Starr Farmhouse
Historic Restoration
Welcome to the Joseph Lee Starr Dairy Farmhouse. Some 120 years ago, this Victorian cottage was the farmhouse for the family that owned this 20-acre Starr/Estrella Dairy (Starr translated into Spanish is “Estrella”). J.L. Starr was an enterprising cattleman who hailed from Texas and, it’s said, descended from the famous Austin family. He and his wife, Mary, moved to California in 1874, first settling in Port Hueneme, Ventura County, where J.L. became a successful rancher. In 1887, fortune beckoned, and the Starr family moved to Los Angeles as this dusty pueblo was transitioning to becoming a thriving metropolis. 
(If you are a Los Angeles history buff, before this time much of the land was taken up by cattle ranches, and these animals were raised mostly for their hides/leather products. But in 1887, developers began to carve up formerly agricultural lands to establish townships like nearby Arlington Heights. At the same time farmers began to grow food for people to consume, not just for livestock.) Starr determined that the time was ripe for a dairy providing milk to a growing number of Los Angelenos.
Despite the Farmhouse’s modest size, it was designed by a very well known architect, fellow Texan Joseph Newton Preston, who had just moved his practice to Los Angeles. Preston was far more famous for his designs of the old Los Angeles High School (1890) and the County Hall of Records (1887), as well as numerous municipal buildings in Austin, Texas and throughout the Lone Star State. He also designed the well-known Driskill Hotel, which still operates in Austin.
The years were not kind to the Starr Farmhouse (to say the least – see our photo gallery, What A Wreck. This was the condition on the day we closed escrow!) By 2005, it had been carved into bootleg units, neglected, and was then abandoned and vacant. The City of Los Angeles cited it as a trash-filled nuisance. Making matters worse, in 2007, the then-owner demolished portions of the structure, even though it was a registered landmark, and also gutted parts of the interior. Some pieces of what preservationists call “historic fabric” were lost.
Some may think we’re crazy to take on such a Don Quixote-like task? Maybe so. But anyone who has a passion for preservation, for history, and for architecture, might understand why we are so committed to bringing the Starr Dairy Farmhouse back to life. We do plan to beautifully restore this wonderful Victorian farmhouse so that it becomes, again, a gem in the Historic West Adams District, and we hope you follow our progress in these pages.
While all historic properties in an older neighborhood contribute to the continuity of the streetscape and the integrity of the community as a whole, some structures stand out for their uniqueness and/or pivotal importance in defining how the neighborhood was developed or in defining the pattern of architectural development in Southern California. In this case, the Starr Farmhouse is one of the few remaining Victorian era farmhouses in central Los Angeles, and the very last farmhouse in Jefferson Park.
Friday, June 6, 2008
What a Wreck   [view picture gallery]