In 1924 the Los Angeles Times asked five prominent local architects, “What appears to be the fixed style of home architecture in Southern California” and how influential is this style on the rest of America? (August 31, 1924) While differing on the details, all agreed that local design choices were dictated by "good architecture," the Los Angeles climate and a love for all things "Mediterranean, Colonial Spanish or Mexican." Harold O. Sexsmith, a designer of small residences, coined the phrase California-ized Latin to describe the public’s obsession with these styles. For decades plastered walls, shuttered windows, low-pitched tile roofs were de rigueur for the majority of homes and large commercial businesses built in the greater Los Angeles area. After seeing photos of the movie stars' Hollywood homes in fan magazines almost every aspiring American buyer wanted his own miniature California rancho or mission-style home. The California-style became an enduring American aesthetic style.Architectural historians trace the public’s fascination with the “romance of the rancho” to the publication of Helen Hunt Jackson’s bestselling novel Ramona in 1884. (Timeline 1884—Social Urban History) Jackson’s description of a fictional California ranch filled with exotic characters and star-crossed lovers became the stereotyped American view of California for generations. Jackson had written her novel after a visit with the socially prominent Del Valle family at their large ranch in Ventura County. With her overly romantic prose, detailed descriptions of what she had seen and the inclusion of drawings of the real buildings in later editions of the novel, Jackson helped create a mythic past for the region. During Jackson's stay she met daughter Ysabel Del Valle. (Image 2, front) Years later after Ysabel was widowed, Paul Revere Williams would design a Spanish Colonial Revival-style home for her on Sycamore Avenue in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles—the same style inspired by her family home in the romantic novel Ramona published almost 40 years before.
The Wilshire residential area is a mix of Period Revival architectural styles popular in Los Angeles in the 1920s and mid-1930s. Sycamore Avenue was a street of upscale, two-story, multi-family homes and an ideal location for Mrs. Ysabel Del Valle Cram to build her personal residence/investment property. In 1925 Williams designed the two-story, 14-room, two-family duplex for the 60-year-old widow. (Image 3) Built by popular contractor Garnett Tyler for $16,000, the residence had many features Williams’ wealthy clients insisted on: separate garage in the rear of the property, hand-made tile roof, custom wrought iron details, oak flooring, tiled bathrooms and sinks and top-of-the-line Humphrey water heaters. (Southwest Builder and Contractor. January 2, 1925) Socially prominent Ysabel let the 756 side of the duplex and lived at 758 until her death in 1936. Except for modernizing the interior and adding metal awnings, the building is unchanged.