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Restoring Your Mission Revival Home in NELA

Northeast Los Angeles is rich in Spanish Colonial Mission Style homes. But because many are older than 100 years, so restoration efforts may be necessary.

Among the most common and revered residential architectural styles throughout the southwest – including homes of Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) – is the Mission Revival style. Rich desert hues typically highlight the exterior stucco cladding, topped by red clay tiles with very often one or two chimneys on homes that are interchangeably called Mediterranean, Pueblo, and Spanish Colonial revival styles (there are differences, a topic for another day).

In NELA, the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock (2225 Colorado Boulevard) is a stellar, large-scale example of the Mission Revival/Spanish Colonial Revival style. It is a Historic-Cultural Monument and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among the homes for sale in Highland Park (in 2012, for $450,000) was the Murdock House, also in the Mission Revival style on a four-square plan. Mixed within the Mid-Century Modern homes in Mt. Washington is the Mission Revival Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters, which prior to 1925 had been a hotel (designed by Chinese Theater architects Meyer and Holler in 1910).

Elsewhere in Southern California – including the residential real estate in Glassell Park, Garvanza, and Hermon – are examples of this style in railroad train depots, schools, and homes both grand and humble. The nature of their construction – with thick massing that carries daytime warmth into night and nighttime coolness into day, exterior arcades that celebrate California’s mild climate, and overhangs that shade structures in summer’s heat – is part of why they endure.

The solid construction nonetheless needs attention, particularly when a new owner determines to update and upgrade. The elements needing attention most often are the stucco walls and red clay tiles:

Stucco restoration. The enemy of stucco is water, which can enter by all sorts of means: leaky gutters, poor seals around doors and windows, and perhaps from inside the structure through furnace, kitchen and bathroom vents.

The first step to restoration is to find out where the water is coming from and stop it at that source. The task is not unlike roof leaks that lead to ceiling problems: it’s not always directly below where the problem begins so some sleuthing by a building professional is likely necessary.

Replacement of sections of stucco facings is aided by its textured, irregular nature. It may be possible to do this in sections rather than redoing an entire wall, but that depends on how visible the differences between old and new may be. Of course a full repainting or whitewashing will help with this.

Tile roof restoration. Around the turn of the last century (1900) clay roofing tiles transitioned from hand-made to machine made. With both types, a fastening system involved brass or copper wires that held the tiles in place and which were anchored by wooden pegs. When these pegs rotted, the tiles could work themselves loose.

Those tiles are not lightweight, therefore the supporting structure holding them up needs to be strong. Any such compromise would also lead to the collapse of roof tiles.

As with stucco, the root cause of loose tiles has to be identified at the source. Moving about a roof also requires special care because the tiles can break under the weight of a single person (plywood sheets help distribute the weight). Importantly, if a spot replacement is possible it is essential to get the colors of the tiles to match almost exactly. Sometimes the homeowner may relocate tiles from a less visible side of the house to the front-facing roof to achieve the color match; alternatively, an architectural salvaging company might have replacements.

Mission Revival homes are part of the NELA lifestyle well known to Realtor Tracy King. Contact her to find out what is currently listed at (323-243-1234).

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