This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Holiday Historic Homes Tour and Progressive Dinner, a fundraiser for the West Adams Heritage Association in Los Angeles. It’s a once a year opportunity to wine and dine in some of the unique residences gracing one of L.A.’s most historic areas. This year the focus was on Lafayette Square, once home to Little Richard, Joe Louis, the “mistress” of Ray Charles (shhhh, don’t tell), Fatty Arbuckle, architect Paul R. Williams, et al.
Lafayette Square, like other communities in the West Adams District, is designated as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), which is intended to protect the integrity of these beautiful homes, saving them from the wrecking ball.
John Patterson, the association’s current president, says each year the organization choose six different homes to feature from the several thousand in the West Adams district. The tour, which goes on for two days, attracts about five hundred people. They’re assembled into groups of thirty to fifty with a guide who leads them on the tour of each home where they sample each delicious course while wandering from room to room, admiring the period architecture and furnishings.
Those on the tour signed in and were greeted at The Crenshaw residence, a 1912 Arts and Crafts Mansion, the first residence erected in Lafayette Square. The interior retains its original details including lavish mahogany, oak and maple woodwork influenced by Greene and Greene.
Appetizers were served in the 1953 Taylor residence, now owned by Taylor’s granddaughter, Lauren. The asymmetrical, geometric Paul R. Williams design features a two-story glass wall, a floating staircase, and cork and linoleum floors. I loved the attention to ‘50s décor!
Salad was served in a 1921 Craftsman, once owned by William Traster, who ran the Borax Company’s power plants in the 1890s. This residence has many characteristics of the Arts and Crafts style, including the Batchelder tile fireplace and strong horizontal lines.
A delicious winter squash and fennel soup was sipped in the 1924 Orton residence, a Mediterranean Revival villa, built for the head of the Canadian Industrial Alcohol Corporation, which owns Beefeater, Canadian Club and Hennessy. It features an imposing front door and triple-arched French doors opening onto the entry terrace, a latticework balcony on the second story, and intricate tile work.
A sit down Chicken Cacciatore dinner was served in the 1925 McGinley residence, another Paul R. Williams’ creation. Back in the day, this Regency Revival mansion often welcomed members of the Kennedy family. In fact it was noted that Robert Kennedy spent his last night here with his godfather, Walter McGinley, before heading to the Ambassador Hotel the next day.
The final home on this year’s tour was the 1928 Clemson residence, a Spanish Colonial Revival, designed by Meyer Radon. The style is marked by low-pitched clay tile roofs, terracotta and cast concrete ornaments, small porches or balconies, arcades and arched windows. Inside are rustic built-in cabinetry and a 20-foot high beamed ceiling.
Everyone working the tour is a volunteer, each a member of the West Adams Heritage Association. John Patterson said this year they had about a hundred and twenty five volunteers showing the homes and preparing the food, kids included. Interestingly enough, many of those taking the tour are from the neighborhood and have been attending these events for years.
Other WAHA events coming up in 2012 include:
Art in Historic Places: Artists of West Adams, the Spring Historic Homes Tour and the Living History Tour at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery. You can get all the information on their website: www.westadamsheritage.org