West Temple Apartments (The Rochester)
Original location: 1012 West Temple Street
The story of West Temple Apartments, AKA The Rochester, is a crazy one.
When he first had it built in the Second Empire style in 1887, Rufus Van Dorn named his house The Rochester for his New York hometown. A decade later, it was bought by the Van Nuys family who converted the structure into an apartment building at the end of World War I. Like a lot of Bunker Hill properties, it fell into disrepair following WWII.
Okay, now the crazy part.
In August 1967, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historical Monument Commission voted to move the Rochester from its West Temple home to Main and Republic Streets as part of the park being developed around the city’s Old Plaza (this Board – different than the Cultural Heritage Commission – had been overseeing the park project since 1965). The Commission also set up a solicitation fund for its relocation and restoration. Over the next few years, money was raised and a HUD grant of up to $100,000 was applied for and contracted. Then, in August of 1969, the Commission decided the Rochester wasn’t allowed in the park after all. Why? Well, the idea was always a matter of disagreement within the Board. Some of the Commission maintained the non-Spanish architecture of the Rochester would look out of place in Old Plaza. Also, they felt other things – like parking space – were more necessary.
In protest, a group made up of private contributors as well as three Board members (John Anson Ford, Dorothy A. Burnaby, and David A. Workman) sued the Commission, claiming the board had voted to move the Apartments, had raised public and private money, and had no right to renege. The plaintiffs won, and the Commission appealed the ruling. Jump to early fall, 1970, when, with verdict pending, the Rochester was moved temporarily to “railroad property just north of Union Station” (i.e. Alameda and Bruno Streets). In early 1971, California’s Court of Appeals upheld the original decision. Later that spring, following the State Supreme Court’s refusal to hear another appeal, the Commission unanimously consented to relocate and restore the Rochester.
After all this, however, that temporary move turned out to be permanent. For whatever reason, the Rochester was allowed to languish further at the Alameda/Bruno site until it was ultimately demolished in 1979.
A picture of the Rochester being moved.
Another picture of the move.
A shot of the inside at its worst.
Ray Hebert. “Battle to Keep House Out of Park Given Up” Los Angeles Times; April 15, 1971, p. B4.
McGrew, Patrick and Julian, Robert. Landmarks of Los Angeles. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994.
Harbach v. El Pueblo de Los Angeles etc. Com. (1971) 14 CA3d 828
Photo: Los Angeles Department of City Planning
Up next: Hollyhock House
Thursday, April 5, 2007
The Rochester waiting to be restored (UCLA Library Digital Collections).