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6 must-read LA history stories

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From SoCal’s most famous tile maker to the origin of the city’s Storybook-style cottages

The Tam O’Shanter restaurant at present day. It has a turret with a timber roof and a wood and neon sign that reads “The Tam O’Shanter established 1922.”
The Storybook-style Tam O’Shanter in Atwater Village.
By Liz Kuball

With a string of rainy days on the horizon and the numerous cancellations and closures announced in the last week, it’s likely that Angelenos will be spending a lot of time indoors. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best Los Angeles history stories we’ve recently published.

Travel to the early days of the region’s other legendary moviemaking center and learn how—with Apple and Amazon Studios coming to town—Culver City is lined up to once again be an entertainment hub. Or get to know a female midcentury designer—perhaps you’re familiar with her Grasshopper lamp?—who aimed to use design to “liberate women from the drudges of endless housework.” Then tour the charming 1920s homes of “Bungalowland” in the South LA neighborhood of Jefferson Park.

If you want more LA history, there’s enough reading to fill several weekends in our archives.

Photo by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Ernest Batchelder: Southern California’s masterful tile maker

Southern California is chock-full of great tile, whether it’s dazzling Art Deco bathrooms or red rooftop tiles atop a Spanish Colonial-style bungalow, but the makers of the tiles are usually unknown. That’s not the case with Ernest Batchelder. Though the tile maker died more than 50 years ago, he is still known and respected as a brilliant designer and an important contributor to the American Arts and Crafts movement.

A photo looking up the front facade of a yellow, mid-rise building. Two “wings” of the building come out like arms readying for an embrace. Three parallel ribbons of windows run up the central section of the facade. Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

The pride of West Adams

The 1929 opening of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building in West Adams was more than a standard business expansion. It was a bold statement in a time of profound racial discrimination and marginalization—and it stood as a source of pride of the black community, says historian Robert Lee Johnson, author of Notable Southern Californians in Black History.

An older, distinguished-looking woman in a fuchsia blouse sits confidently at an architects drafting table. She’s surrounded by mid-century modern furniture, abstract art on a wood-paneled wall, and plants. Illustration. Tallulah Fontaine

The midcentury architect who liberated women

Designer and architect Greta Magnusson Grossman a legend within the midcentury design community—a groundbreaking industrial designer, furniture maker, interior decorator, and architect. Her revolutionary designs were gradually pushed into the background as the fame of some of her contemporaries, including Craig Ellwood and Charles and Ray Eames, grew. Now Grossman is having a comeback.

A blue house with white trim and a gray roof is partially concealed behind a large tree. The home has a covered front porch. Liz Kuball


Jefferson Park, a classic streetcar suburb, was “jumpstarted” around the turn of the 20th century, when a streetcar line began to serve the neighborhood. Here’s how affordable kit houses and “plan books” helped the neighborhood grow.

A large cottage-like home with a drooping, thatched roof is surrounded by mature trees on a corner lot on a gloomy day. Getty Images

Spellbinding storybooks

Witchy cottages, “hobbit houses,” and other magical Storybook-style homes dot the city. Dig into the origins of some of the most well-known examples (like the adorable Petersen Studio Court) and the times in which they flourished.

Getty Images

Culver Studios before Amazon

The historic Culver Studios in Culver City is currently undergoing a massive overhaul, and, when work is complete, will house offices for Amazon Studios, the wing of the company that makes television and movies. An incredible amount of moviemaking history took place on the Culver Studios lot—Gone With The Wind burned sets to the ground here—and tracing the backstory of the property is also a introduction to the early days of Hollywood.