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.
“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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