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Landmark Lummis Home in Highland Park faces rocky future

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A turn-of-the-century hangout for artists, writers, and musicians

The Lummis Home in Highland Park.
Photo by Croman653 on Flickr

The landmark Craftsman-style Lummis Home—hand-built by Los Angeles journalist, historian and librarian Charles Fletcher Lummis more than a century ago—languishes in its signature sycamore grove in Highland Park as the city and Occidental College continue to work out an agreement to secure its future.

Oxy expressed an interest more than two years ago to take over management and restoration of the two-story house, made of local river rock and featuring a turret and courtyard, the Eastsider reported.

But Oxy spokesman Jim Tranquada told the Eastsider that the college is still trying to raise money for the takeover, and the city continues to manage the house, which is a state and local landmark.

In the meantime, the house sits idle, and public visiting hours have been cut to just 10 hours a week: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to Saturday and Sunday.

Lummis was a writer, reporter, photographer, preservationist and city librarian who helped found the Southwest Museum, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Charles Fletcher Lummis during the construction of El Alisal.
City of Los Angeles

He bought a 3-acre lot in Highland Park in 1897—at the Arroyo Seco Parkway and Avenue 43—and took 13 years to build his 4,000-square-foot house, digging out the basement by hand and hauling river rock out of a local stream. He called it "El Alisal," referring to the alder and sycamore trees that surrounded it, the Times reported:

“When the house was completed, Lummis invited artists, writers and musicians to parties that were held in an exhibition hall that had a concrete floor so that it could easily be cleaned with a bucket of water. He built guest houses for those who spent the night, including such dignitaries as Clarence Darrow, humorist Will Rogers, composer John Philip Sousa and naturalist John Muir.”

Oxy stepped in to negotiate with the city after the previous managers left, the Eastsider reported:

“The city-owned property had been previously managed for nearly 50 years by the Southern California Historical Society. But at the end of 2014, the historical society moved out after its offer to continue to manage the property was rejected by Recreation and Parks Department, which wanted to find an organization that had greater financial and technical resources to run and restore the property.”

So far, there's no agreement, and the future of the Lummis Home is up in the air.