Looking at LA's Eclectic Architecture
BY KATHY A. MCDONALD
Spanish revival. Hollywood regency. Midcentury modern. For over a century, the architects of Shangri-la-la-land have created the hautest potpourri of surreal estate on Earth.
The eight-bedroom, Victorian-style Hiram Higgans mansion, listed for $6.5 million, was designed in 1902 by John C. Austin, whose other commissions include the Shrine Auditorium, Griffith Park Observatory, and LA’s City Hall.
Unlike metropolises such as London, New York, or Paris—where entire neighborhoods conform to a certain architectural aesthetic—LA boasts a dizzying array of home styles, often side by side: some traditional (Craftsman and Victorian), some mod (Midcentury Modern) and several that embody the Southern California dream of indoor/outdoor living (romantic 1920s-built haciendas in the Spanish Colonial Revival style are top of mind).
Overall, however, LA is not a city that embraces its architectural past. “In this town, anything that is older than Annette Bening gets torn down. People don’t like to be reminded of aging,” says Jill Galloway of John Aaroe Group. She’s only half kidding. Wide swaths of the city have been replaced with new construction, and zoning rules offer little protection for neighborhood character (witness the boxy mansionization of the streets mid-city near the Beverly Center). “Historic preservation is an anomaly,” says Galloway, who specializes in the Hollywood Hills and Hancock Park, where 11 different homeowners’ associations and HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone) rules partially protect vintage buildings.“[In Hancock Park and the Hollywood Hills], many of the homes were generational and have been maintained in their original style,” she says of the neighborhood’s bounty of character casas. Galloway points to the architectural integrity, original stained glass, and other handcrafted period details in the 104-year old Craftsman in Windsor Square she has listed for $2.41 million. Because the style is so specific and far from a blank canvas, there is a more limited pool of buyers, Galloway finds....
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