By David J. Barboza
SurveyLA is interested in finding out about what places in your neighborhood have to say about the social and cultural history of Los Angeles, but we’re also interested in historic architecture. If you’re like most people, identifying architectural styles may not be your strong suit. But never fear, the Office of Historic Resources (OHR) has some interesting resources to help you spice up your historic place suggestions. If you dig into these resources enough, you can put yourself through a veritable architecture boot camp right on our website (drill sergeant not included).
A good place to start is our Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) application. You may not be trying to nominate a new HCM, but the last two pages of this document are an architectural Style Guide well worth checking out. If you want small photos and a quick list of bullet points describing styles like Classical Revival, French Norman, and International (15 styles in all), you’ll find it in the Style Guide. The Guide can also help you distinguish different roof types like cross gabled, gambrel and shed. If you read it, you’ll be able to amaze your friends by explaining to them the difference between a stoop, a porch, and a veranda. Door and dormer terminology will be at your command as well.
If you’re looking for more detailed style descriptions, the preservation plans for the City’s 29 Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) are great resources. If you follow this link and click on one of the HPOZs, you’ll see a “Preservation Plan” link at the bottom of your page. If you look at the Table of Contents for each plan, you’ll notice a chapter called “Architectural Styles.” This chapter will give you a more detailed overview of the common styles in that HPOZ.
Let’s take a look at the preservation plan for the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ. Highland Park-Garvanza is the largest of the City’s HPOZs and quite a few architectural styles are covered. Twenty-seven styles have an entire page dedicated to them in the preservation plan, complete with multiple color photos. For example, on page 42 we read that Craftsman style (which the area is particularly known for) exhibits the following general characteristics:
• “Broad gabled roofs with deeply overhanging eaves
• Pronounced front porch, symmetrical or offset with massive battered or elephantine columns
• Exposed and decorative beams, rafters, vents
• Decorative brackets and braces
• Grouped rectangular multi-pane windows
• Massive stone or masonry chimneys
• Use of earth tone color palette and natural finishes
• Three-color schemes for body, trim and accents”
To top it all off, these preservation plans have jargon-taming glossaries of architectural terms at the end. Never again need you be befuddled by terms like half-timbering (“detail creating the appearance of exposed structural timbers on plaster”), pilaster (“a shallow rectangular projecting feature, architecturally treated as a column”) or transom (“a window, usually operable above the head of a door”).
Please remember though, you don’t have to be an architectural historian to contribute to SurveyLA. You may have information on a special place in your neighborhood that can help inform the survey, so please feel free to share your historic place suggestions!