Visions of the once and, residents hope, future West Adams community are being offered today and Sunday in the sixth annual Historic Homes Tour of the area.
Paralleling the Santa Monica Freeway from Vermont Avenue west to Crenshaw Boulevard, the area was one of the city's more desirable residential neighborhoods before falling victim to insensitive development, mindless neglect and racial discrimination in the 1950s and '60s.
But in the last decade, scattered, well-appointed, architecturally significant and relatively reasonably priced houses on select blocks there have attracted increasing interest and investment. The result has been an emerging multi-ethnic community that contains some evocative, expanding enclaves of gentility.
On display for the tour are two of the enclaves. One is focused on the more established, sedate Victoria Circle, a palm-lined oval street of substantial residences of mixed styles on deep, wide lots just west of Crenshaw Boulevard and north of Venice Boulevard. The other is a collection of vintage Craftsman-styled chalets on South Bronson Avenue, east of Crenshaw Boulevard and south of Venice Boulevard, and a more modest Craftsman bungalow on South Norton Avenue.
The inclusion in this year's tour of the Bronson Avenue houses is particularly pleasing to the sponsoring West Adams Heritage Assn. The houses last year had been threatened with condemnation and demolition by the Los Angeles Unified School District as part of a plan to expand the nearby Mt. Vernon Junior High School. Vociferous protests by the association and others prompted the school board to abandon the plan for now.
The houses, including 1749, 1759, 1817 and 1823 S. Bronson Ave., all had been built in 1913 and 1914 on speculation, featuring horizontally accented rafters and roof lines, wood shingling, deep front porches and broad front doors that mark the Craftsman style. Extensive woodworking and detailing, exposed beams, decorated tile fireplaces, built-ins and striking stained-glass paneling grace the interiors, all of which are in various states of restoration now that the threat of demolition has subsided.
More eclectic and expansive are the houses on display in Victoria Circle. They include two elegant, capacious Craftsman chalets, at 4311 and 4345 Victoria Park Drive; a Mediterranean-detailed Moderne duplex at 4401-03, and a Modernist-styled house at 4346.
What makes the house at 4346 noteworthy is its decidedly contemporary, horizontally accented construction, dated 1911. The architect (unknown) was obviously influenced by the then-Modernist designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and Irving Gill.
Also featured on the tour is the Sedondo Guasti Villa, at 3500 W. Adams Blvd., an Italian Renaissance-styled structure built in 1913 that hints of the area's heyday as the desired nesting ground of the rich and famous. The villa also is known as the Busby Berkeley estate, after the Hollywood musical director who, for a period in the 1930s, lived there with at least one of his wives. (Berkeley was married six times.)
Tour hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. Tickets--$10 for adults; youths 12 and younger and seniors 65 and older, $7.50--can be purchased until 4 p.m. at the starting point, 1755 S. Bronson Ave., north of Washington Boulevard. Free parking is available in nearby school lots; watch for tour signs. The walk between Bronson Avenue and Victoria Circle enclave is about three blocks, but a shuttle bus will be available for 50 cents per ride.
In conjunction with the tour, the heritage association also will hold an open festival in Victoria Circle, featuring ethnic food stands, arts and crafts booths and entertainment to call attention to the diversity of the broader West Adams community. Information: (213) 730-1414.