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Home Styles and Materials

Spring is here – a time for new beginnings. This is the first opportunity I have had to finish my feature on styles of homes in our City. I hope it was worth the wait. Remember, also, that I have just covered some of the architectural styles of houses – there are many more that could be mentioned. But I feel it’s time to move on to other subjects that may be important to owners of older homes. So begins the final chapter on styles.

Classical Revival Cottage – This is a style that was a period revival of the 1920s. These homes represented a return to symmetrical design with a centrally placed porch, balanced windows and narrow ship-lapped siding. The windows were usually double hung and many times had multiple panes in the top sash and a single pane in the bottom. The porch roof was typically supported by turned classical columns and the entry door was frequently flanked by side lights. There are many fine examples of this style all along North Myrtle Avenue.

Colonial Revival – These houses are reminiscent of the homes of Colonial America that were built in the 1700s and were very basic in plan. The difference between this style and the Classical Revival Cottage is that these homes are primarily two-stories. They feature wide, ship-lapped siding and large round columns supporting the roof of the centrally placed front porch. Three great examples of this style are located at 211 Highland Place, 145 W. Hillcrest, and the landmarked home at 176 N. Ivy.

Spanish Colonial Revival – While this style is still constructed using modern materials, the Spanish Colonial Revival homes use architectural styles found in many missions of the Southwest. These homes were built with a Moorish influence and celebrated Spain’s colonization of the “New World.” Spanish Colonial is known for its exuberant detailing, such as wrought iron chandeliers and sconces, applied to plain stucco surfaces. Living rooms are usually very large and often have massive tile fireplaces and high open-beamed ceilings. Terra cotta tile is used extensively with decorative tiles accenting staircases and kitchens. Our city boasts one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival at “The Upton Sinclair House” located at 464 N. Myrtle Avenue.

Bungalow – Monrovia has a large inventory of bungalows, ranging from Craftsman style homes to small houses built in the bungalow style. The term “bungalow” has become a generic name to describe many kinds of houses and cottages, but generally refers to homes built between 1910 and 1940. These homes are usually rectangular in shape and typically have broad overhangs and open porches, desirable in warm climates. The bungalow style is meant to give the appearance of a small one-story cottage, even when used for larger homes. These houses were built to bring the outside in, so very large rooms with generous windows are key architectural features. Extensive wood detailing and built-ins are distinctive features of bungalows. In Monrovia, river rock was used in many of the bungalows, both inside for fireplaces, and outside on porches and chimneys. I have sold several Craftsman bungalows, including the Tifal Brothers built home at 124 May Avenue and the chalet style Craftsman at 725 Valley View. Also notable are the houses located on the south side of the 300 block of Wildrose Avenue, displaying many examples of moderately sized bungalows.

Mediterranean – While there are not many examples of this style in Monrovia, they are very popular and contribute greatly to the variety of vintage homes in the city. These houses were inspired by the architecture of Italy and Spain. The outline is usually rectangular in shape and they typically feature arched windows on the ground floor and rectangular windows on the second story. They are always built of stucco with tile roofs and most often display ornamental wrought used for gates, as well as interior and exterior accents. Many times these homes feature Batchelder tile in fireplaces and bathrooms. Two great examples of this fine architecture can be found at 131 E. Hillcrest Avenue and 264 N. Ivy.

Other Styles – While the styles I covered in Parts 1 and 2 are the most predominant in Monrovia, we have many more styles around our town. Highland Avenue boasts homes of differing styles, including a unique Pueblo Revival at 338 Highland. You’ll also find a Normandy Revival on this street that features a conical tower placed at the intersection of the two wings of the house. There is a fine example of an American Foursquare located at 130 N. Myrtle and an interesting Gothic Revival on Concord Avenue. If you take the time to drive our wonderful city, you may find homes built in the Prairie Style (popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright), and even some Moderne architecture. It’s worth spending a day touring Monrovia to see the wonderful styles that make our city the unique and magnificent place in which we find ourselves living.

The Monrovia Old House Preservation Group is currently working on its own driving tour that should be ready sometime before summer. You will be able to purchase a cassette tape along with a map book that will guide you through all parts of town to take a look at homes of all different styles. I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in learning more about architecture in Monrovia.

Real Materials Make a Difference

Have you ever thought of the reasons why many of the old houses built at the turn of the century and into the 20s and 30s are standing today? The native materials used in the structure were an important factor for stability and strength.

The lumber was full-sized seasoned lumber, which was stronger than what is currently used. Today our trees do not grow as nature planned; they are fed and trimmed to increase growth. The nailing of the wood was done by first-class artisans whose pride was in doing a good job. A native material was used for the wood lath instead of gypsum board for the plaster walls. The plaster was all native materials, unlike today’s manufactured drywall. The oak hardwood floors were native. Today we use many cheaper imitation floors.

Just as the body needs whole foods to stay healthy, a house benefits from the use of whole, natural and unprocessed materials. The years that many of these old homes have lasted proves the durability and quality of natural materials.

As most of you know, Monrovia has become a city very much in demand for today’s homebuyers, many of whom are looking for character homes. The Star-News recently printed statistic showing that Monrovia’s home prices have increased by over 50% in the last five years. That’s good news and bad news. It’s great for those of us who own homes here, but not so good for those who may be looking to buy in our fantastic community.

If you own an older home, be sure to keep it in good condition and don’t alter too much of its originality. When the time comes for you to sell, you’ll be sure to get top dollar for your vintage property if you keep it looking like it should!

Please feel free to give me a call if you have any questions on styles. Once again I’d like to thank Steve Baker, City Historian, for his contributions to this topic.


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