Near the intersection of Melrose and Western avenues in southeast Hollywood is a neighborhood of 42 California bungalows so tucked away that even delivery workers have trouble finding it. And it's not going anyplace soon. Melrose Hill, whose homes were built between 1911 and 1926, acquired historic preservation status in 1988.
Sidney L. Briggs and M.P. Gilbert first acquired and developed the area in 1906. Lot prices started at $425. Wilshire District developer Avery McCarthy christened the main thoroughfare Melrose Avenue, after his family's hometown of Melrose, Mass., and the highest point in the tract — about 337 feet above sea level — Melrose Hill.
During the 1920s, Douglas Donaldson, a leading artisan in the Southern California Arts and Crafts movement, taught art classes in his studio at one of the homes in the area.
Residents call the community a "step back in time" where neighbors — described as a "cool mix of people" by resident Tracy Do, a real estate agent with Prudential John Aaroe out of Los Feliz — know one another and watch after each other's kids, who ride bicycles and play in the neighborhoods' two cul-de-sacs and one tiny street.
"For those that want to be anonymous and get lost in their neighborhood, this is not the place," said Janet Loveland, Realtor with Coldwell Banker.
Neighbors get to know each other through an annual fall potluck block party to which local politicians and members of the police and fire departments are invited. In December, the community throws a Norman Rockwell-esque holiday party, complete with strolling carolers, twinkling lights on nearly every home and manufactured snow for sledding. But leaving the immediate area can be startling. Outside its confines is the city.
Good news, bad news
Residents like the isolation Melrose Hill provides, but say visitors often have a hard time finding them. "It's an oasis, a Shangri-La, but when you order pizza, for instance, most delivery guys can't find you," said resident Dete Meserve. "Your pizza ends up somewhere on Melrose Avenue."
On the market
Once people find Melrose Hill, they tend to stay put. "A lot of people have been here for 30 years," Do said. On average, she said, a house goes on the market about once every 1 1/2 years. Currently, there is one listing: a 3,500-square-foot home listed for $1,069,000.
The last property that sold was in May: a 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom listed for $599,000. It sold within a week, after multiple offers, for $640,000.
Out and about
The area is centrally located and close to the 101 Freeway. But with the exception of a couple of good Colombian and Thai restaurants, there isn't much within walking distance. No problem. Shopping and services are all a quick drive away.
Public schools in the area are Ramona Elementary, which scored 755 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index; King Middle School, 597, and Marshall Senior High School, 601, but most families send their children to a variety of private schools both in the San Fernando Valley and in Los Angeles.
Historical values Single-family detached resales:
Year...Median Price 1990...$323,000
*Year to date. *
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Greg Fischer, Los Angeles historian; Los Angeles Conservancy, Los Angeles Unified School District.