Quake Took a Bite Out of History : Historic homes ‘are links in a chain which connect us as lovers of architecture, as custodians of history,’ says owner of one damaged Craftsman bungalow.


I’ve lived in a Craftsman bungalow in the West Adams area for six years, restoring the house, designing the garden. With the house came good feelings from its previous residents, and I’m proud of my contributions to it. I consider myself a caretaker as much as an owner. This little corner of the world, this little piece of social and architectural history is my responsibility.

After six years of my work and effort, the restoration of the house was nearly complete. My bungalow has lovely built-in cabinets with stained and leaded glass, a massive stone fireplace, plate rails, window seats, even a domed dining room ceiling. Sometimes, when visiting friends who live in larger, grander, two- and three-story homes, I wish that I could have one, too, but when I get home I realize just how much I love my little house.

When the earthquake hit, like most everyone else, I was asleep. Assuming the shaking would stop as quickly as it began, I didn’t get up immediately. Realizing this was not the case, I got into a doorway.


I could hear things crashing in every room; I thought it would never stop. When it was over, I grabbed flashlight, Walkman and sneakers and began to inspect the house.

So many things had fallen and broken inside, but I never thought to check outdoors. In fact, it’s not a great idea to just run outside, especially in the dark. You don’t know what might have come loose and be waiting to fall.

It wasn’t till much later that I saw that my chimney had fallen--right onto my car.

For 86 years that chimney had withstood the elements. Of course it will be repaired, but it will never be the same. I can no longer say that the house is exactly as it was when it was built in 1908.

The houses in West Adams themselves were structurally very sound. Because they are made completely of wood, they move with the earth rather than against it. Even all those years ago architects and contractors knew that they were building in earthquake country, but some things are no match for Mother Nature.

As news about all the damage to historic structures in Los Angeles filtered in, I felt depressed.

Those of us who respect the tangible remnants of history, who try so hard to preserve and protect our architectural heritage, always fight an uphill battle. There can’t be a city without buildings, and historic structures are a record of our civilization.


As for my pretty things, I realize they are only material objects, but they represent my personal history. Even though many things were destroyed, I won’t stop saving and collecting.

My problems, I know, pale in comparison to those who lost entire houses, businesses and lives, but everything is relative--that’s why they’re called personal tragedies.

Now we have to focus on repairing the damage--a formidable task. Repairs will be costly, and we are none of us well-to-do.

But these are more than just houses. They are links in a chain which connect us as neighbors, as lovers of architecture, as custodians of history.

Our homes represent all the people who preceded us and built this city. Our homes are their legacy and our friends. No matter how you look at it, it’s all about relationships.