Dingbat Acropolis

First of all, it seems necessary to explain that by using the term Dingbat Apartments we don't mean to criticize or demean the people who live in them.   The name is nothing more than a shorthand that denotes any apartment building of a particular design and layout.

The classic dingbat is typically a smallish building of two or three stories, which shelter perhaps nine to fifteen units.   Less narrowly, the term can denote any post-WWII apartment house that exhibits the following important feature: it is either completely bland in appearance, or else it is festooned with decorative but architecturally meaningless details.  Here's a typical example from our earlier post on the subject of Bizarre Apartment Names.

Typical "dingbat" apartment
For those who would stalk the Dingbat Apartment in its natural habitat, a pretentious name for the building, if any, is an almost sure-fire giveaway, as is any signage that includes the words Luxury Apts.   
Nevertheless, the dingbat is probably the most mocked, the most maligned form of housing that exists.  For all their lack of true architectural character, they do provide an option for residents who want to remain in the confines of an expensive city without having  to buy their own property there.  Moreover, dingbats tend to cluster around major thoroughfares whose neighborhoods often offer a variety of amenities with in easy reach.   They are almost always within easy reach of bus lines, or if you're really lucky, a rail line.  If you live in a dingbat, chances are you can use your car a much less than you would if, for example, you lived in a suburban  tract house.  Like it or not, the dingbat apartment house is first step in the evolution of a single-family home neighborhood into one of higher density.  It used to be that multi-family housing wasn't necessary in L.A. because there was always cheap, undeveloped land available over the next hill...or the one after that.  Obviously this isn't so true anymore.

For a more comprehensive treatment of the dingbat phenomenon, I  highly recommend the Dingbatologist's website, here.  I might be poaching in his territory just a bit here, but it's undeniable that certain Dingbats come into the jurisdiction of this blog, which is the bizarre , the strange, and just plain weird.

Which brings us to the present case.   The intersection of Palms Boulevard and Overland Avenue, just south of the 10, is the center, the absolute nexus, of all things dingbat.  To enumerate all the fine specimens in this neighborhood would take years, so for now we'll just look at the building I spotted a couple of blocks away.  Since it doesn't seem to have a name, let's just call it Dingbat Acropolis.

Dingbat Acropolis

Note the soaring front elevation that includes a great post-and-lintel  accented by three improbably placed columns of a vaguely Doric  appearance. Seeing this building for the first time, from across the road, I was willing to give it the benefit of a doubt.  After all, this is the southeastern facade that we're looking at, and, because this is Los Angeles, it typically gets hit with a large dose of late morning sun, nearly every day.  (Dingbats often act as heat wells.) Therefore, it seemed likely that the columns might have an actual purpose in shading the interior.  Or, assuming that there was some kind of terrace or breezeway at that level, they might also serve as a safety rail.

But no: these columns just float uselessly in the air.  The lintel on which they are mounted isn't connected to any useful space in the building.

Tiled cross-pieces and the Hanging Lamp of Horror

While we do have to acknowledge that the tile-work on the lentils gives the place a fine Googie-esque quality, the lamp is another story, and reminds us of -- what?  Could it be the Chamber Of Horrors at the Hollywood Wax Museum?  Or perhaps it's the Tower Of London.  It looms threateningly over our heads like the Sword Of Damocles.  And the air conditioner sticking out of the wall to the right is a nicely festive touch.

Here's another view of the main entrance.

Again we see the Brazen Lamp Of Death--now with a matching fence of spikes visible--but what really strikes us here is the apartment door visible near the bottom of the frame, which appears here as if it were twenty feet off the ground.  Obviously there are stairs that lead to it, but because we can't see them the placement of the door seems random.  It doesn't seem to belong.  But the spiked railing does go nicely with the lamp.  I think those spikes may figure somehow in the sanctioning of tenants who break the lease rules.

Evidently, this building went up in 1967, which is exactly what we'd expect.  We can almost imagine Sergeant Joe Friday knocking on that apartment door, or taking a cigarette break in the foyer while Gannon questions the witness.

Update: Romani Hortii 

The material on the Roman Gardens Apartments has been moved to its own post which can be found here.

We Bet You Didn't See This Coming.  Neither Did We.

Today, while walking south on Overland Avenue, south of the Sony Studios, I discovered the Grecian Gardens Apartments.

The Grecian Gardens

Although I looked carefully....

...I was unable to find anything about this place that was remotely Grecian.

The Venus de Dingbat

This section has been moved to its own post, here.

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across this blog and ... yeah. I lived at the Grecian Gardens in the mid-80s, when I was just a kid. Back then, it was painted white, and there were some crumbling plaster statues in the interior courtyard (and an exceptionally-green pool in the back). I'd be surprised if any of that survives lol

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane!