Angeleno Heights preservation pioneer leaves behind a colorful memory of the neighborhood’s past

When it came time to paint his Angeleno Heights home, Tom Morales took a set of colored pencils and began coloring illustrations of the 1887 Victorian to determine the perfect color combination.  Morales then tested colors on his childhood home at the southwest corner of Carroll Avenue and East Edgeware Road to find out how they appeared in the sunshine. After all that he selected approximately 17 different shades of sage green accented with golds and burgundy.  This might seem like extreme behavior for even the most house-proud of Angeleno Heights residents but not for Morales. Not only did he turn his home into one of head-turning Victorian jewels of the neighborhood, he also spearheaded the protection of Angeleno Heights architectural treasures after a Victorian mansion across the street was stripped of its grandeur. On Saturday, Sept. 15, Morales, who had lived most of his life in the Victorian landmark,  died at age 76 from pancreatic cancer, said his son Christopher.

In a 1987 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Morales, whose parents purchased the 13-room house in the early 1940s for $3,000, spoke about what it was like during the 1970s when he and others began efforts to form a historic district to protect the blocks of old and often neglected homes:

“Back then, people thought you were eccentric for living in these houses, trying to get them on the National Register of Historic Places and lobbying to create a preservation district. But it bonded the neighborhood.”

Morales served as head of the board overseeing the Angeleno Heights Preservation Overlay Zone, which reviews exterior changes to most of the neighborhood’s buildings. It was the first such historic zone created in the city.  The Morales family home, which exhibits signs of the Queen Anne and Eastlake styles,  was declared city Historic Cultural Landmark #51.

Morales leaves behind his wife, Priscilla, and son, Christopher.


  1. Condolences to the family. I’ve occasionally gone out of my way just to drive through the neighborhood, and often wished my neighbors would have a fraction of the pride of ownership shown in these homes.

  2. Yes condolences to the family. Tom was a true urban pioneer and a great neighbor. It was obvious that he did it for love, not glory or profit, which made it all the more sweet. RIP Tom.

  3. Thanks Tom – your legacy remains with us and brings us joy!

  4. My sincerest condolences to the Morales family, may Tom rest in peace. A few months ago I would have read this without feeling any kind of personal connection to the gentleman but that changed in July. Over the 14+ years that we have lived in Silverlake my parents have been to visit (from “up north”) and we have always made it a point to take them to see one of our significant architectural institutions, be it via a walk in the neighborhood or a guided tour. Due to age they had not been to visit as traveling is a bit of a chore for them now but they came this past July and we decided to make our first EVER visit to Carroll Ave. For obvious reasons we were immediately drawn to Mr. Morales’s house and began our walk there. Before we knew it we were joined by him and he not only took the time to tell us all about his house but he proceeded to take us on a tour of the neighborhood, providing us with all of the history associated with each house and the families that had lived in and owned them. What a special treat that was. For that and for all of the work he did on behalf of his beloved neighborhood we have nothing but good thoughts flowing in his honor.

  5. A truly remarkable landmark, being the daughter of the former Northern California ASID President, growing up I have been trained to notice Architecture and Design even without realizing it at times! But, I do distinctly remember the first time I laid eyes on this jewel of a Victorian, my mouth dropped to the floor. My first question was who so carefully selected, and with such detail, each of the colors for the schematic on this beauty?

    May, Mr. Morales RIP….. it cannot go un-noticed the care and apparent love that went into each fine detail of this jaw dropping home !

  6. R.I.P.

    That’s the best house in that neighborhood.

    $3,000 in 1940 = $46,123 in 2010.

  7. Actually the houses on Carroll Ave, all run into the millions. 1300 Carroll was listed for a short time in 2010 for approx. $2M.

  8. I understand that BE & Neighbor are talking about different things, but I think it’s better, at this time, to focus on the priceless legacy of Mr. Morales.

  9. this is so sad. he was such a wonderful, sweet man. we are lucky to live in the neighborhood and grateful to tom for his passion. may he rest in peace.

  10. tom was a wonderful man. very sad news. he will be missed.

  11. Wow … I’ve lived in LA for 35 years, and didn’t even know about the Carroll houses until recently.

    I just drove down there a couple of weekends ago for my first-ever “tour” of what is surely one of LA’s most incredible neighborhoods. Mr. Morales’ house is absolutely magnificent, an absolute jewel on a street full of jewels. My condolences to his family and I tip my hat to him for all he did to keep those beautiful houses away from the developers’ wrecking ball.

  12. My prayers go out to Mr. Morales and his family. But they are accompanied by my warm thanks and appreciation for his years of work as a preservation. I was never fortunate enough to live in one of these lovely Victorian gems, although it has always been a dream of mine. But the ability to visit Carroll Ave. and see what a lovely neighborhood could look like was a unique pleasure. I am so grateful for Mr. Morales efforts which have left me so many other gems to enjoy, but his is the diamond of the collection. I hope that his family will be able to keep it. And if for any reason they are not in a position to, I hope they find it an equally loving owner. God bless you and yours, sir!

  13. I enjoy this beautiful house on the daily, since I live in the neighborhood. I am sorry for your loss!

  14. Need to echo Traviesa’s comment. My wife and I did an impromptu Angelino Heights walk-about a few years ago and when we arrived at Mr. Morales’ house we found him in the front yard. I didn’t want to disturb him so we just marveled at the home’s exquisite details. Before we knew it he approached us and we were rewarded with the depth of knowledge and commitment he had for the residence and neighborhood that he was only too ready and willing to share.

  15. I’ve known Tom Morales for almost 30 years and have found him to be a true friend in preservation. His efforts at bringing about the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone ordinance and the first local historic district in Los Angeles are one of the most important contributions to the goal of preservation in our fair city. His work is legendary, overcoming the great odds that existed in the 1970s. We’ve come a long way since then and though we still have much work to do, we owe a great debt to Tom Morales and the other pioneers in preservation that have led the way.

    Tom will be greatly missed. My condolences go to his family. Tom’s place in the history of Los Angeles is assured.

  16. Very inspiring story…let the legacy continue…

  17. Sincere sympathy to the Morales family, his death diminishes us all as his was a true loving and giving spirit.
    Also kudos for the work he did to help preserve the history of Los Angeles and it’s beautiful heritage homes. We live in such a wasteful world now, everything mor than a week old is “dated” and no longer appreciated whether it is a beautiful Victorian home or beautiful music crafted in early America. It is so difficult to keep our treasured past alive.. he is a hero to me for his eforts to protect and preserve.

  18. I love that home and the other Victorian homes in the area. I saw them for the first time when I did stairwalk #12, Echo Park Lake Victorians from the book “Secret Stairs” by Charles Fleming. I posted this walk on my blog on 1-5-2011 http://www.stairwalkinginLA.wordpress.com. Look for Echo Park Lake Victorians #12.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Exquisite home, perfect neighbor. Lots of love to Tom’s family.

  20. I will miss his visits and educational talks he gladly provided to me when he came to the firehouse.

  21. Uncle Tom was a true man of conviction and passion. Frist for his God, his family, his work and all else in that order. As he knew “wherever your treasure is so will your heart be also.” So long for now, save a place for me in one of our Lord’s many rooms.

  22. Tom was my compadre rip

  23. I. Still wander Carroll Avenue
    in my Dreams
    Where Edgar Lee Masters
    and Dennis the Menace
    Live Happily Ever After

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