"Palos Verdes Resident since 1947"

The Moore House, Palos Verdes Estates

There has been a lot of discussion about the impending demolition of the “Moore House”, 504 Paseo Del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates.  Having lived here since 1947 and grown up in Neighborhood Church across the street from it, I remember when it was built and have some perspective on this:

First of all, and cutting to the chase, I agree that the current owner has the right to tear it down and build the house he desires.  The PVE City Council hearing was filled with out-of-area “architectural preservation” people who were long on words but shorter on action.  They wanted the house preserved, but apparently at current owner Mr Paullin’s expense.  Personally, I have always liked the style of the house, but I’m not the one paying the bills.

Much of the pro-demolition argument had to do with the house’s obsolescence, unattractive aesthetics, and unlivability.  It is important to remember that, when this house was built in the mid-50’s, the old Spanish and Mediterranean style that had been prevalent from the 1920’s until after the War was then as out of favor as this house now apparently is.  There was very little done in those days to preserve what are now considered “architectural treasures” and, as a Realtor, I see evidence all the time of the low regard in which those “Old Spanish” homes were held during that time, with the remains of additions and remodels that were obviously contemporary attempts to “update” them.  The Florentine Villa now known as Neighborhood Church (former Haggarty mansion) across the street was subjected to the most insensitive modifications during the ’50’s and ’60’s, and it’s a miracle that the property survived as well as it did.  My father, with a degree in architecture, was involved in much of it — times and attitudes were different then, and I think it’s important to remember that they will be different in the future.

There were also comments to the effect that “how could the Art Jury have approved this design?”.  Again, put yourself in the time frame:   the Palos Verdes Project had been dealt a serious setback by the Great Depression, with very little new construction during that time.  Along came World War II, and all the young couples who came to Palos Verdes after it to start a new life (my parents among them), had little money, and were thankful just not to be shot at.  As a result, there was a huge wave of small, relatively non-descript 2 and 3 bedroom homes built in PVE from 1946 until the late 1950’s, especially in Valmonte and Lunada Bay (there were hardly any paved roads in Montemalaga).  Drive by the 1200 square foot one my parents built in 1949 at 4205 Via Pinzon for a good example.  I would estimate the average size of those post-War homes to have been about 1400 square feet, with the “big” ones approaching 2000 sf.  Such luxuries as caring about the “style” of the house were only affordable to those with the means, who were in short supply.  This was not the original plan for the City, but those pedestrian homes were still more desirable than the old Spanish dinosaurs built before the War, which were now old and needed updating, had small rooms, microscopic closets, antiquated heating — you know — the ones that are now treasures.  I know it’s hard for those who arrived in the last, say, 30 years to understand, but PV was just not as exclusive and “special” in those days as it is now.

Meanwhile, in the 1950’s there were all those magnificent architectural reminders of days-gone-by scattered about the City, with many of the “founders” still alive and active.  I have little doubt that, in that environment, the Art Jury was happy to have someone with the wherewithall and desire to employ a well-known architect to build an impressive, up-to-date home on the scale of those then out of favor. 

It is important to remember that tastes change.  It’s like old cars (I have a couple).  There was a time when my 1932 Chrysler Imperial Convertible Sedan was lucky to escape the crusher.  Like it, the Olympian cars of the late ’20’s and ’30’s, the Duesenbergs, Packards, Marmons, Pierce-Arrows, which are now practically deified,  were shown no respect and, if they had escaped the scrap metal drives of WW 2, were often found in the ’50’s and ’60’s abandoned in fields, not even worth being hauled away.

I know I won’t convince you now, but there will come a time when the prevaling sentiment will be “what were they thinking?  How could the City have allowed such a magnificent house to be torn down?”.

 

 

 

  1. George Fotion

    Great article Dana. As usual, well thought out, good perspective.

  2. Stephen O'Brien

    Have followed your career with interest over the years.Lived in P.V from 1956-1962 and now live in Davenport Iowa.We sold our house at 6208 moongate drive for 595,000 in 2012.One of my friends at work wanted to know if you were married? and where do you get such energy

  3. danagraham

    lol. Such energy as there is probably comes from both my parents who were Type A’s to the max, so I got the double whammy, as did my sisters. People often comment on how much I seem to have going on, and when I complain about it, I can hear my mother’s voice complaining how busy she was — all self-induced. $595K sounds pretty cheap for Moongate — off Covecrest, right? So, did you go to Valmonte? I graduated 6th grade in 1960. Yep, I’m married. Wife also thinks I’m too busy .

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