Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mr. Tiny's Neighborhood Watch: The "Luck" of Baldwin Hills

As soon as the words left our mouths, we knew we had made a rookie mistake; during a round table discussion with a group of European friends, we suffered from an unfortunate choice of words by referring to the charming, turn-of-the-century, downtown area of a Southern California neighborhood as "historic."  History is a matter entirely relative, as was evidenced when one of our friends laughed heartily before explaining that the still-functioning church at the end of his street was constructed in the Fifth Century - like first, second, third, fourth...FIFTH CENTURY!  Yes, the rest of the world scoffs when Americans start detailing the highlights of our "rich history."  Imagine how much sillier it sounds when we as Southern Californians, wax poetic about the fascinating history of our state.  And yet, in spite of our infancy by world standards, there are certain neighborhoods that leave us feeling genuinely proud of our still-blossoming heritage.

Named after famed California pioneer, Lucky Baldwin, Baldwin Hills is one Los Angeles neighborhood that has us running to fill out our membership forms for the local historical society.  Offering unparalleled panoramic vistas of Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills is a city (within a city) upon a hill, a utopia of modernism.

The view from Baldwin Hills is, dare we say it, HEAVENLY!

Even better if you live in this flat-topped, window-walled dream house

I had heard that Baldwin Hills was filled with mid-century modern homes; after winding my way through the circuitous streets, I was happy to find out that I was not misled.

From the beautifully-manicured gardens, to the stone wall, to some of the difficult-to-capture
details, this home is a perfect example of Chinese Modernism in residential architecture.

Not to be outdone, this otherwise nondescript ranch house is done up
with contrast stripes, shaped shrubbery, and festive faux foliage!  Let it
be said that there is no guilt in gilt double-doors with dynamic decorations.

Remove that distracting satellite dish (or even better, decorate it as a UFO or giant paper lantern) and
 this steel, glass, and concrete masterpiece would be an amazing venue for the coolest cocktail parties.

Filled with an equal measure of luxury and modest abodes, Baldwin Hills is a microcosm of the entire city's history as multicultural melting pot.  The street names (Don Diego, Don Luis, Don Felipe, et al.) are a nod to California's pre-statehood days.  Once predominantly caucasian, the neighborhood has become well known as an African American enclave.  Always considered an affluent community, the makeup of the population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Fortunately, the architectural character of the neighborhood has endured the progress of Baldwin Hills' evolution.

The roofline, the corner wall of windows, the stone facade, the well-integrated landscaping, and
the atrium entryway work together to create an urban oasis in which we'd be happy to seek relief.

There are still a few holdouts in our own neighborhood with pebbly roofs; this
petite pink palace puts them to shame with it's seriously-rocky rooftop landscape. 

Whoever said, "Simplicity is beauty," must've had this sweet, little house in mind.
The stacked flagstone retaining wall/foundation and two-tone color scheme
in sage and sea foam offer all the pizzazz that this house could possibly need.

Proving that a wacky tacky pedigree is made of more than mid-century modernism, Baldwin Hills offers homes of all varieties.

Sure, there are plenty of MCM details - breeze block, decorative screens, dimensional
trim - but we really go gaga for oversized reliefs of playful elephants, regal gates with
suits of armor, and custom garage doors with the street address as a clock face!

And while we're not huge fans of apartment living, Baldwin Gardens has the look we like!

In fact, some of our very favorite homes were those that were more mainstream America than mid-century modern.

I don't know how I'd feel about trudging up those stairs with arms full of grocery bags but I do know that
I love the scalloped trim, diamond-pane windows, and subtle storybook charm of this white clapboard house.

After a second glance, I'm not so sure that isn't a multi-unit dwelling rather than a single-family home.
Either way, this stately manse cuts an impressive, nouveau-neo-Classical figure on the corner of Don Mariano.

Oddly enough, it seems that Mr. Baldwin never kept house in his namesake hills.  If I was Lucky, I would have built my castle at the very top of said hills, proudly surveying the surrounding land like a king on a throne.  If I'm lucky, maybe I'll be able to make the candy-colored, post-war dreamscape of Baldwin Hills (or a neighborhood like it) home someday.

"If I'm Lucky" - Perry Como

Well, what do you think of Baldwin Hills?  Are you a fan of city living with a quaint suburban feel?  Are there neighborhoods in your town that always have you itching to be in the market for real estate opportunities?  Is there an incredible neighborhood for which you think Mr. Tiny should currently be on the watch?  Let us know!


Mr. Tiny


  1. Mr Tiny, Thank you for doing this series. I have myself a mid century ranch house and i have been looking for ways to spruce up it curb appeal (and stay true the era). You have given me a few ideas.

    1. That is so great! I'm glad I could be of help. Thanks!