I moved to Los Angeles about three and a half years ago and have found a lot to love about this city, which I think has become second to only New York as the most interesting and cosmopolitan city in the country. And it’s a whole lot weirder. Here, in an irregular ongoing series, I touch on some awesome, weird and awesomely weird landmarks of the city.
Yesterday I stumbled upon Carroll Avenue in the Angelino Heights neighborhood of Echo Park. I’d heard about it, but I’d never been.
Now I’m no stranger to Victorian Houses, having spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco and Oakland, and my humble hometown of Pleasanton has a row of well-preserved Victorians in its small downtown district. But the houses of Carroll Avenue, well….
What’s remarkable, is that these houses are impeccably preserved on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of either Downtown or the Westside, located in a neighborhood that until recently was very rundown. The weird, manic pioneering spirit that must have existed in those first (presumably gay) homeowners who refurbished and preserved these landmarks of fairy tale-gingerbread-infected trench foot fever dream architecture in the face of crumbling infrastructure, 1970’s and 1980’s crime waves and the constant pressure to replace these houses with multifamily dwellings is one of many things I find inspired and unique about Los Angeles, especially Los Angeles east of Western Avenue.
It would have been very easy to let these houses be hacked up into four or five flats, yards repaved as parking lots and cupolas turned into bedrooms. It would been even easier for owners to sell to developers to throw up apartment buildings. But they didn’t. And while that motive for preservation is not unique to Los Angeles, the fact that this preservation occurred in a once-blighted neighborhood while similar historic districts like Old Oakland collapsed into disrepair, is remarkable and a testament to the motivation to carve out creative spaces that are beautiful and inspiring even in the darker corners of the city.