Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What´s the oldest building in Los Angeles?

Los Sanchez Adobe. Picture by Robert Greene, 2012

I was convinced that the oldest building in Los Angeles was the brick restaurant at the Plaza Olvera (La Placita) but here´s my mistake: I forgot to include the adobe buildings. As far as I remember, the restaurant at La Placita is the first brick building in L. A.
The Editorial´s article at L.A Times, gives us a couple of possible examples, but the surprise is that the oldest building is this one in the picture above, Los Sanchez Adobe. Let´s read an excerpt:

Olvera st. market. Picture by David Moore, 2005

The answer — the possible answer, anyway — is surprising. The oldest building just may be a somewhat down-at-the-heels, nondescript, asphalt-shrouded place in the Baldwin Hills, until recently the site of raucous late-night parties and complaints from neighbors in adjacent upscale homes and towering condos. It's no secret that this house in "The Dons" — as the area is called because of street names like Don Mariano, Don Luis and Don Tomaso — is old. It was already old when it became a golf course clubhouse in the 1920s, and older still when it became the headquarters of the Consolidated Board of Realtists, an organization of black real estate professionals who helped African American Angelenos buy and finance homes as restrictive covenants were being challenged in court. Los Angeles gave it a nod — but not much notice — in 1990, when the building, known as the Sanchez Adobe at 3725 Don Felipe Drive, was added to the list of Historic-Cultural Monuments as the last remaining piece of Rancho La Cienega o Paso de la Tijera. 
The oldest part of the structure may have been built in the early 1790s, making it older than Avila Adobe, maybe older than Mission San Gabriel, older even, perhaps, than the 1795 Gage Mansion in Bell Gardens, currently considered the oldest structure in Los Angeles County. Like Mission San Fernando, the Sanchez Adobe wasn't previously part of Los Angeles but it's an integral part of it now, and was perhaps great-great-great-grandfathered in as the city's oldest building amid growth and annexation. The Realtists long ago wanted to tear the building down as an eyesore, but in recent years they have learned much about its history and are keen to get it some notice and some love. 
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has upped interest in his district's rich architectural heritage, from the Village Green to the William Andrews Clark Library, from Watts Towers toRandy's Donuts, from Wilshire Boulevard Temple to the Dunbar Hotel; now he's spearheading an effort to study, and ultimately to restore and celebrate, the Sanchez Adobe. As Los Angeles celebrates its 231st, it's useful to remember that walking from Mission San Gabriel to the new El Pueblo and visiting the Avila Adobe, La Placita Church and the other historic buildings is one good way — but only one — to come home. Los Angeles' roots, though sometimes mysterious, run deep, through the San Fernando Valley, through downtown, through Baldwin Hills. The city that so often seems to lose itself somehow has a knack for finding itself again.

Published September 4th, 2012

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