But little do those who “don’t go below the 10” know, that “place down by USC” (which actually extends way West) is an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone district (HPOZ) at the launch of a second coming. One of LA’s oldest neighborhoods, Historic West Adams is a microcosm of cultural history represented by some of the most delicious residential architecture known to the city.
From Victorian to Craftsman, a lot of these architectural styles are big. One tract of mansions in West Adams Heights used to have its own fancy private railroad car. It’s the Hancock Park before Hancock Park, which over the course of four generations had fallen into decay and risen back up again, especially through the lens of Hollywood.
“This neighborhood is a gigantic movie set,” says Alise Barrett, a local artist who, like a lot of artists, moved to West Adams for the cheap rent. What were originally built for the Los Angeles mega elite from 1890 to 1925 have become pop culture exteriors. The most recently iconic is the funeral home from Six Feet Under on Arlington and 25th. Tourists can often be seen pulling over to take their pictures in front of it. LA Weekly spotlighted a couple who are resuscitating another film-famous architectural gem, The Beckett Residence, in its 2015 People issue.
West Adams is in the early stages of gentrification. Thus, it is still affordable and the population remains mixed, class-wise and race-wise. However, this seems to be a fleeting state. “Not too long ago you could buy a historic home here for half the median price of Los Angeles,” says Laura Meyers, an Historic Consultant who sits on the Board of the West Adams Heritage Association, “But now that is not the case; prices are definitely rising.” And with affordability comes a new reality (series).
“A lot of our home renovation shows are happening in West Adams,” says a programming executive at a major network. That means it’s been discovered and the uniqueness won’t last for long, especially now that an Expo Line runs through it. According to CurbedLA (via the LATimes), young home buyers who previously would not have considered living in “the hood” are presently finding this neighborhood to be viable.
“All we need now,” Barrett says, “Is some walkable bars and restaurants. Then this place will be perfect.” Which is apparently next. “We are all waiting on Washington Boulevard to explode,” agrees Alise’s neighbor and fellow artist Alex Loftus. But then she notes, “We don’t necessarily want this place to be discovered and become overwrought with hipsters.”
For more information on architecture tours or general history and preservation, visit WestAdamsHeritage.org
By Clark Harding