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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Before & (30 years) After: Angeleno Heights couple take their time renovating an old Victorian

Before: Danny Muñoz and David Hiovich (left) stand in front of their home in 1981. After: The same house today (rt).

Story by Lea Lion
Photos by Jesse Saucedo

When Angeleno Heights was under construction in the late 1800s, you could stand on Temple Street and gaze all the way up the hill to the Victorian mansions on Carroll Avenue. At the time, there were very few houses and trees to block your view and the 101 Freeway did not yet slash through the southern edge of the neighborhood. In fact, there is a black-and-white photograph depicting exactly this scene hanging in Danny Muñoz and David Hiovich’s Victorian-style home on Bellevue Avenue, which was built shortly after the photo was taken.

Muñoz and Hiovich arrived in Angeleno Heights thirty two years ago. Long after the freeway divided the neighborhood, the grand houses fell into disrepair and people started to chop down trees.  Like many other residents of “The Hill,” as locals call it, the historically minded couple quickly set about restoring the circa 1895 house to its former grandeur.  They knew it was a big job. They didn’t know it would take more than 30 years to complete.

Danny Muñoz (lt) and David Hiovich/Photo by Jesse Saucedo

“Our house was a fixer-upper in really bad shape,” said Muñoz, who sits on the board that oversees the Angelino Heights historic district. “Here is a photograph.” He picked up a color image of the house taken in 1981. It shows a young couple standing on the front steps of a derelict pale blue bungalow. The paint is peeling, the windows are broken and trash is strewn across the weed-filled front yard.

They started with the foundation. More renovations followed. They repaired the wood siding and fish scale shingles. They fixed the composite roof, hung new wood windows and painted the house.

“We were really into the Victorian thing at that time,” Hiovich said. “We wanted it to be as close to the original as possible yet to be as comfortable as possible that was a tough time to live in.”

Thirty years later, the house looks new again. The redwood siding is painted four different hues ranging from light brown to dark red. The windows sparkle with rainbow-colored squares of antique stained glass. The backyard garden features a sun-dappled wooden deck and built-in fountain with decorative brickwork (the bricks are recycled from the old foundation.)

Inside, the house is immaculate. The new custom-milled wood moldings match the old frames around doors and windows. The original light fixtures are shined and rewired. One particularly eye-catching lamp — more sculpture than hardware – boasts an asymmetrical design with an electric bulb on one side and a gas hook up on the other.

It is the second-story attic that takes the prize, literally. Once crammed with decades’ worth of abandoned items, the space now holds a small yet significant research library devoted to the history of Los Angeles. Treasures include a leather-bound city directory from 1887 — no phone numbers, of course — and a voting registrar from 1886. The mini-archive is a favorite of local history buffs.

On one wall, the vintage photograph of Angelino Heights reminds us that sometimes things fall apart and sometimes they come back together again.

Now, if only we could do something about that freeway.


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29 comments

  1. Beautiful restoration!

  2. SO awesome!

  3. Great job! My family has so much talent. Come decorate the inside of my place!

  4. What an inspiring story! Their house is just stunning. Congratulations to both.

  5. What an amazing story. Awesome.

  6. Livin the dream! Well, my dream at least.

  7. David, they spelled your last name correctly!!!! lol
    Nice job on the house. Some day, I hope to get a tour of it in person.

  8. Wonderful story and beautifully written! Congrats to all.

  9. That chain link fence is their next project!

  10. Now that is a fine example of “sticktoititiveness”!

    Our younger generation could learn something from this couple.

  11. This is wonderful!!!

  12. Beautiful house guys!

  13. Really amazing. Great job!

  14. great except for the ghetto chain link fence. too many chain link fences in echo park, people need to update their yards. a nice fence makes all the difference.

  15. Brilliant!
    The more so as 1980’s LA was still generally ignorant about its heritage.

  16. Really great job…

  17. for whatever reason, angelino heights has a no fence rule. if you had a chain-linked fence you can keep that, you just can’t upgrade/inprove it. if you want to lose your chain link fence, you have to have no fence at all. hence all the remaining eyesore chain-linked fences in the area. ridiculous.

  18. Great story on this beautiful restoration. I drive past this house every day and I enjoy and appreciate all of the details. It’s so nice to see the finished project and what a wonderful selection of colors.

  19. The AH HPOZ Preservation Plan says you can replace a non-historic (e.g. chain link) fence with an “historic looking” fence.

  20. Arlene Bernholtz

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!! SO PROUD OF YOU GUYS~ WHAT DETERMINATION. EXCELLENT RESULTS~ BEAUTIFUL ADDITION TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
    THE LIBRARY IS A MUST SEE TOO!!!!

  21. Congratulations to you both. This is a beautiful recreation of a masterpiece and I was privileged to see it when you first started. I can’t wait to see it now that it is finished. Great job guys!

  22. Scott Velliquette

    Wow, Beautiful Job and Pictures! I only wish there had been more of the before and/or during construction photos.

  23. What a beautiful job in renovating!!!!

  24. A wonderful read. I’m glad to see that your hard work was appreciated & given proper merit; recognition for the restoration of history/early L.A. architecture. Now if Hugh Howser would make a brief stop-by…

  25. David Valenzuela

    Hey Guys,
    Congratulations on all your efforts. What a difference from the 1981 photo. You all have done a remarkable job putting this home back to its original state. That’s very hard work and you deserve to have this magnificence home. I know how hard you worked and in keeping with the preservations rules and regulations and we must not forget, AHCO and those who guard the neighborhood.
    I feel a little sadness not living in Angeleno Heights. I lived there and Tony for 15 years and worked everyday on my home on Douglas Street. It was good times and good meeting friends like you both.
    Continue success and best wishes.
    Peace and love,
    David Valenzuela

  26. i grew up in this neighborhood (1962-1976) at 704 e. edgeware rd. beautiful area then and still is, thanks to guys like these, who see the history and true value of these homes.

  27. Can you tell me what is the street in the foreground of the early 1900s photo?
    I’m not sure what direction the photo is facing.

    the house is wonderful! YOu guys did a fantastic job.

  28. Valerie (Montoya) Giron

    Your home is gorgeous . The love you both have put into it radiates in the photos .I lived in echo park as a child for a short time . I lived in a home on Donaldson St. With a Munoz Family. Your story takes me back to my childhood. It’s a beautiful site to see you again in your photos Danny . I enjoyed reading your story of all your hard work an determination .

    An old friend
    Valerie montoya

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