No Place Like Home: The Allison Residence, Los Angeles, ca. 1910s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The Homestead’s collection has a good representative sample of photographs showing a wide variety of residential architecture in greater Los Angeles, with these providing comparisons and contrasts to the homes of the Workman and Temple families.  Because, typically, people took photographs of their two most prized and valued material possessions–their automobiles and their houses–there isn’t any shortage of images of either one.

Today’s “No Place Like Home” entry consists of four circa 1910s snapshots of the bungalow in an area between modern Koreatown and the Larchmont neighborhoods near Western Avenue between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street owned by widower Susan M. Allison.

As an architectural specimen, the house is certainly very interesting.  Notice, for example, the multi-layered roof with the intriguing curvature at the ends of the gables and the stacked beams, with the top one also sporting curved ends, on the front porch, both of which seem to show the influence of Japanese architecture.

Allison Residence Los Angeles 2011.111.1.1
The Sue M. Allison residence on St. Andrews Place in Los Angeles, circa 1910s.  All photos from the Homestead’s collection.

The ends of these beams as well as the roof eaves have nicely rounded and receding ends.  The tapered porch pilasters and chimney stack are also unusual.  Just under the upper roof gable the boards have a pierced line-and-ball design that is also on the garage at the back of the property at the right.

The house had shingle siding, thick casement windows, a projecting bay on the side (perhaps for a breakfast nook?) and large bracketed eaves that aren’t rounded on the ends like the smaller ones.  In all, the house is a distinctive example of the bungalow style that was sweeping the region.

In addition to the two views of the front elevation of the house, there are two photos of the backyard with Sue and her dog sitting on a swing suspended by chains from a trellis set in concrete just outside the back door of the house and near the garage.

SM Allison Residence Los Angeles 2011.111.1.2
Another view of the front and north elevations of the Allison house.

One of the photos taken from the yard and looking back toward the house shows a lawn with a sprinkler watering the grass, some newly planted trees and shrubs along the side of the house near striped awnings on a couple of the windows.  The other is taken from the driveway near the swing with Mrs. Allison and her pooch and shows more of the lawn, fringed by a curved dirt path with more plantings along the property’s fencing.

Its owner, born Susan Curran in 1858, was a native of Wisconsin to an Irish father and a mother who was from Maine.  In 1874, she married William Allison, a doctor and native of New Brunswick, Canada, and the couple had a daughter, May, while living in a small town in western Wisconsin about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis/St Paul.

Allison 1920 census
Sue Allison and her daughter May Evans as shown at the St. Andrews Place house in the 1920 federal census.

Dr. Allison died around 1900 and, a few years later, his widow was in Los Angeles with her daughter and parents, renting a home near the University of Southern California.  While her parents returned to Minneapolis, where’d they lived before coming west, Sue bought the home depicted in the photographs during the 1910s and was residing there with her daughter, who presumably took the photos, in the 1920 federal census.

MRS Allison And Pet Dog Backyard Of All Allison Residence Los An
Allison and her dog sit in a swing under a trellis at the rear of the house.

However, Sue and May sold the home and moved to a Spanish Colonial Revival home in the Fairfax district where they remained until Sue died in August 1940.  After a funeral at the Wee Kirk O’ The Heather chapel, she was interred in a columbarium at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

Meanwhile, it is always fun to see whether the homes depicted in historic photographs from the museum’s collection still stand.  Surprisingly often, they do and the Allison residence is one of those that has survived and in relatively good shape with much of its architectural details intact, even as every other house on that section of St. Andrews Place has been razed for apartments.

MRS Allison And Dog On Patio Swing In Backyard 2011.111.1.4
Allison and her dog with a nice view of the landscaping at the back of the home.

Here is a Google Maps link showing the Allison residence in December 2014.

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