Established in 1969 in response to the rapid destruction of historic landmarks and neighborhoods, Heritage Square is the place where LA’s threatened historic homes can finally find permanent refuge.
Heritage Square focuses on interpreting the years 1850 to 1950, a century of unprecedented growth in Los Angeles. The eight historic buildings of Heritage Square sit on a 10-acre parcel of parkland adjacent to the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Montecito Heights.
The Hale House is often called “the most photographed house in Los Angeles” due to all the movies, television shows and commercials it’s appeared in. It was built in 1887 by George W. Morgan, a land speculator and real estate developer, at the foot of Mount Washington.
This multi-colored, turreted, upper-middle class house has been called “picturesque eclectic,” and is a mixture of the Queen Anne and Eastlake styles of architecture.
The house was moved to 4425 N. Pasadena Ave. (now Figueroa Street) early in its existence, and bought by motorman James Hale and his new bride Bessie, a farm girl from Nebraska who had been working as a waitress at the Pico House.
The couple separated and Bessie converted the richly ornamented home into a boarding house. Many of the house’s original interior features are still intact, including wainscoting in the foyer that is pressed paper made to look like embossed leather.
The William Hayes Perry residence (also known as Mount Pleasant House) was built in 1876 and is considered by many to be the first proper “mansion” built in Los Angeles.
Perry was a self-made lumberman and a great friend of William Mulholland. He hired Kysor and Matthews, the revered architects of Pico House [near DTLA’s Olvera Street], to build the two-story Greek Revival Italianate at 1315 Mount Pleasant, in the then-fashionable suburb of Boyle Heights.
Opulent touches such as the house’s fine hardwood floors and marble fireplace mantles were meant to reflect the social prominence of its owners. When it was built, it was arguably the finest and most expensive residence yet seen in Los Angeles.
The Palms-Southern Pacific Railroad Depot – Known informally as “The Grasshopper Stop” when it was built by the Southern-Pacific in 1886, the Eastlake-style depot was soon renamed “the Palms” and served as a stop between the city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
The chickens of Heritage Square.
The Museum was established in 1969 by the Cultural Heritage Board. The five-member panel was given the authority to designate Historic-Cultural Monuments in the city of Los Angeles. Surprisingly, given LA’s dismal preservation track record, it was one of the first of its kind in the country, predating New York’s Landmarks Preservation Law by three years.
Architecturally, the Valley Knudsen Garden Residence is a very interesting building. Most middle class homes of the Victorian period were done in varying combinations of the Eastlake or Queen Anne styles. The choice of this Second Empire with a French Mansard styled roof for this working-middle class home was rather unusual for the West coast. The Coral tree that sits in front of the Valley Knudsen Garden Residence is LA’s official tree.
Prior to being moved to Heritage Square, this eleven-room, Second Empire house was located at 1926 Johnston Street in Lincoln Heights.
In February, 1971, the building was dedicated to Mrs Valley Knudsen, who, in 1949, founded the beautification organization Los Angeles Beautiful. Preservation-minded Valley was married to dairy king Thomas Knudsen. After a lifetime of public service, she died on September 10, 1976, at the age of 81.
Amongst all this ornamentation and fuss is the stark but lovely 1893 Longfellow-Hastings Octagon House, one of the two examples of this strange, fad architecture left in the state. Conceived in the 1840s by amateur architect and scientific quack (he was the country’s leading phrenologist) Orson S. Fowler, the octagon house plan enjoyed a brief heyday in the East and Midwest in the years before the Civil War. These eight-sided houses, featuring flat roofs and wraparound verandas, were believed to be healthful and cost efficient, letting in more natural light and cheaper to construct and heat. Their popularity had died out by the 1860s, but one man held firm in his belief in the power of the octagon. That man was Gilbert Longfellow. In 1893, the 68-year-old farmer brought his remaining family from Maine to Pasadena to escape illnesses that had claimed many family members. On the coast of Maine, the family had lived in an octagon house of Longfellow’s construction, and he quickly set about building another with just two carpenters to help. He constructed a three-story house where his family continued to live a simple and frugal life for generations.
The Ford House was built in 1887 as part of a large tract of simple middle-class homes in downtown Los Angeles built by the Beaudry Brothers.
It would be unremarkable today if not for its original owner, John J. Ford, a very prolific and well-known wood carver.
Ford’s works include carvings for the California State Capital, the Iolani Palace in Hawaii, and Leland Stanford’s private railroad car.
The cornerstone of the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church was laid September 21, 1897. The church opened for services on April 17 the following year.
Designed in the Carpenter Gothic and Queen Anne styles, the floor plan follows the Methodist tradition of non-axial plans.
This plan, with the entrance in one corner and the pulpit in the opposite, is known as the Akron style, having originated in Akron, Ohio.
The Colonial Drugstore is a recreation of the original business that George A. Simmons owned and operated in Highland Park (just a mile away from Heritage Square) after World War I. Inside is a collection of over 80,000 items including pharmaceuticals, botanical, and cosmetics, most still in their original packaging. 95% of the items date between 1888 and 1950, and 90% are no longer being made or used making this collection the first of its kind in Southern California.
Heritage Square is a true LA treasure.