Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Piece Of Downtown's Past In Echo Park!

I can ususally date most pre-WWII houses within ten - and often - five years of their construction dates. But I was puzzled when I showed a newly listed house on Echo Park's Scott Avenue to a client some 20 years ago. The house was surrounded by a perfect example of an early Craftsman-style porch - which I guessed to be about 1910, which I told my client while we waited for the listing agent. And I said the chimney was also clearly of that date.

But the rest of the house, to my surprise, was just as clearly Victorian and not late, 1890's Victorian either, but hard-core 1880's style Victorian. I mentioned this conundrum to the listing agent and suggested that the house might been moved to this site around 1910 and that a new porch and a new chimney was added at that time.

The reason I bring this up is because I happened across the Echo Park Historical Society website today...

Researching My Home
1450 Scott Avenue
By Matthew Dubois
Finding your home's past takes a lot of work and patience. Like a detective, you have follow up leads and have to let ideas germinate.
After buying the home, I listened to what the sellers and their real estate agent told me: the house had been moved in 1913 and built in downtown Los Angeles in 1886. But they had no proof.
The Paper Chase
I started at the City of Los Angeles Building & Safety Department but only got a few permits back to 1932, most of them listed under the name Chatard.
Then, I headed to the History section of the Los Angeles Central Library and looked up the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. The maps took me back more than a decade and proved the house had been in its location since around World War I . But the house was no where to be found in a 1912 map.
I then looked through the City Directories, which contain resident names, addresses and other information, in the Los Angeles Central Library’s History section. According to the directories, the Chatards had lived at 1450 Scott Ave. since 1913.
Hot on the Trail
A neighbor told me about a former Echo Park real estate agent, Steve Scott, who connected me with Millie Shaw, who owned my home in the 1980s. She described what the house looked like and the changes that she and her husband made.
Millie also sent me a picture of the house from 1980. She knew of the Chatards and providing me some interesting stories about the house and its setting, like tales of money being found behind wainscoting and of jewels being buried nearby.
I also searched the Chatard name on the Internet and, along with other information I had gathered, was able to put together a small family tree. A search in for a Chatard in the Los Angeles area found one and a phone number in Glendale.
I gave them a call. Joyce Chatard answered the phone. Yes, she knew of 1450 Scott Avenue. It was the home of her grandmother, Julia Chatard. Julia lived in the house from 1913 until she died in 1958. Joyce sent me pictures of the house, one from 1915!
This was great information. But I still needed to find evidence proving that the house was moved to it current location from downtown

House on the Move
Back at the Los Angeles Central Library, I searched for construction industry periodicals from 1913 and found Los Angeles Builder & Contractor in the Science and Technology Department This magazine had a summary of building moves. One building move dated October, 9 1913 showed a house was moved from 1112 Towne Avenue in downtown Los Angeles to 1450 Scot Avenue. The name Julia Chatard was included in the notice.
This bit of information helped proved that my housed had been moved to its current location from Towne Avenue. A check with the Sanborn maps showed a building footprint on Towne Avenue exactly like the current one on Scott Avenue.
Back at the Building & Safety department, I discovered that my house had actually been moved twice! I found a permit dated July, 7 1905 of a house being moved from 718 E. 5th Street to 1112 Towne Avenue. In the property records of the Los Angeles County Assessor, the first person listed living in the house when it was on 5th Street was an Esther Dye, a magnetic healer in 1900.
After taking another look in the City Directories, I was able to determine that the house had been in existence since the early 1890s, serving as a residence for Esther Clark on 5th Street.
Then, after being moved to Towne Street, it briefly served a restaurant operated by a John Karrle and then served as a residence for the Osgood family. It was converted into a duplex before being moved to Scott Avenue. The house stayed a duplex until 1978, when it reverted to a single family dwelling.
The most rewarding part of doing this research is that I am living in a piece of history. It is not just a building but a living reminder of the all the people who came before me and will come after me; this I call home.

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