An Architectural History of L.A.

The purpose of this history is to acquaint you (especially if you are shopping for your dream home in Los Angeles) with the vast architectural legacy and landscape of the city. Regardless of what you may be looking for in a home here, that dream lives within an historical and architectural context that can and should be contemplated. Very few shoppers, and even few realtors, know very much about what follows. Set yourself apart and explore.Enjoy it.

The following quote introduces a book called Classic Homes of Los Angeles, and I think it is a magically poetic description of why we live here:

“Los Angeles was, above all, at the end of a continent, at the end of the line, and, even at the end of the nineteenth century, a destination both exotic and a little unreal. Los Angeles in 1890 was part mirage, overlooking its wide, nearly empty plain, and part chimera – a place of so many disparate parts, and all of them lacking the steadying traditions of New York or Boston or the self-confident and boisterous shouldering-aside arrogance of Chicago.
Los Angeles on the threshold of the new century was a small, dusty place, a languid place, a place offering domestic retreat for those earnestly seeking some form of redemption – from tubercular lungs, broken spirits, or the post-traumatic stresses of America’s clamorous Gilded Age.Los Angeles then was west of everything American, but not actually in the West, not where the exhilarating life of breaking the plains, extending Manifest Destiny, and opening the frontier was just ending.

Los Angeles was south of that West, a tan and gray-green island remote from the urban centers of the East. It was semitropic, too – a country of golden oranges, thick hanging grapes, roses in midwinter, and geraniums blooming all year long.” – D.J. Waldie

It is really no wonder that Los Angeles, for more than a century, has held such allure for people from all places east.As the quote above so beautifully puts it, Southern California is simply different than the rest of America in myriad ways.Los Angeles may not be the “promised land” it once was; too much traffic, too much pollution, too expensive, and just too many people — yet it is still breathtaking on one of the countless 70 degree cloudless days.

Many people think of Los Angeles as a newer city, but it is indeed quite old, predating by two centuries the arrival of English speaking Americans (the Mexican-Spanish having settled it long ago). However, its rise to prominence is indeed a 20th Century phenomenon, as compared to 18th Century New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or 19th Century Chicago. This does not mean, however, that there is any lack of “historic” or “classic” architecture. Clearly, great houses have been built here from the earliest days of significant settlement, and continue to be built here to this day.