Most houses in our neighborhood have had a few owners since they were built in that ambitious age of the 1920s when Windsor Square, Hancock Park and environs came to be. Some houses have been handed down through families, and some have had a few more owners than others.
The house that I lived in at 144 N. Norton had six previous owners when I purchased it in 1988. Corner properties are sometimes more transient than others depending upon the location. For instance, the northwest corner of Third St. and Wilton Pl. has had many owners and was an eyesore for years until property values increased and a preservation-conscious couple purchased it. They restored it and continue to think of ways to drown out the busy rush hour traffic outside.
The house at 555 S. Irving Blvd. has had a whopping 19 owners prior to the current occupants. Located on the northwest corner of Sixth St. and Irving, just across from the mayoral Getty House, the large brick Tudor has a slate roof. It has six bedrooms and six bathrooms, a butler’s pantry, back staircase, screened porch, crown moldings, fireplaces in both dining room and living room and is on a large stately lot.
This home has had an interesting selection of people occupying it since it was first built by Harry Belden in 1924. The list of names attached to the property reflects the evolution of our neighborhood as it does the cultural melting pot of our nation. Because of space constraints, we will focus on only a few owners.
Belden was a contractor who built many homes around Los Angeles. According to the periodical “Domestic Engineering-The Plumbing and Heating Weekly,” February 11, 1922, “Harry H. Belden has purchased 12 lots on Lorraine Boulevard between 2nd and 3rd Streets, and will erect residences on each lot costing from $25,000 to $30,000 each.”
Shatto and Catalina Island
From the Beldens, the property moved into the hands of an icon of early Los Angeles real estate development history. Clara Shatto was a widow for many years when she purchased the Irving property in 1927. She and her husband, George Rufus Shatto, moved west to California during the 1880s land boom.
Among other things, George thought it would be a great idea to buy a worthless piece of land offshore. Purchased for between $150,000 and $200,000, Shatto briefly owned Santa Catalina Island. He developed the town of Avalon there.
Clara and George had one child, Walter, who sadly died eight months after birth. The ambitious George was killed at the age of 42 in a freight train accident in 1893.
Clara Shatto later donated 32 acres of land along Wilshire Blvd. to the city of Los Angeles. Today, that land is Lafayette Park. She is buried at Rosedale Cemetery in the large, private Shatto Mausoleum that is shaped like a pyramid.
Seventeen more owners
Clara Shatto only lived at the Irving house a short time before selling it to Cyrus and Amelia Boon (1928-1930). From them, the chain of title is: Charles and Sadie Andrews (1930-1937), Fred Andrews (April 1937 – June 1937), back to Charles and Sadie Andrews (1937-1943), Ruby L. Baker (1943-1972), Lucille C. Bolin (1972-1978), Fred and Nevelyn Ervin (1978), Don O. Pettie (1978-1979), Nagi and Maureen Murad (1979-1990), Jun Li Kang (1990-1991), Michelle Kim (1991-1992), Andrea H. Im (1992-1993), Kyung Mun and Ok Sun Kim (1993-1995), Jun Il Kang (1995-1996), Coast Federal Bank (1996), Richard Ahn and Erica Kim (1996-1999), Erica Kim (1999-2003), Caroline Labiner Moser and Dr. Franklin G. Moser.
Dr. Moser is the director of clinical and interventional neuroradiology at Cedars-Sinai, and his wife is an architect. She serves on the Park Mile Design Review Board, the Windsor Square and Harvard Heights HPOZ Boards and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and Bel Air – Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council land use committees. She is a board member of the Windsor Square Association and of the Natural History Museum. Their two grown daughters graduated from Marlborough School and Cornell University.
In moving to 555 S. Irving, Caroline had to undo some of the inappropriate additions from years of different ownership. She did so with skill and taste.
It is wonderful to have this historic house back in the hands of people who intend to be there a long time, maybe as long as Ruby Baker, who enjoyed the house for nearly 30 of its nearly 100 years.
by Richard Battaglia
Richard Battaglia is in the fashion business and has lived in Windsor Square and Larchmont Village. He currently is a resident of Elysian Heights. He co-founded the preservation committee that led to the HPOZ for Windsor Square. The Chronicle is reintroducing his Preservation Notebook column that previously ran for several years. Readers with preservation story suggestions may contact him at email@example.com or cell number 323-422-7886.
Category: Real Estate