The driving force behind Historical Monument 157, an old Victorian house in Lincoln Heights that now acts as an artists’ community, is a DIY spirit. Which is why several of the live-in artists are in fundraising mode leading up to HM157’s fifth anniversary. But even as the denizens of HM 157 prepare for this Saturday’s anniversary bash and fundraiser, its members are also struggling to create a sustainable organization and win the necessary city permits to keep hosting concerts and events that have attracted fans as well as complaints.
There have been hundreds of events and concerts, as well as classes and workshops, at HM157 over the years, along with several noise complaints and a few neighbors who point to the home as a sign of gentrification. Charon Nogues, co-founder of the artist community at HM157, leases the historical home with several of the artists who live on the premises, and she’s a bit tired of having to sneak around with her events, due to a lack of permits.
“We’d have to be a bar or restaurant to get a cabaret license,” Nogues says of the house that sometimes hosts Can-Can dancers or on other nights live music. A laundry list of requirements block HM157 from becoming a full-fledged venue, along with what Nogues says is an antiquated permit system.
“We don’t want to be a bar. We’re trying to talk with people in higher offices, to collaborate and work with us,” says Nogues of HM157.
Originally built circa 1880 and owned by Horace B. Dibble, HM157, a lumbering off-yellow house on Broadway across the street from McDonalds, was designated a historical monument in 1976. When Nogues and her business partner/ex-husband, Reid Maxwell, happened upon the house in 2008 it was being used as a real estate office. They saw the space as more of an artist’s studio and never imagined it would blossom into what it is today.
Which makes it difficult to classify HM157 on paper.
“Folks recognize the new magical mixed use potential in the property that was once derelict,” says Nogues.
A Mexican restaurant sits next to HM157 while its front yard is overgrown with palm fronds and vegetable gardens. During show nights the backyard is converted into a dance floor, with visual projections and music.
“Sometimes we’ll get the neighborhood men with tattoos who don’t know what’s going on, and we’ll invite them in,” says Nogues.
The Michigan native lives in Echo Park and works in a vintage clothing store. But Nogues spends most of her time at HM 157, traveling between her Echo Park home and the Lincoln Heights Victorian on a bicycle with an attached trailer.
Nogues is working with the operators of other venues like 157 to try and change city policy and rules that would allow them to operate legally with the necessary city permits. “We’re trying to change policy without a big budget,” she said.
Nogues and the artists at HM157 understand that this upcoming anniversary show is important, a sort of test to see if the community-at-large thinks of creative spaces that are not sponsored by any particular product or club, but simply paid for by the public who want to have a good time. Nogues is working on turning HM 157 into a nonprofit to help sustain the the space while money raised at the event will also help pay to fix up the porch, windows and other repairs. “We will not go the way of the DIY-nasaurs,” said the HM 157 website.
Several days before the anniversary fundraiser, Nogues is ecstatic and nervous all at the same time when going over the details of the big show. She pulls out onto Broadway on her bicycle, swoops in between passing cars and is lost in the traffic.’
“This show is big for us. It’s sort of the do or die,” says Nogues.
All who want to attend the party must RSVP via www.hm157.com
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.