Lost & Found: Angelino Heights
December 18, 2019
Learn the story behind an unexpected architectural style in one California micro-neighborhood that has bloomed and withered several times in its century-old life.
Los Angeles is a city whose homes are often architecturally described as Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, Beaux-Arts, or Craftsman.
American Craftsman homes are particularly plentiful, punctuating northeastern neighborhoods like Pasadena, which is home to the famous Gamble House.
What many don’t know, however, is that Los Angeles is the site of some of the grandest Victorian buildings in the United States — you just have to know where to find them. And finding them is tough; they only exist within the tight confines of a few blocks in a micro-neighborhood called Angelino Heights.
Walking along the (four or so) streets around dusk, your steps are illuminated by antique streetlights. Some of the buildings, so unusual in such a young city, feel a tad creepy, with plants growing over the lawn and ivy creeping up the sides, reaching toward little windows, and maybe even touching a turret on top.
In the 1880s, Los Angeles was booming. The hills of what is now known as Echo Park were only minutes away from downtown — if you traveled by the (now-defunct) cable car called the Temple Street Cable Railway. This tiny commute, from an urban design perspective, was the reason William W. Stilson and Everett E. Hall subdivided the land they purchased. They dreamed of an area in which high-income families would be able to live peacefully in the hills while still retaining easy access to the city’s hustle and bustle.
Leading up to Stilson’s death in 1888, 51 gorgeous Victorian homes — mostly in Queen Anne and Eastlake styles — were built. But development soon ground to a halt. The cable car was unreliable, the economy was weak, and banks faltered. The area sat dormant for a couple decades; the glitz faded. But in the late 1910s, Angelino Heights saw revitalization, even if it didn’t last long, as film stars Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford moved in.
As Los Angeles grew, however, residents preferred housing that supported the population boom, mostly in more densely populated areas. This led to the development of many other high-income neighborhoods, which would draw stars away from the Heights.
By the 1970s, after years of neglect, the area was recognized as historic, and a new revitalization effort gained ground. People began restoring the micro-neighborhood’s Victorian homes, and in 1983 Angelino Heights was listed as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.
If you’re a “Mad Men" fan, and you find yourself exploring these Victorian-era L.A. streets, you may recognize 1355 Carroll Avenue as Don Draper’s childhood home (though on the show, it’s meant to be in Illinois and not California).
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Photo courtesy of Flickr.