The ever-booming real estate market in Northeast Los Angeles has renewed interest and focus on the many different types of classic Victorian homes in various NELA communities. As older neighborhoods such as Angileno Heights, Montecito Heights and Lincoln Heights experience gentrification, owners of these homes are selling to homebuyers who desire to restore the Victorians to their original beauty.
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Victorian-style homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock have also been selling fast as have homes in Echo Park, one of LA’s first suburbs. But how did these old-style homes associated with Europe end up becoming a fixture of old-world Los Angeles?
The impressive Classic Victorian home was birthed in 19th century England during their Industrial Revolution under the reign of Queen Victoria. Simultaneously, Northeast Los Angeles was breaking ground as the communities of Eagle Rock, Mount Washington and Highland Park were first settled. In desperate need of reliable housing, the American settlers looked to their Motherland for architectural guidance. In the 1890s, Victorian homes began to decorate the landscape of Northeast Los Angeles.
Victorian homes successfully capture the Old World with their unique, colorful, picturesque, “doll house” resemblance. These large homes are decorated with many smaller rooms. A typical Victorian has a living room, a den, a dining room, kitchen, laundry room, entry foyer and typical 2-3 bedrooms and bathrooms. In many classic Victorians the ceilings have hand painted designs and the landscape has large lush trees with mature plants and shrubs.
As Northeast Los Angeles grew in tandem with the megalopolis that is Los Angeles, more homes and business districts developed and the culture was all blended together in modernity. Once the 1960’s rolled around, Victorian homes were being demolished at an unmanageable rate to keep up with Los Angeles’ brisk urban expansion.
The Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument program was established in 1961. They tried to save the Victorians, but they were only able to evaluate the properties and register them. They had no power to protect them. Eight years later in 1969, a group of citizens responded to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission’s call for help and developed the Cultural Heritage Foundation to oppose the destruction.
This Foundation created the Heritage Museum Square as a safe haven for historically and architecturally significant buildings that were set to be demolished. This is an outside, architecture museum that sits beside the Arroyo Seco Parkway. It shows the development and history of Southern California architecture. The Heritage Museum Square is currently home to several Victorian homes including the most photographed home in Los Angeles, the multi-colored Hale House. These Victorians have historic furnishings and paintings on display.
Heritage Square started a wildfire among community activists in the journey of the historic preservation movement. Over the next couple decades preservation continued and more activists came on board. Charles J. Fisher is a historian who was raised in Mount Washington and founded the Highland Park Heritage Trust. This Trust was meant to save historic Victorians in Highland Park from being torn down and replaced by cheap apartment buildings. His Trust was a success and in 1994 he obtained a Historic-Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) for most of Highland Park. A HPOZ is recognized by the City Planning Commission and the City Council as having historic significance and is protected under the Los Angeles Municipal Code. Each HPOZ is supplied with a five member Board who focus on historic preservation within the specific area.
Because of the serious preservation practices over the last 50 years, the Victorian Homes of Northeast Los Angeles have maintained their beauty and grace. In the more recent real estate boom, people have discovered these treasures and have moved into them to fix them up. These homes are more affordable than similar homes in West LA and many of them have great views of the Downtown LA skyline. Classic Victorians are even used in Film and Television including Charmed and Michael Jackson’s hit music video, “Thriller”.
Purchasing one of these old Victorian homes in these great older neighborhoods in NELA can be a tricky affair, as can the sale of these homes. A real estate agent who specializes in buying and selling these types of homes will know the right appraisers and inspectors so that the transaction can go smoothly.