Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Lincoln Place Apartments

Okay, let's call this a departure, as it's not a typical "Confessions of ignorance" post, but I think it fits within the broader reaches of the idea. We'll see.

I am not a Facebook user. Why that in particular should seem a bridge too far, I don't know, but I have at least for now decided to forego the entertainment I could have by stalking my friends in favor of other pursuits. The main drawback I can see is that in this world of searching out long lost acquaintances, people are typing in my name, and coming up blank. Well, not exactly blank--I believe that what they actually get is an attractive young black woman, whom they would probably be much happier having as a Facebook friend anyway.

There are one or two people I wouldn't mind connecting with again out of the past, though. And on just that whim, I tried to search out the identity of a boy I went to kindergarten with before we both moved away. It's not too likely that I will be successful at this, because I don't even remember his last name, although that might come back to me--you never know.

Anyway, purely on a whim I did some googling around our old grade school, and when that proved fruitless, I decided that somehow researching the old apartment complex where we both happened to live might help. It didn't. I mean why would it, it's not as if he signed the lease.

But, as is sometimes the way with fruitless searches, the secondary rewards can compensate you to a degree for the loss of the primary ones. Because just by chance I came across a blog post about those very apartments. And here is where my subject and the theme of this blog finally come together.

I didn't know, for instance that when I was between the ages of about three and six that I had lived in a housing project. This isn't because I was ashamed about my past, or tried to block it out, it's just that I didn't think of it as what we've come have as the stereotyped image of a project, which I suppose would include the adjectives 'scary, unsafe, graffiti-scrawled and probably in a skyscraper. These two-story buildings with spacious lawns in between were none of that. But their building was funded with section 608 subsidies by the Federal Housing Authority. Section 608 was born out of the emergency need for housing for returning vets after the war and was thought of as War Housing Insurance. Lots of scandal around it too, but that's another story.)

Anyway, my parents were part of that wave of veterans who married and came to L.A. and began starting a family as they, meaning mostly my dad, began his post service career path. This housing complex in still low-priced Venice, though still near to my grandmother in more tony Santa Monica must have seemed a fine first step.

Here's a couple more things I was ignorant of, though. First of all, this complex was apparently designed by Ralph Vaughn, one of the few African-Americans architects then--or now. The issue was apparently so charged that project manager Heth Wharton acted as a kind of beard. One of the developers of the project said that they hadn't known Vaughn was African-American and it wouldn't have mattered if they had. They later received death threats for working with a black architect, but were not deterred. The full story is

Seems like enough to know about a place you once lived in, right? Well, maybe, but in this case, no. Because one of the most important events to happen in this place happened in this our current millennium. In August of 2005, the tenants of the Lincoln Place Apartments were treated to the largest single day eviction lockout in L.A. history. By then, the property owner was AIMCO, one of the largest apartment owning companies in the country. Predictably, they wanted to tear down this complex and put up expensive condominiums.

Okay, enough holding out on my source for all this stuff. You can read the blog and see the pictures here.  There is a little film about the eviction that is quite moving. You'll be happy to learn that the story has a happy, if ambivalent ending.

For me, of course there are other reasons to be moved. The touching thing is how little any of this has changed. There might be a slightly different demographic these days, but apparently the way of life that the architecture was meant to facilitate remained intact for almost half a century. It is a bit uncanny to see, actually.

It's as if I never left.


  1. That was an excelllent and interesting post. You really do have a way with words. Good to learn a little a more about you, as I also did when I read that excellent and very moving tribute to your mom.

  2. Exactly what Sean said.

    I'm curious, why aren't you on facebook?

  3. Thanks, you guys. I'm not usually all that interested in doing autobiographical posts, but I was rather stunned at being able to revisit and reappraise an early childhood experience through another's eyes, to learn that there were these surprising facts about it, and to put my own experience in this larger, ongoing context.

    As for Facebook, it's just that I get sucked into the web way too much as it is. It just came a little late in the day for me. I'm sure something will happen to make me cross the line, but it hasn't yet.

  4. I'm with Sean and Glenna - very different post yes, but just as arresting.
    It is the weirdest experience when an old photo or something else transports you back to a childhood world and it triggers all sorts of other memories and associations. I love the way you describe the discovery of the historical significance of the building which you lived in with innocent blissful ignorance as a child. And it is also a weird feeling to "re-visit" such places today. Great stuff.

  5. Thank you, Philip. Yes, it's an oddly emotional journey, and I think the fact that these units floor plans were so much alike, at least the one the other blogger photographed, made it feel like a real re-entry.

    It does remind me a bit of the posts you're doing on Carrickfergus and environs in that way, and I think it's great that you're doing so much research of various kinds on your region. It's valuable.

  6. Seana

    No, I'll third what the guys said. An excellent post. Dont mind the depature at all. In fact if I can add my two cents...

    more please...

    Phil I think grew up in Eden Village before the housing project where I lived was even built but we both shared the basic topography.

  7. Thanks, Adrian. I appreciate it. Mostly what I'm seeing as I look at it again is that it is much in need of copyediting. Oh, well.

    I'm not averse to writing more like this, but it's kind of a 'the wind bloweth where it listeth' kind of thing.

    It is so interesting to have your and Philip's different yet detailed takes on Carrickfergus and environs. Very complementary. I hope I get up to that part of the world one day.

  8. Thank you so much for passing on the link to my blogpost and for sharing your story of living at Lincoln Place. It's such an amazing piece of history.


  9. Thank you, "." Your post was really moving.More than glad to share it with others and I hope you keep exploring L.A. in that way.