‘Boulevard Heights’ on Bronson nominated for National Register

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

“IT’S A GEM, Robby O’Donnell says of this Craftsman house which retains much of its historic character.

When Robby O’Donnell took an evening stroll around her home on Bronson Ave., she was amazed to see the “phenomenal” early 20th-century homes that lined the street.

Years of neglect had taken their toll on the Craftsman and Mediterranean, Colonial and Tudor Revival style houses.

But as of late, new owners were returning them to their former glory on two blocks, between Ninth St. and Wilshire Blvd. The area is being nominated as the Boulevard Heights Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.

The State Historical Resources Commission will consider the nomination at a meeting Fri., Aug. 3 at Beverly Hills City Hall.

Gaining the status is akin to “getting a gold star on your collar. It’s an honor,” said O’Donnell.

If approved, 658-899 S. Bronson will join the Fox Wilshire Theatre, the RMS Queen Mary and more than 80,000 sites listed on the National Register.

Much of the work garnering the nomination was already in place since residents had collected archival photographs, researched architects and styles and raised funds to hire a vetting firm to obtain the Wilshire Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone in 2007. The city ordinance is the strongest planning tool to protect historic areas, O’Donnell said.

The national recognition is more of an honor, yet requires a tougher, almost legal case to pass.

And it required $2,500 to pay for the additional review.

In an effort to inspire Windsor Square, Hancock Park and other neighbors to follow suit, O’Donnell applied for and got a grant from the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council to cover half the costs—$1,250. Residents of the two dedicated blocks donated the rest.

Jennifer Trotoux at the Architectural Resource Group polished O’Donnell’s research, and state historian Amy Crain, of the California State Office of Historic Preservation, reviewed the material and forwarded it for nomination.

The homes were commissioned between 1908 to 1926 by the upper-middle class who hired prominent architects to build houses for their extended families. The residents were leaving the booming downtown commercial district, but wanted to live near downtown offices and close to transportation and services.

“Boulevard Heights was the ‘new West Adams,’ and Wilshire was a ‘residential boulevard’ which met these needs,” said O’Donnell.

Mansions owned by the oil-rich Gettys, Harrison Grey Otis, publisher of the L.A. Times and others were on Millionaires Row a half-mile towards downtown on Wilshire.

Lawyers, stock brokers, car salesman and other professionals lived in Boulevard Heights, which originally ran to Pico Blvd. The ladies of the homes were members of The Ebell and had teas and weddings, often featured in the society pages.

The homes had to be two stories and cost at least $3,000, ensuring the area would remain upscale. A majority retain historic and architectural features.

CRAFTSMAN photographed in 1915. Courtesy of L.A. Library

Subdivided in 1905

The tract was subdivided in 1905 by developers Robert McGarvin and Marcus Bronson, the street’s namesake.

McGarvin was a city insider who knew the dusty wasteland was a good investment, as annexation to the city of L.A. was on the horizon (in 1909).

“It was kind of a win-win,” O’Donnell said. Homeowners got city services; the city gained a larger tax base and political clout. McGarvin also knew an aqueduct from Owens Valley would soon bring water to the thirsty, rapidly developing region, O’Donnell added.




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Category: Real Estate

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