairs and pop art. Middle-aged couples from the suburbs are purchasing already restored houses from the original preservationists. Residents are complaining about the over-commercialism of the neighborhood. The same fourteen-room house now sells for $48,000 unrestored, $90,000 to $225,000 restored.
The fifth stage is the deterioration phase. Examples of this last stage are in portions of Wells Street "Old Town" in Chicago and to some degree in the Gaslight Square area of St. Louis, where too-intense commercial activity and unsympathetic uses have harmed the growing appreciation of the historic area. Many people, preservationists and older residents alike, wish the urban preservation process could stop at the Stage Three restoration phase where prices are still low, there is a fierce sense of community pride, and the speculators have not yet arrived.
The Stage Four Respectability phase with its higher property values and more intense commercial activities can be the forewarning of Stage Five if care is not taken. Even the enthusiastic politician and the moneyed developer should not equate faster
rehabilitation activity and fast turnover of original residents and preservationists with long-term success of a community. The preservation process can be too fast and too successful. Enthusiasts for exposed brick, nostalgic restaurants, and candle shops can end up with a community which looks like many other too-restored communities, as if McDonald's had decided to go into the preservation business.
“Whatever the preservation efforts are in a community, its authentic identity should shine through ... The speculators, the developers, the shopkeepers, the suburbanites, looking for the latest ‘in’ place to live, should not obscure or overwhelm the people who helped rebuild the community and who still wish to live there.”
We had arrived in University Park in the Stage One transition to Stage Two, unprepared, but still technically qualified as some of the “original urban preservationists” (OUPs). We chose, as self-proclaimed preservation stewards, to commit to an advocacy program and have often been successful throughout Stages Two, Three, and Four. We have certainly suffered losses during those times -- not just losses of historic structures but of peers, friends, and neighbors who have stood along with us.
WAHA has matured in the last 30 years into a preservation voice that is recognized and respected in the chambers of our city’s bureaucracy. It is currently unclear to me as to what, if any, of the Stage Five prognostications may await our community’s future (although it is clear that house flippers have already changed the aesthetic landscape for many current buyers, who are purchasing “restored” homes with such loss of character as painted-over woodwork, removed original dining room built-in china cabinets, and laminate laid over hardwood floors).
I am convinced, however, that the demand for our vigilance and commitment is no lesser now then it was 40 years ago. There are more enemies at our gates than ever before. Paint on woodwork is reversible; demolition is not. We all are facing another transition as to how and what tomorrow’s historic preservation story will be. So in this month of May, National Historic Preservation Month, we should to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished and what trials may lie ahead. There are sadly too few OUPs left in our ranks and therefore much of this new burden will be left up to new WAHA members from Stages Two, Three and Four.
Return to The City begins with a quote from the novel Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: “How can we live without our lives? How do we know it is us without our past?”
Jim Childs is WAHA board member. In his four decades in West Adams, he has successfully nominated dozens of homes as designated landmarks.
Lore Hilburg and Reggie Jones
Craig Bartelt & Nick Mercado
Hilary & A.J. Lentini
Hunter Ochs & Kim Michener
Ivy Pochoda & Justin Nowell
Ed Trosper & David Raposa
Edy & George Alva
John H. Arnold & Curt Bouton
Barbara Bestor & Tom Stern
David Bottjer & Sarah Bottjer
Lisa Ellzey & Jeff (Ulrik) Theer
Friends of Hazy Moon Zen Center
Jim & Janice Robinson
Board of Directors
John Kurtz, President 323-732-2990
Suzanne Henderson 323-731-3900
Jean Cade, Treasurer 323-737-5034
Paula Brynen, Secretary 323-936-7285
SeElcy Caldwell 323-292-8566
Jim Childs 213-747-2526
Lore Hilburg 323-934-4443
Laura Meyers 323-737-6146
Roland Souza 323-804-6070
Jeff Theer 323-964-9999
Candy Wynne 323-735-3749
Legal Advisor 323-732-9536
Camille Cregan & William Overby
Ellen & Robert Swarts
Keao Tano & Dane Rosselli
Harry Anderson & Terry Bible
Jeffrey & Patricia Baum
Paula & Paul Brynen
Clare & Michael Chu
Rory Cunningham & David Pacheco
Art Curtis & Shelley Adler
Suzanne Dickson &
Andrea Dunlop & Max Miceli
Sarah and Charles Evans
Elizabeth Fenner & Brian Robinson
Jean Frost & Jim Childs
Donald & Suzanne Henderson
Amanda & Tomas Jegeus
& Christopher McKinnon
Kevin Keller & Marc Choueiti
Paul King & Paul Nielsen
Adrienne & Blake Kuhre
Sarah & Steve Lange
Los Angeles Conservancy,
Cassandra Malry &
Joseph McManus &
Lara Elin Soderstrom
JoAnn Meepos & Steven Edwards
Marina Moevs & Steven Peckman
John Patterson & Jeff Valdez
Gail D. Peterson
Mary Power & Librada Hernandez
Judy Reidel & Al Hamburger
Walter Rivers, Jr.
Donna & Mark Robertson, Sr.
Amy Ronnebeck & Alan Hall
Debbie & Stan Sanders
Mary Shaifer & Chris Murphy
Chris Taylor & Ansley Bell
Stephen Vincent & Jessica McCullagh
Jeffrey Weiss & David Bailey
Ned Wilson & Carrie Yutzy
Ashley Wysong & Robert Lobato
Transitioning from Paper to Digital
As you know, one of our major goals this calendar year is to transition the WAHA Newsletter from the printed document you’ve received in the mail to one you are able to read online. By now, most if not all of you have had a chance to review the digital version of the newsletter. This digital format is now the primary newsletter version and will be the source material for the printed version AND it includes FULL-COLOR photographs and many bonus features that the printed version will not have. The bonus content in the digital version includes:
The ability to link directly to other online content such as photographs, articles and websites for more content, including the WAHA website.
Click and enlarge FULL COLOR photographs for easy viewing or to see additional photographic content.
Download the newsletter to any device and take it with you wherever you go.
Allows printing of multiple copies of specific articles or the whole newsletter if you desire in FULL COLOR.
An interactive document that will allow members to participate and share information, events and resources.
This new digital format is much less expensive to produce and deliver to WAHA to members, both from a financial and manpower perspective. Every print copy of the newsletter costs roughly $1.70 to produce and about $1.50 to mail. Sending the newsletter in digital format saves the organization between $1,000 to $1,500 each month or approximately $13,000 per year. In terms of the total budget for the organization, printing the newsletter consumes approximately 70% or more of most members’ annual dues.
In addition to the financial cost, a considerable amount of volunteer labor and time are required to prepare, label, seal, stamp and mail each newsletter to members. The financial and man-hour savings by not printing the newsletter can be reinvested in preservation efforts, additional web site improvements, tours or events.
The Communications Committee is now consistently producing and sending the newsletter electronically to every member with an email address. If for some reason you’re not receiving the electronic format (Do we have your current correct email address?) or if you’d like to only receive the digital edition and opt out of receiving the paper edition, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a reminder, you will receive the electronic format through a download email.
WAHA (and Friends) Calendar
WAHA Board Retreat
May 20, 2017
Reaching New Heights: Exploring Westmoreland Heights
Saturday, June 3, 2017
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
WAHA's annual self guided tour featuring seven historic homes
plus a new art space in a former root beer factory.
Annual 4th of July Barbecue
July 4, 2017
2957 Brighton Avenue
Ice Cream Social
August 20, 2017 2:00-5:00 p.m.
1606 S. Point View Street, Los Angeles