Lost L.A. Archive

Southern California social history as told through buildings, landscapes and objects that are no more

Lost L.A.: Huntington's private tribute to wife Arabella

May 14, 2011

Lost L.A.: Huntington's private tribute to wife Arabella

Power, money and love fuel extravaganzas. Railroad millionaire Henry E. Huntington had all three and used them in the closing decade of his life to build his eponymous San Marino library and gardens. You know the mansion, the cactus and the Japanese tea house. What you may not know is that Huntington's estate once had a gallery dedicated to his wife, Arabella.

Lost L.A.: Frank Lloyd Wright's Alice Millard House could be leaving town

September 4, 2010

Lost L.A.: Frank Lloyd Wright's Alice Millard House could be leaving town

To the grim list of how L.A. houses might be "lost," add a new calamity: architectural outsourcing.

Lost L.A.: Rancho Los Alamitos

August 7, 2010

Lost L.A.: Rancho Los Alamitos

It is August when spacious skies soar above amber waves of grain in fields stretching from sea to shining sea. It is the month of the fruited plains and purple mountain majesties that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write her anthem, "America the Beautiful," and that lured families west for a better life.

Lost L.A.: A view of U.S. history in 1887 El Molino Viejo photo

July 3, 2010

Lost L.A.: A view of U.S. history in 1887 El Molino Viejo photo

Tucked away at the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society is an intriguing photo of a young woman sitting in a leafy, patchy garden. A man with folded arms stands quietly behind her as she paints.

Lost L.A.: Saddle up for this horse tale

June 5, 2010

Lost L.A.: Saddle up for this horse tale

From the TV glory days of "Mr. Ed," we know that horses have a lot to say if given a chance — not a surprise considering they were hard-working, come-rain-or-shine mass transit for millenniums before being run out of Dodge by Henry Ford. And don't forget the insults — horse glue, horse meat, horse trading, horse play and horse you-know-what. The sardonic Ed once remarked to Wilbur, "Some way to treat your friends who helped conquer the West."

Bungalows made American dream of home ownership possible

May 1, 2010

Bungalows made American dream of home ownership possible

Living small is the new virtue. We have less clean air, water and land. Most of us have a lot less money. Fortunately, out here where the dream used to include a house of your own, we pioneered how to do simple very well. We built the box bungalow.

Something for the little missus

April 3, 2010

Something for the little missus

Move over, Julie and Julia. Meet Andrew Martin and Damon Kirsche. By profession, a screenwriter and an actor-graphic designer. By avocation, cooks and collectors of vintage kitchenware. They recently shared morsels about a must-have of any collection: Guardian Service, manufactured in the San Fernando Valley when "Father Knows Best" was on the radio Thursday nights.

Bank failures strike a blow to city’s art

March 6, 2010

Bank failures strike a blow to city’s art

Home Savings of America. Three words of modern democracy: Home (yours), Savings (yours) and America (ours). Together they formed the deceptively simple name of a business here in the Southland that may have issued the mortgage that built your house.

Utopia in Hollywood

February 6, 2010

Utopia in Hollywood

Remember Sir Thomas More in HBO's "The Tudors"? The good guy who had his head chopped off by Henry VIII for challenging the king's will? This scholar wrote a philosophical tale about an island called Utopia, far from England, where a fair and equitable society lived without poverty, the tyranny of a standing army and rebarbative lawyers.

Hellman buildings were inspired by national spirit

December 26, 2009

LOST L.A.

Hellman buildings were inspired by national spirit

Brinks must be stuffing its armored delivery trucks with Goldman Sachs' annual bonuses. The company's compensation and benefit pool for 2009 is expected to top $20 billion, an average of more than $600,000 for each of the 31,700 company employees whose jobs were saved a year ago by a taxpayer bailout. Among the questions raised by this bonanza: What will bankers do with the money?

Christmas Tree Lane continues to glow in Altadena

December 12, 2009

LOST L.A.

Christmas Tree Lane continues to glow in Altadena

In 1887 along the San Gabriel Mountains, the community of Altadena launched with great promise to compete against mighty Pasadena to the south. Some wood and shingle houses by local architects went up, planted with showy flower gardens, but the hamlet stayed a countryside stop for year-end holiday visitors. Winter blossoms, orchards and poppy fields -- what more did a tourist need?

Hollenbeck Home for the Aged in Boyle Heights in the 1890s

October 17, 2009

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Hollenbeck Home for the Aged in Boyle Heights in the 1890s

Growing old without money, not good. Growing old without money and in poor health, very bad. This is the future some of us face as 401(k)s dwindle and insurance doesn't cover all the medical bills.

Glendale Sanitarium: A spa dedicated to good health

September 19, 2009

LOST L.A.

Glendale Sanitarium: A spa dedicated to good health

In 1886, early developers hired boomtown architects Samuel and Joseph C. Newsom to build the Glendale Hotel along what is now Broadway. It was in a field acquired after the California courts settled ownership of the vast San Rafael and La Cañada ranchos in favor of land-maneuvering gringos.

Octagon house in Heritage Square has a multidimensional history

August 22, 2009

LOST L.A.

Octagon house in Heritage Square has a multidimensional history

Along the Arroyo Seco Parkway from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena is a collection of 19th century buildings saved from L.A.'s busy wrecking ball. At Heritage Square, which isn't a square, you'll find a house that isn't a rectangle. It's an octagon, built for a family in Pasadena.

Hearst's Mount Vernon West

July 4, 2009

LOST L.A.

Hearst's Mount Vernon West

A beach house designed to impress the nation.

A thorny history with the cactus

June 13, 2009

LOST L.A.

A thorny history with the cactus

L.A. gardeners have been going native for more than a century. Around 1900, nurseryman and plant sleuth Theodore Payne pushed for West Coast flowers and shrubs. His word was gospel: "Be a good Californian: Be loyal to your own state and keep your landscape Californian." Payne was not alone. The Garden Club of America, founded in 1913, helped bring native plants to thousands of homes, and its female members replanted countrysides wrecked by industrial sprawl.

Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted

May 16, 2009

LOST L.A.

Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted

The artist's studio is part factory, part chapel, part Merlin's cave, reliquary and museum. Some artists say it doesn't matter where they make art. Others claim their studio is their art. Some cities preserve studios, but L.A. does not. We worship artists; we trade real estate.

One wicked curve

April 25, 2009

LOST L.A.

One wicked curve

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, who had an office in Century City, here we go again.

Robinsons-May Beverly Hills: A shopping icon that may drop

March 14, 2009

LOST L.A.

Robinsons-May Beverly Hills: A shopping icon that may drop

Lost L.A. unearths something that's buried in history. It tells stories of buildings that have been razed, burned or renovated into extinction. Developers often cause these wipeouts, explaining them away as the price of progress. Translation: the cost of greed.

Singleton Court in West Adams was the home of scandal

February 14, 2009

LOST L.A.

Singleton Court in West Adams was the home of scandal

It's St. Valentine's Day, and somewhere love is for sale, though not on sale. For centuries the wealthy have lured the sexy and beautiful with jewels, cigars, fine wines and racing cars. Kate Spade bags, David Yurman rubies, Rolex watches or a Swiss bank account can work. But to close the deal, there's nothing like a well-furnished house.

Colony in Pacific Palisades nurtured top artists in 1950s, 1960s

January 10, 2009

LOST L.A.

Colony in Pacific Palisades nurtured top artists in 1950s, 1960s

When times are good, artists and writers get the support they need, enriching city life in unquantifiable ways. But when the economy heads south or the rich lose interest, artists are among the first to suffer. Today we're hearing predictions of fewer movies, fewer books and fewer plays. In the case of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, there will be fewer exhibitions to support new work just when we need creative thinking.

Greenacres tree kept Christmas spirit year-round

December 13, 2008

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Greenacres tree kept Christmas spirit year-round

In our eco-challenged world of global warming and deforestation, the holiday tree is struggling to survive as a family tradition. What do we do? Buy the artificial tree that's not biodegradable? Support the sustainable -- but not local -- tree farm? Pick up a chemically fertilized cedar that's dead by next season? Give up altogether and string a few lights on the palm out back?

On L.A.'s Clara Street, working-class dreams met an anti-minority mind-set in the 1920s.

November 1, 2008

LOST L.A.

On L.A.'s Clara Street, working-class dreams met an anti-minority mind-set in the 1920s.

A home of your own -- it's an American dream. Good houses make stable lives, and stable lives make good citizens. Thomas Jefferson despaired at the nation's ramshackle shanties, and for more than a century, presidents pushed for change. Technology and innovation -- supported by government, encouraged by educators and praised by preachers -- made the dream a reality. From the kitchen table of the American home came the soldiers who fought our wars and the families who healed their wounds.

In Los Angeles, a 1900s White House for the not quite presidential

October 4, 2008

LOST L.A.

In Los Angeles, a 1900s White House for the not quite presidential

JOHN McCAIN doesn't know how many houses he owns, but he wants 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Ever since the "presidential palace" was completed in 1800, the White House has been the ultimate American address. For a century it was our largest house, more than double the size of Monticello and Mount Vernon combined.

It was Huntington's master plan

September 6, 2008

LOST L.A.

It was Huntington's master plan

WHEN THE current mortgage crisis ends, someone is going to make big bucks. Probably developers. They'll buy up houses at bargain prices, tear them down, put in a subdivision and start hawking mortgages. The L.A. investor's rule: It's never about the house; it's about the land. Few knew this better than speculator Henry E. Huntington.

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Space shuttle Endeavour remembered

Former Endeavour engineers reminisce about the legacy of the last space shuttle ...

Former Endeavour engineers reminisce about the legacy of the last space shuttle ever built.