August 17, 2019

Ford House
John Ford House, built in 1887. Originally located in downtown LA, but later moved to Heritage Square Museum, sketched it plein air, July 19th

On July 19th I took the Gold Line Metro to the Heritage Square Museum. I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church, originally built in 1897, to sketch the Ford House. I chose to sit there because it was shady and I liked the view you see here of the house and garden. The Ford House and Methodist Church were not originally constructed here, but moved to this location at a much later time. Such is the disposition of a total of 9 LA structures you can see at the Heritage Square Museum. They date from the time of the Civil War to the early 20th century. (If you want to learn more about the history of the museum you can Google heritagesquare.org)

It was a warm Friday midmorning and I had gotten there later than planned. And even though I had originally intended to add some watercolor color to the Ford House (kind of a golden ochre on the wooden clapboard siding) I resolved to at least get the house and garden rendered in ink, with some graphite for additional shading. When I finished it was mid day and I was done with the heat. I decided to try to return on a cooler Friday midmorning for some additional sketching. (They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 4:30.)

Methodist Church
Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church, 1897, sketched this one August 9th at Heritage Square Museum

On Friday, August 9, I once again got on the Metro Gold Line and headed for the Heritage Square Museum. It promised to be a cooler day than my previous visit. This time I thought it would be fun to try to render the curved wooden shingles, clapboard siding and windows of the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church. I sat at a shady picnic table under a sycamore tree that afforded me the straight on view you see here. Once I roughed in the pencil sketch I added ink and some colored pencil. (Last time I had brought all my watercolor materials. But for this visit I decided to travel light and only brought my colored pencils, and pen and ink—no brushes, paints or water for painting. Oh, but I brought a snack and water to drink, of course.) I read on the Heritage Square website that the original stained glass windows in this church (as well as some pews) were stolen before it was moved here. For now, large panes of solid colored glass have been substituted. However, it seems that research regarding what those windows looked like has begun and it is hoped that someday soon reproductions of that glass will be installed. And in the event that the glass is replaced I would certainly enjoy returning to that picnic table under the dappled light of the sycamore tree to sketch the church again with all the rainbow wonder of my watercolor colors. It was a beautiful day, with the sky an inspiring shade of cerulean and the surrounding trees were bright with greens and golds. Even though I only added just a hint of color on the church itself I was happy with this sketch and spent more than a few minutes taking pictures of it. (I have recently been experimenting with the “live” setting of my phone. And I found that I could capture this image with the hint of the breeze that was blowing at the time, making the corner of the page flutter. I have tried to include that bit of movement in my blog, but I can’t figure out how to do that.)

southwest museum station
Photo of one of three mosaic tile guardian figures on columns, made of painted tile and sculpted metal wings at Southwest Museum Gold Line metro stop. The guardians and some fun seating at the stop were implemented by Paul Polubinskas. (Not sure what implemented means, but let’s just say there are some fun artistic elements at this and most of the Gold Line Metro stations.

There is a Heritage Square stop on this metro line, but believe it or not the Southwest Museum stop is actually closer. And believe me, I tried both. This station is actually key to a couple other LA museums—the Southwest Museum of the American Indian (open Saturdays from 10 to 4) and the Lummis House (only open on the weekends). Getting off at the Southwest Museum stop you can see the Southwest Museum on a hill to the left. And when walking on Avenue 43, on your way to the Heritage Square Museum, you go right past the Lummis House, also known as El Alisal. This little piece of northeast LA, near the edge of the Arroyo Seco, has a lot of LA history that you wouldn’t even guess at when zooming past them going north or south on the 110 freeway.

As I was sketching the church I was reminded of the various kinds of architecture you can see here in CA. I have sketched and written about some of them. I have described CA mission dwellings that were built from huge blocks of adobe, stone, timber, brick, and tile (January 1, 2018, July 14, 2018).. I have also described stucco- covered Spanish revival homes that were built here in the 20s and 30s (art only, May 28, 2017, October 21, 2017). I have also made mention of Greene and Greene craftsman style homes that can be found here as well (March 31, 2018). Sketching the wooden cladded buildings that can be found at the Heritage Square Museum reminds me of a kind of architecture known as Victorian or Edwardian. According to Wikipedia, structures with Victorian architecture were built from the mid to late 19th century. Anything built later, when Edward was king of England (1901 to 1914), would be considered Edwardian architecture. (Not sure I can actually tell the difference between Edwardian and Victorian.) But if you Google “The Painted Ladies of San Francisco”, you will see a row of Victorian/Edwardian homes that I think have become quite famous and a tourist attraction at Alamo Square. (Sadly, I think lots of other wooden “stick houses,” or Victorians, burned down as a result of the 1906 earthquake.)

As it turns out I know a little about a particular farmhouse turned Victorian in Grass Valley. My parents bought the house in the late 70’s and they lived in it from the mid 80s until 2013. The house was built in 1863 and started out as a single story farm house with no electricity or running water. Sometime later a second story with a wrap around porch and lots of Victorian brick-a-brack was added. Such brick-a-brack included decorative railings, turned porch posts and a large hand carved wooden sunburst above the front door. Once that was completed it became a rooming house for gold miners who worked in the mines in town. The house did have some non-Victorian interesting quirks in that the upstairs door openings and doors were all pretty short. And the doorknobs and railings were lower than you would expect. It was surmised that the Cornish miners who had come to this part of the gold country were short in stature, and such things as door knobs and railings were lowered to accommodate these men.

As these houses were made entirely of wood and needed to be painted to protect the wood from the punishing effects of wind, rain, snow and sunlight (probably the most destructive weather element).  But it always seemed funny to me that such homes were often painted all over white. You would think that the wood carver of such a beauty would want to use color to show off their exacting and detailed work. And if you have now looked at the “Painted Ladies of San Francisco,” you will see how such color was added to rows of Victorians/Edwardians in the 1960s. In fact, when my parents bought their Grass Valley Victorian it was all over white. But they soon painted it a warm yellow with white trim. And before they sold it they changed the white trim to a deep blue, forest green and a plum color–emphasizing all the various carved wooden details. 

I now live in a house that was made with large river stones and covered in stucco. It was built in the 1920s, but I don’t think it could be described as any of the styles I have mentioned here. I don’t need to live in an architecturally significant house. My house is old and quirky, just like me! And I love it—just another quirky SoCal house for one more quirky California girl. 

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