Our 1912 catalog of house plans offered by the Los Angeles Investment Company represent another of the many companies that jumped at the chance to take advantage of the bungalow fever that swept the US during the first decades of the 20th century.
During the company's early heyday, corporate offices were housed in downtown LA at the intersection of 8th Street and Broadway. A 13-story Beaux Arts building was designed by Ernest McConnell and completed in 1912. It's now on the National Register of Historic Places and is known as the Chapman Building, so named for it's second owner, Charles Clarke Chapman who purchased the building in 1920.
The LA Investment Company had substantial landholdings in the LA area and was well connected to the major players in the development of the city and the surrounding area. The home design business was instituted in about 1907 with McConnell as the supervising architect. From about 1907 to 1913, the company published about ten collections of bungalow house plans. Our 1912 catalog, Practical Bungalows, shows offerings designed specifically for the well-established middle-class home buyer.
In addition to selling house plans, the company owned hundreds of lots upon which it built its homes. The company owned its lumber yards and mills and manufactured almost everything that went into its buildings, including its own paints.
Ernest McConnell's training in architecture took place at University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). He obtained a BS in Architectural Engineering in 1894 and a Masters in 1905. He was recruited to be LA Investment Coompany's supervising architect by a fellow alumni of the University, Charles A. Elder, who was president of the company.
Elder (Class of 1891) made and lost millions speculating in the Los Angeles real estate market from 1895 to 1913. He was president of the Los Angeles Investment Company until he had the bad form of being convicted of fraud. We imagine he was somewhat chastened upon his departure from McNeil Island Penitentiary after serving a 13-month sentence for "conspiracy to use US Mails to defraud." He established a small real estate business from which he retired from in 1949. (Sadly, Mr. Elder set fire to himself and died in 1954 when he fell asleep with a lighted cigarette.)
Needless to say, this little brouhaha resulted in cessation of the house building and plan book publishing enterprises in about 1914. Forced out of work, probably by association with Elder, McConnell worked at the Los Angeles Ship Building and Dry Dock Co. at San Pedro in 1918. According to family records, he died in 1920. He is generally credited with the majority of designs built by the company between 1907 and 1913.
The house plans may have migrated with the various architectural staff after the plan business ceased. We find a number that appear in slightly modified form in other house plan catalogs such as Sears and Lewis Manufacturing, with Lewis using the same photos as originally shown in the LA Investment Company catalog.
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