Researching My Home
Finding your home's past takes a lot of work and patience.
Like a detective, you have follow up leads and have to let ideas germinate.
After buying the home, I listened to what the sellers and their real estate agent told me: the house had
been moved in 1913 and built in downtown Los Angeles in 1886. But they had no
The Paper Chase
I started at the City of Los Angeles Building & Safety Department
but only got a few permits back to 1932, most of them listed under the name Chatard.
Then, I headed to the History section of the Los Angeles Central Library and looked up the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. The maps took me back more than a decade and proved
the house had been in its location since around World War I . But the house was no where to be found in a 1912 map.
I then looked through the City Directories, which contain resident names, addresses
and other information, in the Los Angeles Central Library’s History section. According to the directories, the
Chatards had lived at 1450 Scott Ave. since 1913.
Hot on the Trail
A neighbor told me about a former Echo Park real estate agent, Steve Scott, who connected
me with Millie Shaw, who owned my home in the 1980s. She described what the house
looked like and the changes that she and her husband made.
Millie also sent me a picture of the house from 1980.
She knew of the Chatards and providing me some interesting stories about the house and its setting, like tales of money being found behind wainscoting and of jewels being buried nearby.
I also searched the Chatard name on the Internet and, along with other information I
had gathered, was able to put together a small family tree. A search in Yahoo.com
for a Chatard in the Los Angeles area found one and a phone number in Glendale.
I gave them a call. Joyce Chatard answered the
phone. Yes, she knew of 1450 Scott Avenue. It was the home of her grandmother,
Julia Chatard. Julia lived in the house from 1913 until she died in 1958. Joyce sent me pictures of the house, one from 1915!
This was great information. But I still needed to find evidence proving that the house was
moved to it current location from downtown
House on the Move
Back at the Los Angeles Central Library, I searched for
construction industry periodicals from 1913 and found Los Angeles Builder & Contractor in the Science and Technology
Department This magazine had a summary of building moves. One building move dated
October, 9 1913 showed a house was moved from 1112 Towne Avenue in downtown Los
Angeles to 1450 Scot Avenue. The name Julia Chatard was included in the notice.
This bit of information helped proved that my housed had been moved to its current location
from Towne Avenue. A check with the Sanborn maps showed a building footprint
on Towne Avenue exactly like the current one on Scott Avenue.
Back at the Building & Safety department, I discovered that my house had actually
been moved twice! I found a permit dated July, 7 1905 of a house being moved
from 718 E. 5th Street to 1112 Towne Avenue. In the property records of the Los
Angeles County Assessor, the first person listed living in the house when
it was on 5th Street was an Esther Dye, a magnetic healer in 1900.
After taking another look in the City Directories, I was able to determine that the house had been in existence since the early 1890s, serving
as a residence for Esther Clark on 5th Street.
Then, after being moved to Towne Street, it briefly served a restaurant operated by a John Karrle
and then served as a residence for the Osgood family. It was converted into a duplex before being moved to Scott Avenue.
The house stayed a duplex until 1978, when it reverted to a single family
The most rewarding part of doing this research is that I am living in a piece of history.
It is not just a building but a living reminder of the all the people who came before me and will come after me; this I call
structure built at 718 East 5th Street, downtown Los Angeles.
1905: House relocated
to 1112 Towne Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.
1913. House relocated
again to 1450 Scott Avenue., Echo Park
|Click on image for larger view
|The permit of a 1905 house move
Los Angeles Conservancy
A helpful and comprehensive site
to help you research your home using online resources. Click here for the guide.
Los Angeles Building & Safety Dept.
Building & Safety Records Counter
201 N. Figueroa 1st Flr. Rm. 110
downtown Los Angeles
Building permits, which date back to 1905,
and other documents can provide you with such valuable information as the original owner and archictect of your home. You
can also find estimated construction costs and can track building additions and remodeling projects over the decades.
Copies cost $1.50 each. Be aware
that it can take as long as one hour to obtain a copy in person during peak times, such as early morning. You can also request
permit copies by fax and phone.
Los Angeles Central Library
630 W. Fifth St.
downtown Los Angeles
The History Department is where Matthew
found the City Directories, a listing of city residents and businesses. In many cases, the listings
not only the identify the occupants located at a certain address but their occupation as well. Some of the directories are
The History Department is also where
you will find Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, detailed city maps created for property insurance purposes.
These are extremely detailed and include the location of buildings on lots and sometimes a description as well.
You can also search digital versions of the Sanborn
Maps from home by going to the database section of the library's web site: www.lapl.org. However, you will need a library membership number to gain access to the Sanborn
In the central library's Science & Technology
department, copies of Los Angeles Builder & Contractor magazine helped Matthew by providing
comprehensive listings of city buiding permits and other information.
|Julia Chatard with her grandson, David, on the porch of her house after it was moved to Scott Ave.
500 W. Temple St.
Hours: M-F 7:30 am - 5 pm
Phone: (888) 807-2111
Gaps in city building permit information can sometimes be filled
with a trip to the Los Angeles County Assessor. Here is where you can view old property tax records, maps and other documents.
You can also click on the link above to view information online by using an interactive map.
The staff will show you how to use
the in-house computers to conduct your search but you might have to wait to use them (there are 5 terminals in the downtown
office). The computer search is free but you will be charged to make copies. So, bring cash.
Be prepared to make more than one trip
because some old property tax documents are located nearby in the Los Angeles County Archives.
|Click on image for larger view
|1912 Echo Park Sanborn Fire Insurance map.