No Place Like Home: A Rare Interior Photograph of a Greater Los Angeles Adobe House, 1912

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Today’s “No Place Like Home” entry is a very unusual photograph showing the interior of an adobe house in the Los Angeles area, with a postmark on the real photo postcard dated 28 April 1912.  While the card has a short message on the reverse, it does not reveal anything about the location.  Still, the image is a rare example of the inside of an adobe house that looks as if it had not changed much in recent decades.

This is because of the remarkable array of Victorian-era (the era officially concluded over a decade before the card was mailed when Queen Victoria of England died in 1901) furniture and furnishings in the large parlor.  Included is a wing-back sofa against the far wall; a pair of tufted velvet armchairs; the upright piano covered with a large fringed shawl against the wall at the left; the marble top parlor table at the right foreground; and more.

Other interesting elements to the decor are the framed paintings that hang from wire attached to the picture rails mounted just below the large open beams that were very typical of adobe houses, the potted plants, several candelabra, the ornate full-length mirror in a far corner, and the Japanese screen in front of the fireplace.  One of the few modern items are the half-dozen electric lights, with shades that look like they are Craftsman inspired.

RPPC Interior Parlor Of An Adobe House Near Los Angeles 2011.86.
This real photo postcard from the Homestead’s collection is postmarked 28 April 1912 and is a very rare view of an unidentified greater Los Angeles adobe house.  Much of the furniture and decor is from the Victorian era and it is easy to think that the Workman House could have shared similar decorative elements during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

It appears the main entrance is just behind the piano and it looks as if the thick adobe walls there are angled, judging by the way the light is shown on the carpet-covered floor.  Further back is a window with less of an angle at the walls there if the spread of light there is a reliable indicator.  Through the doorway at the rear appears to be another parlor where a side chair, parlor table and sofa are barely discerned.

More than likely, there was another main room behind the photographer, similar in size to the room at the other end through that doorway.  If so, this would be much like how the adobe core of the Workman House, which was somewhat smaller than this home, was laid out.  The Workman House center room, which was a parlor much like this, had a rear door leading to the courtyard that would roughly correspond to where the fireplace is in this photo.

Otherwise, it is tempting to imagine the interior of the Workman House having many of the same elements in its interior during the nineteenth century.  This would include similar furniture, paintings hanging from a chair rail near the top of the tall ceiling, and knick-knacks including framed photos, potted plants and others like the ones shown in this image.

We don’t have interior images of the Workman House at all during our interpretive time period of 1830-1930.  The would be more likely during the early twentieth century, due to personal cameras becoming more common by the turn of the century just as the Homestead passed from Temple family ownership.  While it is possible a professional photographer could have been hired before 1900, it seems more remote the further back we go.  Maybe we’ll get lucky someday and find an image similar to this one!

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