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Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1919 (Urban Domestic Architecture Series, Vol. 1) Hardcover – October 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Sam Watters shows L.A.'s architectural history in all its resplendent, unhinged opulence...from the first mogul's Moorish villas, French chateaux and emperor's palaces, to the beginnings of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. --Black Book

Houses of Los Angeles documents many of the great heartbreak homes magnificent architecture and gardens built to blend with extraordinary natural settings, all destroyed by developers, city governments and an assortment of tycoons. --Los Angeles Times

This beautiful double volume is an invaluable addition to the history of residential architecture in America, especially as it includes interior decorating deatails of the period, representative landscaping, and many fascinating architectural details. It is full of ideas for landscape designers, architects and decorators who are interested in how these imposing houses were furnished and how people once lived in them.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Acanthus Press (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0926494309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0926494305
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 9.2 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bradford Caslon on February 20, 2010
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I'm pleased with the book. I was certainly curious to see 368 pages of early L.A. residential architecture, with many in color, the review said.
Nice paper, good quality photos throughout. Color consisted of many duotone photos, and watercolors (with a few postcards). There were 38 homes featured in the book--at least 18 were not in Los Angeles proper, including the Henry Huntington house in San Marino,and nine properties in Pasadena. A nice feature of the book is that it described many of the lush gardens that accompanied the houses, including the Letts mansion in Hollywood (known as Holmby House), Busch Gardens in Pasadena (known as Ivy Wall), and the Bernheimer Mansion (known as Yamashiro) also in Hollywood.
A very nicely written introduction accompanies well-detailed histories of each house, along with good documentation of photo sourcing and reference bibliography. The author did not provide addresses directly, merely street names in most instances, but with internet sleuthing most locations can be ultimately derived. Architect Frederick Roehrig is featured prominently in the book.
One thing I would have liked to have known was just which houses are featured. Here's a quick list:
1. Lewis L. Bradbury, L.A.---------------------19. Villa Madama, Shatto Place
2. Andrew McNally, Altadena------------------20. Edward Taylor, Altadena
3. Centinela, Inglewood-----------------------21. Henry Huntington, San Marino
4. Villa Miramar, Santa Monica---------------22. Russell Taylor, Berkeley Sq.
5. Grace Hill, Pasadena-----------------------23. Elmer Grey, Oak Knoll
6. Thaddesus Lowe, Pasadena-----------------24. Dr. John R. Haynes, L.A.
7. Dr. & Mrs. Adalbert Fenyes, Pasadena-----25. Cordelia Culbertson, Oak Knoll
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William G. Troiano on October 23, 2007
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This set of two volumes is absolutely terrific! The two volumes cover Los Angeles architecture from 1885 until 1935. The photographs and floor plans are extremely interesting. It is wonderful to see how these homes were furnished when they were new. The books give a brief history of each house and tell whether the home is still in existance and its current use. The variety of architecture in Los Angeles was so varied and most certainly a trendsetter for the entire country during those years. These books are a must for all architects, interior designers, local historians and all who are interested in houses.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Deason on October 28, 2007
These books from Acanthus Press are always so elegant and well done and this one is no exception. The images are well crafted, you cant help but appreciate how crisp and clear they are. The text is informative, it's not a scholarly thesis, but then again, that's really not what is called for here, you get enough information to appreciate the house being discussed and get a breif synopsis; perfect. This book along with it's companion volumn is a must have if you have any interest in this genre. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lowell Harris on October 30, 2007
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This two-volume study of historic Los Angeles houses from 1885 to 1935 is brilliant. The writing is excellent - witty and insightful and the historic photos are superb. Highly recommended.
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It is so fun to see what LA looked like a century ago. The pictures are incredible. Most of them are black and white photos from the period of construction. There are also some panoramic shots which are unbelievable as it really gives you a sense of just how underpopulated this now overflowing city once was! The simple and informative text that accompanies them is well researched and on point. I cannot recommend both volumes of this series enough to anyone who has an interest in architecture and/or lives in LA. This book makes an excellent present and is something people will enjoy reading and perusing time and time again.
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