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Father and Son Echo Park Houses Up For Monument Status

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[Shire Art House via Have2Ask; Henry Shire Residence via Kansas Sebastian]

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved Elysian Heights' Shire Art House for Historic-Cultural Monument status this week, along with a nearby Mid-Century modern Echo Park house also owned by a Shire. The Shire Art House was built in 1938, but it's known for the artwork Peter Shire added to it between 1983 and 1988, particularly "Billy's Gangplank," the aluminum and fiberglass sculpture surrounding the porch. The HCM application says the materials and design are the same used in Shire's work for the 1984 Olympics, for which he designed "temporary outdoor discotheques at USC and UCLA...which were later reinstalled at the Museum of Contemporary Art." Peter's brother Billy applied for the designation; he was deeded the house in 1988 and lives there now. It's possible this HCM application comes out of necessity--Eastsider LA reported last year that the Department of Building and Safety "found that the structure sits too close to the street and needs permits." Billy, who owns the Wacko store and Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Feliz, worried that getting the necessary variances would be difficult and expensive.

Making it a twofer, Peter applied simultaneously for HCM status for their father's 1949 Echo Park house, designed by Josef Van der Kar. Henry Shire was an artist and carpenter who drew political cartoons for union publications and did custom cabinetry work for Rudolph Schindler. Like his sons' house, Shire's house is colorful: "The retaining wall which forms the rear wall of the carport is painted yellow. A staircase to the left of the carport leads to a front patio that is covered with teal blue colored, open steel latticework and a long open covered porch, both supported by coral colored, round steel columns. The carport and porch covering have a boxed flat roof with stained redwood exterior, a flat stucco surface beneath and coral colored aluminum flashing at the top. Set beneath the long covered porch are two wood sliding windows with bright blue frames and a red door with transom window."

The City Council will have their vote on both houses next week.
· Echo Park neighbors rally to save "Billy's Gangplank" [Eastsider LA]