AKA: Jualita, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA; Wattles, Gurdon Wallace, Sr., and Julia Vance, House and Gardens, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses; landscapes - cultural landscapes - gardens

Designers: Hunt and Grey, Architects (firm); Elmer Grey (architect); Myron Hubbard Hunt (architect)

Dates: constructed 1907

2 stories

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1824 North Curson Avenue
Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA 90046

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The G. W. Wattles House had outstanding grounds and Italian gardens that were opened to the public every Tuesday afternoon, between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. The property later became the City of Los Angeles's Wattles Garden Park.

Building History

Gurdon W. Wattles, Sr., (born 05/12/1855 in Richfield, NY-d. 01/31/1932 in Los Angeles, CA), and his first wife, Abigail Jane Leete, known as “Jennie,” (born 10/1854 in NY-d. 05/25/1916 in Chicago, IL), commissioned the prestigious Pasadena architectural firm of Hunt and Grey to design a spacious, Spanish Colonial Revival House and extensive gardens laid out on a 49-acre property. Gurdon Wattles was born in New York State, but lived for many years in Omaha, NE, where he became involved in the city's urban railways and banking.

He grew wealthy there, but irritated many in that city when he tried to break the hold of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees that had begun organizing the operating carmen of his Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company in 1902. The source of tension was the union's efforts to impose a closed shop policy in 1907. Finding the closed shop demands of "outside agitators" intolerable, Wattles broke a strike in 1909, importing thugs from the East Coast to beat up the strikers, which touched off riots in Omaha that lasted between 09/19/1909 and 09/23/1919. The riots tarnished Wattles's reputation among many in Omaha, who viewed him as a high-handed and devious tyrant. Wattles did not help his own cause when he published a pompous pamphlet outlining his side of the story, called, A Crime Against Labor: A Brief History of the Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway Strike, 1909.

Friction between unions and the Omaha Traction Company resumed in 1935, when more riots occurred April and June, resulting in two deaths and over 100 people injured. The Omaha Traction Company never acceded to the closed shop provision.

A little over a decade after the 1909 strikes, in 1922, Wattles retired permanently to Los Angeles, where he had built this grand winter retreat, consisting of his large house, a working avocado and fruit orchard, and four gardens set up to reflect those he had seen in his travels in Mexico and Japan. One garden, the earliest built, reflected Spanish/Mexican precedents, was designed to harmonize with the architecture of the residence, called by historian Kevin Starr, "...perhaps the first truly Spanish Revival, as opposed to Mission Revival, home of importance in Southern California." (See Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s[New York: Oxford University Press, 1990], n.p.) A second, formal Italian garden was built, a third, more contemporary garden installed, and finally, a Japanese garden was erected in 1908 to the designs of Kinzuchi Fujii(1875-1957). The City of Nagoya, Japan, presented Wattles with a teahouse to place in the garden. This teahouse was unfortunately damaged in a fire set by vandals.

The house was inherited by Wattles's second wife, Julia V. Vance (1883-1977), whom he married on 06/26/1918, and later his son, Gurdon Wattles, Jr., (born c. 1921 in CA), who lived here until about 1965, when he donated the house and property to the City of Los Angeles Parks Department.

Building Notes

The house had the name "Jualita," possibly a portmanteau of his first wife's last name, Leete, and his second wife's first name, "Julia."

Los Angeles County Historic-Cultural Monument: 579

PCAD id: 20196