Mod: With community preservation and the architectural legacy of Sierra Madre being such a big issue in this election season, which by the way ends tomorrow, I thought it would be a good moment to step back and take a little tour of something you might not have noticed all that much before. This comes to us from a notable local blog that deals with architectural issues called Industrious Lily (link). The article, written in 2012, is called Irving Gill’s Lewis Courts, which are found right here in Sierra Madre.
Irving Gill's Lewis Courts - Growing up in San Diego, I have had the pleasure of seeing much of Irving Gill’s architecture in person. From various residences to the Women’s Club and my middle/high school in La Jolla, his work is so reflective of the tenants of simple, modern design.
Moving to Sierra Madre, I loved to drive around and one day drove up Mountain Trail and saw a row of buildings that looked very Gill-like to me….. Run home, google, and yes! The Lewis Courts, one of his first “social architecture” projects (built in 1910) still stands here in our small town.
Sadly, as is the case with so much historic architecture, the courtyard-style apartments are only a small reflection of what they once were. The courtyard, around which the complex was designed and oriented, is now filled with a large post-war apartment building that is incongruous in both style and scale. Peeling paint and cracking stucco also tell of the years of wear and tear that the buildings have endured.
But there is life there still - good bones, great lines, good light …. and people are still living and using the buildings every day. That is significant, and comforting. Also impressive, these apartments were designed and built before our 1912 bungalow, and yet they look modern, current and timeless. Interesting.
If you are ever in this neck of the woods, drive up Mountain Trail, almost to the top, and you will see them on your right…best seen in the early more or dusk, in my opinion. Worth the drive.
Mod: There is an interesting Facebook page called So Cal Historic Architecture (link) that also discusses Sierra Madre's Lewis Courts. Here is what site owner Linda Hammonds has to say about this interesting slice of local legacy.
Irving J. Gill saw such small houses as the embodiment of economic democracy. While he had no control over the cost of the land, he did control the cost of construction. Gill believed modern materials and building techniques would lead to affordability, and he experimented with different variations of this approach through the early 1900s.
Lewis Court in Sierra Madre is one of his most notable examples from this period. Built with concrete floors and terracotta walls, each of the small cottages featured a private terraced garden and projecting porch for lounging or outdoor sleeping.
The Lewis Courts, one of his first “social architecture” projects, built in 1910. If you are ever in Sierra Madre, drive up Mountain Trail, almost to the top, and you will see them on your right.
Mod: Interesting, right? Small homes versus those massive mausoleum looking things certain people think should be allowed here. Let's call that anti-social architecture. Today's post was put here in case you don't think there is something to lose tomorrow.