cover image Houses of Los Angeles Volume I: 1885–1919 and Volume II: 1920–1935

Houses of Los Angeles Volume I: 1885–1919 and Volume II: 1920–1935

Sam Watters, . . Acanthus, $85 (392pp) ISBN 978-0-926494-31-2

These two volumes in Acanthus's Urban Domestic Architecture series cover a 50-year period that saw a thousand-fold increase in population in an area whose architecture, according to Watters, reflected a “city in search of a past to inform its future.” In 1885, Charles Lummis walked from Cincinnati to Los Angles with a conviction that the purity of California's Spanish past should pave the way for architectural development. But the few Mission Revival projects he sponsored were soon overwhelmed by homes built in developments for the very wealthy, who favored adaptations of the types of homes they had left behind in the East or the Midwest. There were Queen Anne and colonial revival mansions and English country estates, with the occasional medieval castle or Moorish palace. Watters cites Elmer Grey, one of the more thoughtful and intellectual of the architects, who wrote in 1916 that California's “peculiar province is... to harmonize the styles of other climes, and her own distinctive style to consist of beautifully welded hybrids.” In Volume II, Watters shows that by the 1920s a Mediterranean revival style, sensitive to the climate and terrain, dominated the field. Each volume contains an introduction to the changing social situation from a time when oil wells were pumping in Beverly Hills until Hollywood and aeronautics helped the city weather the Depression. In all, Watters, who teaches at USC's architecture school, discusses 80 homes, illustrated with 400 color (not seen by PW ) and black-and-white archival photographs and floor plans, a valuable record of houses now mostly lost to later development. Short biographical profiles of the architects provide helpful information on the many unfamiliar names. (Oct.)