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wheelsh.jpgThere’s more to Northeast L.A.’s Heritage Square Museum than old houses. Among the cool things to look at are a dilapidated vintage train car and an assortment of rusty antique wheels.

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hhh2.jpgThe [Hale] house has been called ‘picturesque eclectic,’ meaning its designer took a scroll from here and a fleur-de-lis from there and put everything together with romantic abandon. … Because of its eclectic nature, the Hale house is said to embody, in one package, many architectural inventions of the late 19th century, that buoyant and capricious era.
~ Jack Smith, from his June 1970 L.A. Times column “‘May Day’ for an Old House,” published shortly before the house was moved to Heritage Square.

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They took all the houses
Put ‘em in a house museum
And they charged the people
Ten dollars just to see ‘em

(Apologies to Joni Mitchell!)

Before I ventured downtown on Saturday afternoon, I spent some time visiting Northeast L.A.’s Heritage Square Museum.

The truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Heritage Square’s collection of relocated, lovingly-restored Los Angeles structures all of which date back to the Victorian era.

On one hand, I’m a huge supporter of historic preservation especially when it comes to my hometown, a city that, sadly, is notorious for failing to protect many of its most beautiful and historically-significant buildings. Indeed, nearly all of Heritage Square’s structures were saved from the wrecking ball when they were moved to the museum’s lovely, park-like property in Montecito Heights.

Even so, I can’t help but think how much nicer (if admittedly impractical and cost-prohibitive) it would have been if these grand old houses could have somehow been renovated in place and allowed to beautify their original neighborhoods instead of being kept behind lock and key. Highland Park’s beautiful Hale House (pictured here) was, for instance, displaced in favor of a gas station. All these years later, I can’t drive by that now-ugly spot without a pang of nostalgia and regret.