MR. LONG BEACH: Hidden House History

In my primary role as a chief photographer at the Long Beach Register I spend a lot of time on the streets. I love the history of this city and will admit I spend a fair amount of time lamenting all the historic buildings that have been torn down in the name of progress.

Last week I wrote about the Jergins Trust building – of which the only remains are a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard downtown. This week I decided to look into some historic buildings that are still standing.

If you look closely you’ll find bits of Long Beach’s past in the homes nestled between post-war bungalows and modern businesses across the city. There are a number of houses I often wonder about.

Who would build such a skinny house? 

Ripley’s Believe It or Not called it “America’s Thinnest House,” and it’s been recognized by the Guinness folks as the “nation’s skinniest house.”

The home at 706 Gladys Avenue sits on a 10-by-50-foot lot, but the house is about 9 feet wide. It was built in 1932 as a bet. It’s a three-story Tudor style home.

As the story goes, the lot was created by a surveying oversight. Nelson Rummond, a construction firm employee, accepted the small lot as a repayment for a $100 loan. People told Rummond the lot was too small to build on – he set out to prove them wrong.

Attorney William John Cox ran his law practice from the Skinny House from 1977 and 1981. It is the office he used to prosecute the Holocaust denial case.

What’s behind those gates?

It’s probably Long Beach’s first gated community and it’s called La Linda – meaning The Pretty.

A home at 11 La Linda Drive was built in the 1890s for George Bixby on 10 acres of farmland. The nine-bedroom, seven-bath, 7,000-square-foot house took three years to build. Although ranch operations stopped in 1910, Bixby lived in the house until his death in 1920. The land was then subdivided and lots were sold.

Today the neighborhood is a mix of American Colonial, Spanish and mid-century homes. The gates prevent you from driving past this mansion, but a quick look at Google Maps satellite view shows its impressive size.  

House with a hall?

In 1907, William Kale built and lived in the home on the southwest corner of Linden Avenue and Ninth Street. According to Long Beach historic landmark documents, Kale built a lavish house – spending $4,500 – as compared to the usual $1,500 of the time.

E.T. Bell and Rolla Alford, a music teacher, moved into the home in 1931. Bell built an addition to the house – a music hall. During the Great Depression and World War II, Alford turned the prestigious house into an art center. The hall would later become the Alford Arts Academy.

At some point in the last century the hall was occupied by Church of Religious Science, then Temple Beth-El. Today it is a meeting center for Mental Health America’s Wellness Center.

There are a lot more stories hidden in the homes of Long Beach. Who knows what stories are hidden in your neighborhood?