The House of Spirits

Nathan Marsak

Nathan Marsak

· 2 min read

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:


Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Two months later, to the tune of $1200, Leibow had Mueller Brothers construct this roof sign:

Mark Peacock via Flickr

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.

You know what disqusted over at Curbed wants for you? The deleterious effects of high-density living seen in mental illness, children’s health, respiratory disease, heart attacks, cancer and human happiness.

That, and no cool neon signs.

- Echo Park Ave.

Nathan Marsak

About Nathan Marsak

NATHAN MARSAK says: “I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory. In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets). But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.) And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!””
Nathan’s blogs are: Bunker Hill Los Angeles, RIP Los Angeles & On Bunker Hill.

Copyright © 2024 RIP Los Angeles. All rights reserved.
Powered by Vercel
Purchase Pro ↗