Researching - Different Sources
Newspaper advertisement for Janss development in Westwood. The bottom quadrant on the map that the woman is holding up clearly shows Kelton Avenue south of Santa Monica Blvd. as being part of the Westwood development area. Advertisements like this can be useful in showing that a particular region was developed by a particular developer. One of the arguments aginst the homes being historic was that Kelton Avenue was part of West L.A., not Westwood. This is true today. However, it was not in the 1920s and 1930s when Westwood was being developed. Old advertisements and maps and books are valuable at finding out information such as this.
A crucial step in the process is to go downtown to the Department of Building and Safety at 201 N Figueroa St #880 Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213)482-0480 in downtown to ask for the original building permits, which cost a small fee for each permit. The permits contain have the names of the architect, and the owner and/or the builder.
Next, you should do a little library research. After you have obtained the names from the original building permits, go to the Central Library downtown to search for any significance that these names may have. Ask historical preservationists if they have heard of these names. You are trying to build a historical case for your homes, and the more information, the better. Cross-reference these names with old address and phone directories in the history section of the library, or if the home is more recent, with the Haines Criss Cross Directory. Ask if you don't know how to find something. We found the librarians to be extremely helpful and courteous.
We contacted Mitzi, another member of the Art Deco Society, after obtaining the names from the original building permits. She immediately recognized the name of one of the architects, Allen Siple, a noted and talented Los Angeles architect who had been featured in Architectural Digest and had designed numerous noteworthy homes. We had lucked out! Although we felt that the homes were quite rare and therefore had a decent chance of succeeding, this was nevertheless a really lucky break.
Several of us headed down to the Central Library (http://www.lapl.org/central/index.html) located at 630 W. Fifth Street Los Angeles, California 90071 (213) 228-7000 downtown numerous times to research Allen Siple, Janss Investment Company, who developed all of what was then called Westwood Hills, and anything we could dig up on the history of the area and Kelton Avenue. We attempted to go to the Hall of Records to look up the chain of ownership, and were moderately successful here as well. Unfortunately, much of the old directories were destroyed in the 1989 library fire. We cross-referenced some of these people with old address and phone directories at the history section of the Central Library. We looked up books, old photos (click here to see Kelton Avenue in 1922), reproduced Janss Investment Co. advertisements from old newspapers, and much more. You'll probably spend much of your time in the basement, where the History Section is located.
From this research, we also gained a far greater appreciation of the history and architectural beauty of Los Angeles.
Information on the
Don't forget online searches. We searched online for additional information and contacted anyone who might help, whether they were involved in historical preservation, researching ancestry, or the history of the area.
The web site for the Los Angeles Public Library is http://www.lapl.org/ You may use this to search for titles, authors, and other things. Make sure you call before you run down to the library, as the item listed on their web site as on the shelf is not always actually there. I called five Los Angeles public libraries that were listed as having a particular book (I ended up driving down to the Watts library to find the copy; however, you can also have your neighborhood library order the book for you).
Other Resources - Finding
Out About Previous Owners, Information About the House
Try the National Trust for Historic Preservation (http://www.preservationnation.org/) for information on preservation issues and finding more about your potentially historic property. Visit your county clerk's office for help finding deeds and tax records, which will list names of previous owners. Also, try newspaper obituaries and Census data at the library. For information on the construction materials and original use of your house and what was originally there, look up old Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. Originals are at the Library of Congress. Supposedly, you can check http://lib.berkeley.edu/ for duplicates in other areas, according to a Newsweek article, although when I went to check, it seemed to indicate that it was only for UC Berkeley students. However, there is a lot of other information available on their web site.
Application for Historic Monument Status
The Cultural Heritage Commission Review Process
Building Neighborhood Support
Arguments that a Developer May Make Against Historical Preservation
Next Steps After Properties Have Been Designated Historical Monuments
The Kelton Homes Now (September 2009)
Researching - Different
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