Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Saving a Historic Hollywood Home, Thanks to Alice Harrod

Mission Revival House at 6831 De Longpre Avenue
The home at 6831 De Longpre Ave., via Google Street View, as shown in 2014.

Historic buildings tell as much about people and their eras as they do about architecture and usage. Preserving the actual structure celebrates the past and honors those who inhabited or worked in the building. Historic preservation can entail restoring and preserving in place, maintaining its original use or adapting it for new purposes, or by moving a structure.  Alice A. Harrod preserved what is now 6831 De Longpre Ave. by moving it a few blocks from its original Highland Avenue address, keeping its story alive.

Born March 18, 1858, as Alice Dixon, Harrod grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, with her family, loyal to her church and community. In 1877, she married fellow Waterloo resident Shelton R. Harrod and gave birth to three daughters. Along the way she became a nurse, serving homebound patients. Shelton Harrod raised and purchased horses as well as property, serving one term as tax assessor for their city. He died of cancer in 1893 in Illinois.

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1901
A drawing of the home in the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 1901.

To help support herself and her daughters, Harrod bought and sold property, using the 150 acres inherited from her husband. In 1903, oldest daughter, Enid, married another Waterloo resident, architect Arthur R. Kelly, and they moved to Hollywood for Kelly to pursue his dreams. Kelly first joined the Greene and Greene Brothers office before setting up his own architectural firm, designing churches, schools, and upscale residences. He eventually designed such structures as the original Hollywood Woman’s Club, Hollywood’s Hotel Christie, William S. Hart’s Santa Clarita home, and probably his most recognized structure, what is now the Playboy Mansion, originally the home of Arthur Letts.

Harrod suffered from health issues in the early 1900s. She experienced appendicitis in 1905, undergoing surgery, and while visiting her daughter in Hollywood in 1906, came near death before removal of part of her large intestine. Though Harrod returned to Waterloo, by 1914 she returned to Hollywood and lived with Kelly and his wife at 5346 Franklin Ave. for a few years while her youngest daughter attended the University of California at Berkeley. Harrod moved to 1746 Orange Drive by 1917 before eventually moving to 6833 De Longre Ave in 1920. She also served as one of First Baptist Church of Hollywood’s charter members.

1606 Highland Avenue via Google Street View. The building has been demolished

1606 Highland Avenue, via Google Street View. The building was demolished to make way for an apartment building.

In 1923, Harrod purchased 1606 Highland Ave. which contained a Mission-style home on the property, in an area growing increasingly commercial. Recognizing the home’s beauty and perhaps recognizing a chance to preserve the environment, she moved the home to 6831 De Longpre Ave., adjacent to her own small, simple bungalow at 6833 De Longpre. Her son-in-law Kelly helped create a new foundation for the residence.

Moving homes and businesses was quite common at the time; the 1883 Los Angeles City Directory lists one home mover, and the 1923 City Directory lists 10 in their house movers section. Many people purchased lots and hired companies to move their homes via large wagons or a truck and trailer. Very large homes were often cut into two to three pieces and reassembled once they arrived at the new location. While not considered at the time, moving a home was the most green option, in that it required no new wood or other items for construction and nothing was tossed away.

Although certain documents claim a c. 1910 construction date for 1606 Highland Ave., research shows that the home was actually built in late December 1901 by architect William J. Bliesner as his own residence. Vintage records for the period do not exist, so it is not known what the original address would have been prior to the 1910 Hollywood annexation. The December 15, 1901, Los Angeles Evening Citizen News stated: “The first floor will contain a large reception hall, family room, den, dining-room and kitchen. On the second floor there will be four large bed chambers and bathrooms. The building will be lighted by electricity and supplied with modern conveniences generally…when finished, it will be another specimen of the adaptability of Mission architecture to comfortable family mansions.” Bliesner would own or reside in the home for almost 13 years.

Mission Revival architecture arose in California in the late 19th century and found inspiration in the design of the Spanish missions throughout California, mimicking the look of old missions with thick, unadorned stucco walls, bell towers, decorative Mission-shaped roof parapets, and red clay tile roofs, with deep door openings and windows. The Bliesner home features parapets, stucco walls, clay tile roof, and a deep door opening typical of Mission style.

Many residents called 1606 Highland Ave. home over the next two decades, perhaps because of its location on one of Hollywood’s busiest streets. In 1912, Hollywood Citizen society editor Mabel Lewis resided at the home with her family while Bliesner occupied a separate location. The architect returned to living in the home in 1913 and 1914. City directories show Good Fellows Grotto Cafe owner George Arnerich and family living here in 1916 before S.F. Max Puett resided in the property in 1917. By 1920, Dr. Joseph Robert Shuman and his family lived at the address, moving later that year. Harrod appears to have purchased the property in 1923 in order to take advantage of the growing commercial nature of the street.

Harrod hired her son-in-law Kelly to design a $26,000 brick, two-story, 13-room building to replace the home. It would act as the 1920s version of a mini-mall, with two-room offices for various companies. The structure was named the U.P.D. Building because United Producers and Distributors occupied most of it when completed. Exhibitor’s Trade Review also established an early office there. In 1924 and 1925, Screen Library Service occupied various rooms in its capacity as a motion picture casting company servicing studios not through casting directories filled with photos but via actual film to watch. The Persian Tea Garden Cafe, Wood Realty, and Jim’s Beauty Parlor also operated at the location through the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Hollywood Fashion Center School employed the building as their office. In the late 1930s the Farnlund Drum and Marimba School operated out of the complex.

By the 1940s, the building had offices for businesses such as publishing, security, bookkeeping and doctors. By the early-mid 2010s, new owners demolished the building. An apartment building recently finished construction on the site.

Correction: A previous version of this post said Harrod was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park. Her service was at Forest Lawn prior to burial in Iowa.

Harrod died in 1936 at the house on De Longpre after a long illness and is buried in Waterloo, Iowa, next to Shelton Harrod. Because she moved the two-story Mission residence from Highland Avenue, one of Hollywood’s oldest homes still stands proudly, a reminder of the area’s family feel of the early 1900s, when Hollywood still served as a mostly farming community far from cosmopolitan downtown Los Angeles.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Architecture, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Preservation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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