Echo Park is filled with tiny bungalow apartments clustered around lush gardens and narrow passageways. This type of courtyard housing proved popular for the masses of newcomers that arrived in Los Angeles during the early decades of the 20th Century, giving the residents who rented them a hint of what it would be like to live in their own house. In Echo Park, the builders of these bungalows courts adapted their developments to the hilly terrain, creating terraces of tiny homes that climbed the steep hills. On Thursday, a proposal to declare one of these hillside courtyards, the Lento Brick Court on Sunset Boulevard, a city historic landmark will come up for the first time before the Cultural Heritage Commission*. Why is the Lento Brick Court, a group of five separate buildings constructed in 1928 by an Italian hatter named George Lento, worthy of landmark status?
The landmark application submitted by the Echo Park Historical Society (The Eastsider is a board member) said the property is significant because it’s a “rare example of a mixed use complex of commercial store fronts and a residential hillside bungalow court.” The Lento Brick Court is one of several hillside bungalow courtyards that line Sunset Boulevard as it passed through a canyon between the eastern edge of Echo Park and downtown. The city’s Planning Department staff has recommended that the Cultural Heritage Commission take the Lento Brick Court into consideration as a possible historic cultural monument.
The no-nonsense Lento Court, which appears in books on courtyard housing, lacks the foliage and frills found in many similar bungalow courts. Instead, the red brick buildings are trimmed with white bands of terra cotta tile and front doors are framed with a decorative portal.
“These court structures became the first home in Southern California for so many who came from other parts of America as well as aboard,” writes Fisher in the monument application. “Lento’s own roots in Ital tell this very story of an immigrant who made his life in Los Angeles and worked hard to find a part of the California dream”
* Update: The Cultural Heritage Commission voted Thursday to take the monument application under consideration.
Photos by Charles Fisher