No Place Like Home: An Exuberant Mission Revival Home in Los Angeles, 1909

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As a complement of sorts to yesterday’s post about the strange, but interesting Mission Revival temporary structure built in front of a Los Angeles store for a decoration contest for the La Fiesta de Los Angeles/La Fiesta de Las Flores festival in 1905, here’s another notable artifact from the Homestead’s collection, this one showing a Mission Revival home in Los Angeles in 1909.

The real photo postcard (these were all the rage in the first years of the 20th century) shows a highly ornamented residence and the photo was taken, printed and sent as a Christmas greeting.  The building is distinctive for several reasons.

As a home on a corner lot, it has a corner wall facing the corner of the lot and there appears to be a sort of false front with the three walls shown projecting above the roof line.  There are certainly two more walls out of view and we can get an idea of what they looked like not just by the other three, but by the same layout on what looks to be a garage at the far end of the property to the right behind the dark wood arbor.

The projecting walls above the roof line allow for the remarkable addition of arched openings with mission-style bells on them.  There were a lot of Mission Revival homes built in greater Los Angeles in the opening decades of the 1900s, but it’s pretty unusual to see the belfry motif!

Home On 16th St And Wilton Place 2014.402.1.1
This real photo postcard from the Homestead’s collection, sent as a Christmas greeting in December 1909, shows what looks to have been a newly constructed and highly decorative example of a Mission Revival residence.  It was located at the corner of Wilton Place and 16th Street, later renamed Venice Boulevard, but is no longer standing.

Another standout decorative element is the projecting portico in lieu of a standard porch.  Robust columns with thick caps and bases, wide arches between them, and projecting beams for the trellis work all are notable features of the portico, which wraps fully around the front sides of the residence.  In the middle of each arch is a hanging plant and there are chairs and potted plants on the portico floor.

Obviously, the house was newly built, judging from the clean look of the walls, but also from the appearance of the landscaping, including young palm trees planted on the medians between the sidewalks and streets on both sides.  Near the stairs are potted plants and plants in the ground, while a distinctively shaped fountain is at the left.  The aforementioned trellis between the house and garage is also a distinctive feature.  At the far left behind the house appears to be a structure, perhaps a gazebo or screened porch that is covered with vines.

The address of the structure is at the corner of Wilton Place and 16th Street, west of Western Avenue in what looks to be the Arlington Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.  This was a booming area in the first decade of the twentieth century, as massive migration pushed the limits of the city south and west.

If you go looking for the house on Google Maps, though, there are two things to consider.  First, 16th Street no longer exists, it being renamed Venice Boulevard.  The second is that the house also no longer exists!  This link to Google Maps shows what seems to be the corner where the building once stood.

This is assumed because, if you look at the 1909 photo, you can see above ground power poles and lines at the far right.  Check out the Google Maps image and you can see poles and lines in the median.   These poles are on 16th Street/Venice Boulevard.  But, if you look on Wilton Place, running in front of the photo and at the left of the current image, there are no poles.  From this, it looks like the home once stood on the northeast corner of Wilton and Venice where there is an empty lot now.  Perhaps the home was on a double lot, because there is a yellow structure on Venice about where the garage looks to have been.

Eclectic architecture certainly has been a part of greater Los Angeles residential and commercial development over the years and this unusual and exuberant Mission Revival home was a notable example.  It’s too bad that it did not survive the ravages of time.  Who knows—perhaps its false front belfrys didn’t survive one of our earthquakes?

UPDATE:  check out a remarkable summary of the history of the building’s original owners at the Historic Los Angeles blog!

2 thoughts

  1. Great house–1554 S Wilton was built in 1907, apparently by Desea Todd, who would be living there with her sister Cathalena/Catalina and the latter’s husband, Charles T. Bell, a car salesman. (Maybe the bells in the parapet were a gesture to them?) It was demolished in 1963.

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment and info–your blog is very interesting and useful about LA history!

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