Echo Park artist returns to his old home and a new city landmark *

The Echo Park house Peter Shire grew up in was a novelty in its day. Designed by a young modernist architect and built by his father in 1949, Shire’s childhood home featured walls of glass that opened out upon a backyard garden and patio and gleaming plywood wood paneling. It also included some space-age touches, including a retractable curtain wall that folded away, turning his bedroom and that of his brother, Billy Shire, into a big play area. Shire and his wife, Donna, recently moved into the Princeton Avenue house, and today the City Council will consider declaring the the Henry Shire Residence a historic cultural monument (The council will also consider landmarks for the home of Billy Shire and another Echo Park residence on Mayberry Street) * . Since moving into the 1,400-square-foot Princeton Avenue house, the Shires have found the bathrooms a bit small and closet space lacking. Still, for Shire, an artist and potter, moving back to the family home has brought back lots of memories “How wonderful it must have been for my parents, ” said Shire. “It was their moment.”

The 62-year-old Shire said he grew up in a family that appreciated mid-century architecture and design. Henry Shire, who was also an artist, worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker for many Los Angeles architects, including modernist master R.M. Schindler. When it came to build his own house, Henry Shire turned to Josef van Der Kar, part of a generation of architects who turned Los Angeles into a showcase for post-war design. When it came time to build the house, Henry Shire was involved in the concrete work, carpentry and cabinetry.

Shire’s father lived in the home until he died in the mid 1980s and his wife lived there until she moved to a convalescent home about five years ago. After renting the home out for a few years, Peter Shire decided to move back in in part to restore the property – including that retractable curtain wall, which was damaged – and make it easier to show to architects and designers interested in the home’s architectural legacy.

Growing up, Shire said two of his favorite spots in the house included the flat roof top – which provided views of the surrounding hills and canyons – and the floor, which included a radiant heating system built into the concrete slab. “It would be warm in certain spots,” Shire said. “Laying on it was wonderful.”

* Update: The City Council approved historic cultural monument status for all three properties

Photo by Kansas Sebastian/Flickr

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