October 10, 2018

Photo Essay: The Creepiest Street in LA, With Zombie Houses and A Witches' Lair

When you live in LA, time isn’t exactly linear. You can be a perfectly modern-day man or woman and yet be completely immersed in the architecture, wardrobe, and traditions of a completely different time from days gone by.

For those whose bailiwick is the era of Queen Victoria—for those Anglophiles who long for refined sensibilities and parlor visits in gingerbread cottages—there's a particularly good opportunity to completely immerse oneself in Victorian culture in LA.

And, you know, the Victorians just loved creepy stuff. They're the ones who managed to popularize taxidermy, after all.

The highest concentration of Victorian Era houses in LA can be found on one street: Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights, an affluent subdivision and one of the city's first suburbs. 

It's a time capsule of an 1880s building boom that ceased with the onset of a recession in 1888. The residences, once considered fanciful, came to represent spooks and spirits starting in the mid-1890s when real estate developing resumed... but developers (and home buyers) had moved on from the style.

Walking down The Creepiest Street in LA is like walking through a neighborhood that’s just full of haunted houses. (Hence the onslaught of trick-or-treaters on Halloween.)

Several of these Victorian-era mansions have been restored or are in the process of being restored but still get their “creep” cred from having appeared in any number of unsettling TV series, films, and even music videos.

Welcoming you to the historic district, on the corner of Carroll Avenue and Edgeware Road, is the Phillips House (not to be confused with Phillips Mansion), so named after a hardware merchant from Iowa named Aaron P. Phillips, who moved to LA in 1887, the year that this Eastlake-Queen Anne behemoth (nearly 3000 square feet, and occupying two lots) was built.

Like the Phillips House, many of the  properties in the area seem innocent enough, though perhaps mysterious. The Newsom Brothers (Joseph and Samuel) designed the shingle-and-clapboard Sessions House with "vaguely Eastern" elements that range from Moorish to Chinese (like the dog/lions that guard the front porch). Quite fancy and exotic for Charles H. Sessions, a dairyman from Connecticut with oil aspirations.

Then the strange creatures begin to emerge, like the 1887 Pinney House that's clad in scales just like a fish. Named after industrialist and civic leader Henry Pinney (former VP of Los Angeles Iron and Steel Company), this "high society" domicile depicted a brothel in a flashback episode of Mad Men. Henry's son Charles lived in the house until he died (here?) at the age of 106 in 1980.

Among the bird necks and beast heads of horse tie-ups (probably none original, though there would've originally been some there in the days before the automobile), the swan one can be found outside the Foy House, which was built in 1872 in Downtown LA (where the Wilshire Grand is now) but came back from the dead twice to land in Angelino Heights.

Named after Samuel C. Foy but often attributed to his daughter, city librarian and suffragist Mary Foy (not the actress), the Victorian Italianate mansion (the first three-story building in the city) was designed by the first professional architect to practice in SoCal, Ezra Kysor. The elder Foy was afflicted with "dropsy" and confined to this home for two years until he died (probably here) in 1901.

And then, the architecture becomes more sinister. The last Victorian built on Carroll, and one of few remaining "Gay Nineties" houses in LA, the 1894 Queen Anne "tower house" built for Wisconsin real estate developer Charles C. Haskins (a.k.a. Haskin) and his wife boasts a "witch's hat" turret.

Another zombie house of Carroll Avenue is the former residence of gardener Hiram B. Irey and his wife Tryphena, an Eastlake-style home that was built in 1887, seven blocks away from its current location, where it was moved to in 1978. Forty years later, this Queen Anne/Eastlake mansion still hasn't been completely brought back to life.

Next is perhaps the most foreboding of the creepy Victorians on Carroll Avenue: the so-called "Thriller" house, named after possibly the most famous music video of all time, Michael Jackson’s 1983 magnum opus.

Known better to architectural historians as the “Sanders House,” the Queen Anne-style manor was originally built in 1887 as a single-family residence, though at one time it was converted into a duplex (four bed, four bath). It patiently awaits restoration (or another horror shoot).

Finally, something wicked or at least witchy may come out of a visit to the Innes House, also circa 1887--better known as the Charmed house because of its role in the TV series from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The Queen Anne/Eastlake home is named after former city councilman Daniel Innes, who was also a real estate developer. No word on whether Mr. Innes was a warlock.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Conservancy, which protects the exterior and interior of the home (including original woodwork and hardware), the Charmed house is one of the few creepy manses on Carroll that you can actually go into.

There, you can examine the leaded windows... and look out onto the world through red-, gold-, green-, and blue-colored glass.

You may never want to reemerge. And the house may not let you go, even if you try.

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Photo Essay: The Museum of Misfit Houses
Photo Essay: Behind the Closed Doors of West Adams Heights
The Forbidden Haunted Mansion of Spadra Ghost Town

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