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.

Van Nuys or Venice, 1948

The Choice, in 1948
Pick your scenery, in 1948

What is more remarkable here, that Van Nuys was once priced higher than Venice? Or realtors once offered “clothes poles” as an amenity?

Or Venice was a choice at all?

In case you were wondering, $9350 in inflation adjusted dollars would be $91,921 today.

You could own a house, freshly constructed, near the ocean in California for $368.95 a month at todays wages.

As you may have already observed, the fates of Venice and Van Nuys, as neighborhoods, have diverged.  In Piketty-ish terms, the family which chose the smaller lot by the beach, as opposed to the larger one in the suburbs would have realized an exponential rise in capital over labor.

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Here’s 6817 Matilija today, courtesy of Google Streetview.      Houses on this block are listed at $500,000.  And they’re selling!  Madness, right?  Until you consider the alternative.

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Here’s a house in Venice on the same block of Greenwood as the ad, listed on Zillow at $1.2 million. Two bedrooms, one bath.

Almost makes one nostalgic for clothes drying on a line in the sun.