No Place Like Home in South Los Angeles, ca. 1900s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Invariably, when people had professional or personal photographs taken up to 1930 (the end of the Homestead’s interpretive period), there were often two typically common images that showed the most prized possesions of these persons:  their houses and their cars.

So, one trajectory for collecting for the museum has been to actively acquire photographs that show both.  With housing, it is easy to be impressed by beautiful homes that are architectually notable and/or have lush and diverse landscapes.  The museum’s collection has lots of those.

At the same time, a pointed effort has been made to find images of more “everyday” residences, showing more modest architecture and other design elements and with landscapes that generally are simpler.  That does not at all mean, however, that its owners and/or residents were less proud of their dwellings.

Houses are, after all, the biggest assets most people possess and they were, understandably, often filled with pride as they had these structures photographed and then sent them to family and friends.  In some cases, these photos have survived the ravages of time and serve as an interesting documentary record of the great variety and diversity of the residences that were to be found in greater Los Angeles through the 1920s.

Woman w small dwelling S LA 1900s
The home may be very small and lacking in ornamentation, but the garden has a diverse assortment of ornamental plants and shows that it was well tended.  The image, from the Homestead collection, looks to be from about the first decade of the 20th century and was only inscribed as beng in South Los Angeles, with no identification of the woman.

Today’s installment of “No Place Like Home” depicts a house only described as being in South Los Angeles, without any indication as to who the woman was or what period the view was taken, though it appears from her clothing and hairstyle to be about the 1900s.

The house is quite modest. It is small (although the “tiny house” movement of today might make something like this seem fashionable if it was built now!), not ornamented, and very utilitarian.  It was almost certainly torn down many years ago and replaced with something larger and more decorative–perhaps a bungalow.

But the unidentified woman appears to be proud of her home.  Not only that, but she was clearly a great lover of dogs, judging by the trio of pooches near her and in her arms.  But, look also at the garden in her front yard.  It was not ornately laid out like some larger houses would have.  Yet, it was obviously tended with great care.

The front has a good deal of ornamental flowering bushes and shrubs as well as a healthy-looking shade tree.  It would be surprising if there wasn’t a kitchen garden at the rear of the house, as well.  Some vines have started to climb up the front facade of the residence.  Note the garden house snaking from a spigot next to what appears to be a small porch or stoop at the rigth side of the building.

Speaking of which, there is one other detail to point out is at the right of the house, the small narrow wooden structure with the slightly sloping roof.  This appears to be the outhouse, which is in pretty close proximity to the home.  There was an old saying about outhouses:  “too close in the summer, too far in the winter.”  The former appears to have been more true than the latter in this case!

Check back here for more from the “No Place Like Home” series to see more interesting photos of homes in the greater Los Angeles area to 1930.

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