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A Slice of Glendale History : The Doctors' House--sold to its first owner for $1,500--is a stately Victorian that's now open for tours.

June 12, 1992|SUSAN VAUGHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Susan Vaughn writes regularly for The Times about architecture and design

During the 1880s, Glendale was a hamlet of 300 residents, and its unpaved streets were dotted with elegant, colorful Victorian houses. The "Doctors' House" in Brand Park is one of the last of these dwellings in Glendale.

Built by real estate developer E. T. Byram in 1890, the house was considered one of the most fashionable Queen Anne/Eastlake-style homes in its district. Originally at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Belmont Street, it was moved to its current site in Brand Park in 1980.

Developer Byram sold the property to its initial owner for $1,500 cash. Five years later, the first of a succession of four doctors purchased the house, earning it its nickname.

The house is constructed of redwood, and painted several subtle shades of gray, as was common at the time. It has three Moongate-arch porches and is surrounded by verdant flower gardens. Volunteer docents in 19th-Century garb await visitors outside the home. Guided tours are provided.

Inside is a pristine Victorian parlor, featuring turn-of-the-century amenities, such as a plush divan, gaslit chandelier, sundry musical instruments and gadgets of the day, including an Edison Home Phonograph and a stereoscope for viewing three-dimensional photographs. The nearby dining room is formally arranged for family suppers; its walls contain a frieze pattern derived from Teddy Roosevelt's house, Sagamore Hill on Long Island.

Behind the parlor is the Doctor's Office, a small sterile room featuring medical accouterments of the day: a wooden examination table, apothecary jars, an eye chart, and such grisly fare as steel needles, bone saws and cadaver hooks. A Sears Roebuck Eastlake horsehair satin chair "guaranteed to last 100 years" is positioned beside a large Wooten Patent desk containing 103 compartments, where the conscientious physician might write his prescriptions or pay his bills. The Wooten desk was a status symbol of the time; both President Ulysses Grant and Queen Victoria owned one.

The house's kitchen is an expansive, brightly lighted room dominated by a behemoth Imperial Clarion stove. On the kitchen's south wall is a tidy, a mirrored decoration once filled with hairpins and combs used by 19th-Century women for emergency touch-ups when company visited unannounced.

Upstairs in the attic is the low-ceilinged children's bedroom and playroom, a sewing area, and a bathroom featuring a Tennessee-marble wash basin, oak water closet and a modern-looking splatter-paint floor.

In 1980, the Doctors' House was saved from the wreckers' ball by a group of Glendale citizens who soon became the Glendale Historical Society. To be moved from its Wilson Street location, the Victorian home was cut in half and transported by truck to Brand Park. There, volunteers contributed more than 18,000 hours of labor, research, and fund raising to restore the home to its current rakish condition.

Plumbing and electrical work were donated. Many longtime Glendale residents donated antiques from the era to add to the house's charm. Wallpaper was custom-replicated by a New York City fabric restoration company from pre-1900 fragments surviving in remote, protected areas; paint was analyzed and computer-matched.

WHERE AND WHEN

Location: Doctors' House, 1601 W. Mountain St., Brand Park.

Hours: 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Admission: Free.

Call: (818) 242-7447.

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