1948, In Shards

This is the first sentinel we encountered on our way to the fancy tile emporium in NoHo.


The second sentinel, awaiting our return. He shuffled over to us as though he were about to deliver a handwritten letter.  One grows accustomed to panhandlers at the intersections, conniving or addicted, but not hunched with calcium loss.  I’d say he looked about 70, the same age as my bathroom.

The bathtub was forged in cast iron by the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Co., then dropped into the framing by a road gang in 1948, with no thought given to later renovation, leaving only one exit route, via sledgehammer.

This was the American Radiator Building in New York City, gilded icon of the Jazz Age, all Gothic turrets and coal-inspired black brick.

It once had a showroom in the basement for its useful, class-neutral products: radiators, boilers and bathroom fixtures. Now it’s a Moroccan-themed cocktail lounge called Celon where one can order a Lavender Oasis martini for an undisclosed price.   The Radiator Building is now the Bryant Park Hotel.

Because one cannot over-improve for the neighborhood anymore, even in The Nuys.  Because we are all hostage to whatever 1948 house we landed upon in the somnolent years before The Restoration.  Because no one can trade up to Echo Park.    Because equity trumps the purchasing power of a paycheck, so we bloom where we’re planted.

Because a white tiled bathroom would make Mrs. UpintheValley so very, very sad.

That world is in shards, now.

8 thoughts on “1948, In Shards”

  1. The last time old people were found in large numbers living in destitution – along with plenty of other people of all ages – was during the Great Depression of the 1930s. We tend to think the homeless are weak, addicted, mentally ill, and have made “poor life decisions.” Any many absolutely do fit that description. But in a different context such people are less vulnerable to life begging on a street corner.

    Your 1948 home is a physical artifact of the systems that were put in place after the resolution of those social and economic troubles – otherwise known as WWII. All our institutions were radically restructured in a way that created meaningful employment and modest homes for the majority of the population. Even those folks who were incapable of participating directly were still elevated passively by those new muscular systems aimed at The Middle.

    I suspect we’ll eventually work our way back to some new and reimagined version of a better common framework. But we’ll need to experience that rough transitional phase first. Big fun.

    1. “Your 1948 home is a physical artifact of the systems that were put in place after the resolution of those social and economic troubles – otherwise known as WWII.”

      That makes my sledgehammer awfully transgressive.

  2. Please don’t buy a fiberglass tub…they suck for soaking in-they get cold!
    I wish we had kept our old tub and reglazed it when we remodelled.

    1. We are going to do our bath too. 1918 home, nothing left of the original so anything goes!

  3. “All our institutions were radically restructured in a way that created meaningful employment and modest homes for the majority of the population”

    I live in “The heart of the Valley” – Panorama City which is known as the San Fernando Valley’s first planned community (and not an actual city). In 1948, it was developed as such by residential developer Fritz B. Burns and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser (of Permanente fame). Burns, seeing the huge potential fortune that could be made as large numbers of World War II veterans came home and intending to start families, teamed up with Kaiser in 1945 to form Kaiser Community Homes. The bulk of the houses were bought with loans issued by the FHA or the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. Homes in the area were sold with racially discriminatory covenants. A “Conditions, Covenants, Restrictions” document filed with the county recorder declared that no Panorama City lot could be “used or occupied by any person whose blood is not entirely that of the white or Caucasian race.

    How times have changed.

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