The home at 1349 North Gardner Avenue was originally built in 1917 by the Stevens & Turner Land Development Company on a two-block stretch between Sunset Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. The neighborhood is located just a few blocks east of historic Spaulding Square and is dominated by apartment buildings and the home of Los Angeles Fire Station 41. When I first visited this property for the family, I discovered the property was squatter-occupied and had to work with the Los Angeles Police Department to clear it before securing and fencing the perimeter.
The house was completely uninhabitable with evidence of fire and water damage throughout. It took a hauling crew and several dumpsters to clean up the property so it could be safely shown to prospective buyers. Plywood boards and a chain link fence were installed to prevent access to the structure. Signs were posted to deter any further breaches.
Making things more interesting for showings, there were several large beehives burrowed into the roof overhang. Access was limited to one side door in the rear, which had to be removed each time with a drill. Photo (above) shows the plywood moved to access the back door.
The backyard featured a very large and deep pool. Many pools from this time period had diving boards and 9 ft. deep ends with the shallow end of the pool dropping off very quickly. Only here the diving board was replaced with a Bomb Shelter.
On March 17th, 1961 (Saint Patrick’s Day), the Berry Family pulled a permit for the installation of a fallout shelter as the Cold War with the Soviet Union was becoming more intense and there was a high anxiety among Americans about the prospect of a nuclear war. The Berrys were certainly forward thinkers and had the work completed months before President John F. Kennedy’s speech on October 6th, 1961 urging U.S. families to build bomb shelters to protect themselves from any atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.
These fallout shelters were designed as enclosed spaces that would protect people from radioactive debris or fallout after a nuclear explosion and minimize exposure until any radioactive material had decayed to safer levels. There were two sets of bunk beds, a sink, small toilet and a hand crank air ventilation system.
This particular fallout shelter was built away from the house structure and featured enough room for a family to survive for several weeks until the radiation was gone.
The next twelve months saw an increase in public attention to build large fallout shelters that could protect the citizens of Los Angeles with a number of office buildings and apartment buildings incorporating bomb shelters into their architectural plans.
The City National Bank Building located a few miles to the west on Sunset Boulevard and just west of Doheny Drive, was completed in 1961 and featured “the nation’s first privately sponsored Civil Defense fallout shelter”. The property was designed by Austrian immigrant Victor Gruen, and was built to house 4,000 people.
The building and its owners received recognition from President John F. Kennedy for the design of the fallout shelter and many buildings followed this corporate modernism in Los Angeles embracing this 1950s bunker architecture with a large wall or concrete plane to protect against any fallout. Today, the fallout shelter is being used by the building’s engineering department.
The Los Angeles Department of Buildings issued a permit on July 7, 1917 to build a single family residence at 1349 N. Gardner Street. Total cost for the building – $4,500. The current owners are developing the site for a 4 unit small lot subdivision.