In December of 1916 it is announced that Andre H. Cuenod—a Swiss lumberman who came to Los Angeles in 1891—was putting up this nifty Colonial he’d designed himself. The two-story, seven-room $4000 frame residence would feature a concrete foundation, shingle roof, hardwood floors, hardwood and pine trim, and mantel. (The picture above from a January 1918 blurb in the Times about how he’d sold his place to M. S. Phillips for $9000. Tidy little profit.)
One hundred years and change later, she still stands proud, with her great gambrel roof and dentil-filled pedimented entryway. Even has all her original windows and giant chimney!
So where did I get interior shots? From the realty listing. But where one sees all this restoration potential—what’s the point in them? Who is buying this to live in it, especially when it is marketed as a teardown:
I don’t have to tell you, I suppose, where the story goes next. Coming soon, its five-story, twelve-unit replacement.
In February 1958, one Mr. Norman Leibow bought Carmen’s Garage (U. J. Gray, 1924) at 1314 Echo Park Avenue. Leibow tore off the front thirty feet facing Echo Park and rebuilt it, converting the whole works into the House of Spirits.
To advertise his new venture, Leibow called up Mueller Brothers Neon Company of 1229 West Sunset, and had this $1000 sign erected in March of 1958:
Two months later, to the tune of $1200, Leibow had Mueller Brothers construct this roof sign:
Yes, it’s a quaint little cottage (hey, like the kind we used to have in Los Angeles!) with a wonky-donk chimney puffing out animated smoke. With a sunset behind, or maybe that’s a rising orange moon? It may be the greatest sign in Los Angeles, which would therefore make it the greatest sign in the world. (Why, of course there’s an image of it in my book.) Here is a time lapse of HOS on any given night. Any given night some nights ago, anyway.
Because the House of Spirits went up in flames one morning, in a rainstorm, about nine months ago. We were all waiting for her reopen because it appeared the fire was contained to the back and the neon was undamaged.
But, no. According to this fellow Mr. Leff, the newly-listed property is Tier 3 TOC (Transit Oriented Communities), which means, because it’s a half-mile from some bus stop, the developer can add two additional stories for up to twenty-two additional feet, increase density by 70%, reduce parking to half a spot per resident, decrease the setback 30%, and on and on. This thing is going to be three times as big as anything within miles. Of course the screeching schoolgirls for density have begun wetting themselves with glee and calling everyone the N-word, because what else is new.
We launched and were going gangbusters there for a little while, when all went dark…because the City of Los Angeles decided to halt all demolitions, making this blog obsolete!
(Well, maybe not. I just had to go do some dumb things and get them out of the way. Trust me, there’s plenty to talk about. )
So while I prepare today’s post, let me toss this out there: if you’re not familiar with Senate Bill 330, you might want to read this assessment by the LAC. Then, should you be so moved, sign the petition to Governor Newsom (I know, that guy) asking him not to support the bill unless it includes safeguards for historic preservation.
Then come back here later this afternoon for some pix of a 1917 Colonial in Country Club Park…*
*…which’ll have to wait till tomorrow. I got all worked up about House of Spirits.
Curbed readers, being Curbed readers, reacted as Curbed readers generally do.
Other people, however, reacted differently.
Full disclosure: I dig Taix the most. In fact, when installed as president of Burbank Shrine Club, I angled to have my installation held at Taix rather than in Burbank, because why wouldn’t I?
Dude, seriously, anyone who isn’t instantly charmed by its Norman-Tudor village vernacular has a dead soul. The most common negative epithet hurled by the Curbed Class is “well if preservationists like it so much why don’t they give it business?!” (a whole twelve disingenuous points below “well if you love it so much why don’t you buy it?”) and the answer is we do give it business, you sad, sad, little men.
Taix, of course, is a Los Angeles institution, and you can read about its history—and see images of its original home at 321 Commercial—here.
Less has been said of its post-relocation building. 1911 West Sunset began as a restaurant built for Mrs. Ona Spaulding, designed by architect Edgar E. Butler, and built in 1929; it is run by restaurateur Noah Botwin and is famously known as a hangout for the politicos and police bosses. Spaulding hires architect C. F. Plummer to add a cocktail lounge in the summer of 1938, and hires architect Henry Dean to give it an addition in 1947. It remains Botwins for over thirty years before becoming Rafael’s for all of one year, in 1961, before Mr. Taix’s purchase in 1962. There’s a permit in June of that year to stucco and wood trim the front, thus giving the place its French Provincial character. The west half of Taix to the left of the center gable, with the tall tower, is added in the summer of 1968, and is by Nielsen, Moffat & Wolverton.
Its original incarnation looked, presumably, like this:
…magnificently illuminated by City Hall. One wonders if it did indeed have such impressive rooftop signage.
Here it is after its 1938 expansion to the east:
And how it appeared after the 1947 expansion to the west, doubling its size.
And its Late Moderne-meets-Klondike bones lurk beneath to this day:
Something else: when Taix moved in and put a gable and half timbering where it once said “Sierra Room,” he elected to retain and maintain the 1940s neon sign:
And so, you might want to spend some time at Taix before she goes away. Yes, I am aware that there will be a mini-Taix reconstructed within the new six-story, 170-unit development.
So after posting that this wonderful building is threatened, I was contacted in short order by a couple of good folk saying you knucklehead, this building is long gone! Well, they didn’t call me a knucklehead, but I felt like one. Here’s what they said:
From LC: This lovely building was demolished before the date you listed for the permit. I think it was pulled down last fall of winter. After the property was acquired by a developer, they got all the tenants out, then sort of boarded the place up. Naturally, the local homeless community took up residence immediately. They responded by boarding it up a little more securely. That last a few weeks. Eventually, it caught fire. Happily, no one was injured but the roof burned and the building had to be pulled down. We live on this block and construction on the new structures (there are two or three because the developer also acquired the house next door) has been well under way since spring. While your photos show many of the beautiful older buildings still standing in the immediate vicinity, there are in fact four other new construction projects within just a few feet of this one. All are the hideous, boxey eyesores that developers favor. There are now more new buildings than old on these two blocks of Elmwood and Oakwood. It’s depressing.
From allison schallert: this was torn down over a year and a half ago. the young and old people were evicted without payment, and the only good thing is the construction crew, or the owners are letting some unhoused invididuals live in a small corner. I live on the 500 block of North St Andrews Place
So here’s something else I found out. A Bing maps aerial is a lot more current than a Google street-map.
Lookit that. A big lot full of dirt. The first thing that caught my eye was the large white building to the south. Didn’t my ninety-two intersection images prove that there were no VeryTall buildings in the vicinity?
The one on the right, a ten-room, two-unit, designed by A. J. Badger and built in 1920. On the left, a bungalow from 1913. It’s nice to know Los Angeles can be so cavalier about tearing down its bungalows. And this one is on record as being designed by female architect Anna K. Hallock. Well, was. Protip: invest in landfills.
So while we’re on the subject of the immediate neighborhood (as LC states, there are “hideous boxy eyesores” scattered about the immediate landscape) I pulled up a bit and said what the hell is that?
So recently lost are 4847 (51) , 4843 (52) , 4837 (53), and 4833 (54) Oakwood, for whatever that big grey thing is. Because unless I do it, no-one else will and they will be lost forever, let’s look at them.
4847 Oakwood. Look at that amazing, healthy tree. They ripped it out, because they could. Imagine you lived across the street for fifty years and that tree was already old when you moved in.
Above: 4833 Oakwood was one of Los Angeles’ earlier bungalows as its construction records predate 1905. Good work there, LA! But in the name of all that is holy don’t tell me you’ve left some! Are you bereft of your duties? Don’t you have flamethrowers or something?
And here is a summerhouse built by Leonard Jones, designed by A. M. Brown, in 1923.
Ooop! Despite the fact that there are more buildings that died, that need to be remembered, I have to go right now, so if you will, excuse me.
A nice piece of San Pedro Streamline is going away. And with it, a big chunk of Southland history.
1331 South Pacific Avenue began life as the brainchild of Nick Pericich. In 1940 Pericich hired local architect William F. Durr and spent $19,000 to build the ten-room Pacific Bowling Center. The most modern in the Harbor District!
William F. Durr’s largest commission was his grand American Legion Hall, now lost, at Tenth and Gaffey, from 1922. His best known extant work is surely the 1928 Brown Brothers stores and offices at 461 West Sixth:
PBC remains a bowling alley for nearly thirty years. Then, records from 1969 indicate 1331 has a new owner, one Al Cordiero. He takes out a permit for this:
And, with that, it becomes a night club called the Dancing Waters.
The club one of the most important venues in the South Bay. Here’s an article about 1331 that doesn’t get its early history exactly correct, but does tell us incredible stuff about the bands that played there.
The Waters Club, AKA the Dancing Waters, is spoken of in Craig Ibarra’s recent book about Pedro punk. A review notes:
Besides being a cool South Bay place for norteño and hardcore gigs (e.g., these) Dancing Waters also posed as Jake LaMotta’s Club in the 1980 Scorcese picture Raging Bull:
Read some more interesting tidbits about Cordiero and his Dancing Waters here.
So why are we talking about it today? Because we here at R.I.P. Los Angeles look at permits. Here’s one:
Note in the permit they get a 37% “density bonus.” That’s what’s known as a zoning variance, but they call it a “bonus” because giving something a happy name will make you feel better about the affair. While there is a maximum legislated size they are allowed by law to build, to hell with that. Plus they get to construct the thing fifteen feet taller than they’re supposed to, because they include some subsidized units.
While we’re on the subject, this brick commercial structure two doors down at 1309 South Pacific, built in the fall of 1932, has some cool Deco detailing. It’s part of the Vanguard plan. Pay your final respects when you get the chance.
For our first post, we’ll take a look at 371-377 North St. Andrews Place, at the southwest corner of St. Andrews and Elmwood Avenue.
Permits are pulled in March 1919 for a $16,000 twenty-room fourplex of flats; the Assessor pegs it as being built in 1921. The four-unit apartment house was owned by F. G. Fritz, who had hired Edward Butler Rust as the architect, and Luther T. Mayo as contractor.
371 a handsome structure. I like the bilateral symmetry, the keystone arch, the Monterey balcony.
But as they were quick to point out in the listing, fix it up or tear it down:
Can you guess which they’ve elected to do?
Five stories, with a zoning variance to make it fifty-six feet high. No more banana palms and wide stairs, this thing will be built to the edges of the property on all sides, because they got a zoning variance for that, too. I can tell you what it will look like, and I bet they haven’t even hired an architect yet. It will be your typical wood frame over concrete box, with some jagged part to the façade to give it “character” and some pastel color to give it “humanity.” It will use flat windows, rainscreen cladding to create the skin of the building, fiber cement Hardie panels. It will be depthless. It will express the essential vacuity of the 21st century.
Mostly, it will be fifty-six feet tall. Let’s look around the neighborhood a bit:
Why am I showing you all these captures through the interesection? To indicate there’s nothing remotely so modern and monstrous around. That’s what’s plopped down here. Because, you know, it’s a half-mile from a bus stop.
Does that make sense? That’s the ambit of TOC (and the density brownshirts). It’s all out-of-state developers lighting cigars with dollar bills. Worse yet, it’s social engineers like Mark Vallianatos and his comrade Scott Wiener as they try to force upzoning on cities.
Los Angeles was sold to me, as she had been to countless others, on the booster’s promise of light and air and orange trees. That I would move here and live in a charming little Spanish stucco fourplex until such time as I’d be able to get a house in the ‘burbs with a yard and, you know, an orange tree. Somehow I managed the dream, shuffling between apartment complexes until I got the house with the light and air and the dang orange tree.
But the Los Angeles I moved to back in ’93 is fast disappearing. Where once single family homes blanketed the landscape, they are now routinely felled for massive construction. Human-scale garden court apartments are swallowed up by megadevelopments.
But, you say, housing! To which you add, homelessness and density and urbanism and growth! But I’m not here to argue politics. Though in the course of things I likely will.
Rather, I’m here to show you what’s going away. The premise of this blog is simple: after a demo permit is pulled, I’ll show you a picture of what they’re demolishing, and tell you about its forthcoming replacement. For example:
Here is 154 South Occidental Blvd. It was built in 1923.
154 is being replaced by a five-story, thirty-six unit project.
154 is there behind the tree (also not long for this world). You can imagine the way in which a five-story building is going to change the neighborhood. Strictly speaking the developers are not allowed to build that big but the City awarded them a zoning variance. Which is dubbed the friendly-sounding “density bonus.” Basically, if you set aside 8% of your units for subsidized housing, and it’s near a bus stop, local zoning gets thrown out the window. (That’s simplifying matters grossly, but it’s too early in the game to begin hashing out the Density Bonus program, or, more to the point, incentivizing entitlements under the Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentive Program Guidelines.)
In short. The Los Angeles I came to know, the trees and wide spaces—you might call it sprawl, and deride it as ticky-tacky replete with conformity suitable only for watching it burn, all Halloween orange and chimney red—well I love it, each and every 154 South Occidental, every stucco fourplex, every orange tree. And I love all y’all, each and every Angeleno, and want you to forever share in the programmatic tamales, the Late Moderne pylon signs, the dingbats, the whole Norman-Chinesque-Spanish-Egypto mélange that Evelyn Waugh so dutifully chided us about.
And with that, here we go! Please be advised we are as well associated with the besocial’d media that are Facebook and Twitter. If you are on a social network and sharing a threatened or lost landmark, may I suggest you use the #RIPLosAngeles hashtag? Thank you!