Qualified Condition

August 12, 2008

Why Don’t We Name Things After the Marquis Anymore?

Filed under: Building Plays Well With Others, Great Places in Greater LA — qualifiedcondition @ 9:07 pm

    

Have you ever been to La Fayette Square?  It’s a small neighborhood with about 250 houses in the Mid-City part of town (near Washington and Crenshaw).  The neighborhood was subdivided by turn-of-the-century rich guy George Crenshaw and was intended to be an enclave of well-to-do people with their fancy motor cars who would enjoy living in what was then the outskirts of town.  The first homes in the area adopted the Mission Revival and Craftsman styles that were popular in the 1910’s, though as development continued through the 1920’s and 1930’s styles like Mediterranean Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival and Let’s Copy More Stuff From Old Europe Revival made their presence known.  The big stately houses, tree lined streets and grassy medians are probably reason enough to stop by for a walk sometime.
To me though, the neighborhood’s socio-political importance in the City of LA is far more interesting than its fancy houses.  In the 1950’s, after the City’s racially restrictive laws were scrapped (people of color were not allowed to live west of Western more or less) this neighborhood became home to a growing population of upwardly mobile African Americans.  Entertainers such as Fatty Arbuckle and Little Richard bought homes as did renowned architect Paul Williams.  By the 1960’s the neighborhood was predominantly African American and a symbol of pride and success in the black community in Los Angeles.  During this time remaining lots were developed with contemporary style homes (two designed by Williams) which combine the massing and arrangement of their Period Revival brethren with materials and details that are decidedly from the jet age.
These days the neighborhood is more or less racially mixed and if you ever have the chance to walk up and down any of the street you will notice a sense of community and neighborliness that does not exist nearly often enough in this City.

    

“The value of a home is measured by its neighborhood–don’t you feel proud when you drive through a well-kept neighborhood and see well-dressed members of a minority race stepping out of each front door?  Someone must lead–nothing just happens.  Great publicity to do a before-and-after story.  Do a block at a time.  Give prize for best house or yard and one for the worst looking.” -Autobiograpical notes from architect Paul Williams found in “Paul R. Williams Architect, A Legacy of Style by Karen E. Hudson.

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6 Comments »

  1. Fatty Arbuckle was white actor, banned from the studios following a notorious rape trial (he was acquitted). He fell out of favor in Hollywood before the advent of Talking Pictures, so his legacy in the area would be long before the end of segregation.

    Beautiful pictures. I like the quotation from Williams, “someone must lead — nothing just happens.”

    Comment by Brother Chris — August 12, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

  2. I’m a trifle deaf in my left ear, speak a little louder next time.

    Comment by qualifiedcondition — August 12, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  3. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by AlexM — August 16, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  4. Fatty Arbuckle also died in 1933. But a lot of the early film people lived in neighborhoods such as this and Westlake, West Adams, Hancock Park etc. before Hollywood and then Beverly Hills became the places to live.

    Comment by brady westwater — August 27, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  5. Thanks you for posting the snap of the Paul Williams house in Layfayette square. I was searching high and low to find a good picture of it. It strikes me that the house is somewhat drab as compared with some of the more visually stunning houses in the neighborhood. I wonder what it says about Paul William’s personality

    Comment by James Colin Campbell — October 25, 2011 @ 6:36 am

    • I’m glad this was helpful, I haven’t tended to this blog for years; I kinda forgot it was out there! I have to disagree on the “drab” comment though. The neighborhood is filled with Period Revival houses, which are certainly fancy and wonderful in their own right, but not all that interesting from an architectural standpoint. Basically, they’re romanticized copies of buildings from Europe. If you’ve seen one Italian Renaissance Revival house, you’ve kinda seen them all. Williams actually made a name for himself designing such houses throughout LA. I think that it speaks volumes that he chose the International Style–something cutting edge and unique–for his own home in La Fayette Square. Think of his later work (including that crazy Theme Building at LAX) and this fits into the cannon nicely. Also, the insertion of these funky modern houses into the neighborhood is a physical reminder of a significant cultural event (the upward mobility of African Americans) that is not to be overlooked.

      Comment by qualifiedcondition — October 26, 2011 @ 3:40 am


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