House Divided Is Moving to Angelino Heights : Architecture: Historic home once belonged to city’s first woman librarian.


Tonight at midnight, gliding past the glass skyscrapers of downtown, past dingy liquor stores, under power lines hoisted upward for the occasion, a ghostly, pale green Victorian mansion, sliced in two and pulled by trucks, will surprise late-night drivers in Los Angeles.

The historic home of Mary Emily Foy, the first woman director of the Los Angeles Public Library, is scheduled to begin a painstaking six-hour, 1 3/4-mile journey into a more congenial neighborhood. It will be moved from a lonely inner-city slab of asphalt across from Good Samaritan Hospital to a green-lawned hillside covered by other Victorian homes in Angelino Heights.

This oldest suburb of Los Angeles--just a few stoplights north of City Hall, overlooking the Hollywood Freeway--has attracted an influx not only of home buyers fond of old architecture, but also of old houses themselves. The Foy House, designated a historic structure by the city of Los Angeles, is the seventh house to be moved to Angelino Heights, the city’s first and largest historic preservation zone.


The Italianate Victorian home, built by Foy’s parents in 1872, originally sat behind a white picket fence on what was then the outskirts of the city. It was at the corner of 7th and Grasshopper--today known as Figueroa Street--where the Hilton hotel and the Citicorp Center now tower overhead. It was moved to its current site on Witmer Street, just north of Wilshire Boulevard, in 1921.

By then, the city’s population had ballooned to 576,000 and the business district had pushed residences outward. The Foy House was used as business offices for years, and was donated to the hospital in 1981 by businessman Ben Weingart. It had recently fallen into disrepair.

Hospital officials, who wanted to preserve the home in a better location, linked up with James Prager, an attorney who owns a meticulously restored beige Victorian home on Carroll Street. The hospital agreed to pay the cost of moving the house--about $150,000--if Prager would take on the even greater cost of renovating the structure. And so Prager prepared a huge hole in the ground across the street from his present home, where the historic structure will be settled.

Since 1983, property owners in the eight-by-five-block historic zone of Angelino Heights, home to about 500 families and 100 Victorian houses, have been required to ask their neighbors’ permission before doing anything drastic to their structures.

In part as a result of these restrictions, the hilly views of brightly painted gingerbread houses backed by the towers of downtown look a lot like San Francisco. The neighborhood remains a mix of prerestriction stucco modernizations, run-down wooden houses and many painstakingly rehabilitated homes with elaborate architectural detail and glowing stained-glass windows.

The strangely suburban-feeling streets of Angelino Heights recall the Los Angeles of Mary Foy’s day, when the city was a small, dusty pioneer town of 11,000. Foy, the daughter of a prominent businessman, had developed what at the time was an unusual ambition for a woman--to become city librarian. With skillful lobbying of the City Council, she got the job at age 18. After four years, Foy went on to attend the Los Angeles Normal School and the University of California, and became a schoolteacher and principal. Always politically minded, Foy went on to become a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, and was a delegate to the 1920 Democratic presidential convention.