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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A foreclosure ends a Victorian dream in Angeleno Heights

The Libby House is one of those head-turning Angeleno Heights Victorian gems, painted in shades of pistachio, trimmed with frilly wood work and topped by peaked roofs and a turret. But perhaps the most prominent feature of the 122-year-old house on East Edgeware Road these days is the "For Sale" sign out front and the Sheriff's "Notice to Vacate" sign taped to a window. These are signs of not only another foreclosure but of the loss of a prominent Angeleno Heights resident and preservationist who was forced to move out of the house and neighborhood she loved and lived in for more than 30 years.

Many Angeleno Heights residents are still shocked that Peggy Levine was forced to abandon 724 E. Edgeware Road, which was sold at auction several months ago and leave the area. "I was horrified," said former Angeleno Heights resident Tracy Stone, who served with Levine on the board overseeing the neighborhood historic district. "She was a huge asset to the neighborhood and it's really sad to think about her not living in that house."

Losing a house is painful for anyone. But the loss is only magnified among the many house-and-history obsessed homeowners of Angeleno Heights who have invested so much of their time, money as well as themselves in their homes. "I think most people in the preservationn movement are house-crazy," said Stone. The homes "are inherently fragile to begin with ... you have to seek out craftspeople and special materials. It's above and beyond a normal house remodel."

Levine, who now lives outside the neighborhood, and her former husband were among the first wave of preservation minded residents to settle in Angeleno Heights about three decades ago. The couple spent years restoring the former rooming house (pictured in 1982 in the middle photo) and carriage house out back, stripping many walls down to the studs and restoring the remaining features. The home that marked the east end of Carroll Avenue was the site of countless community meetings, home tours, holiday teas as well as an outdoor concert. Levine has also served for many years on the board of the Angeleno Heights Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. But, since she is no longer a resident, Levine must eventually abandon her board seat.

Levine, unlike some preservationists, also had a deep interest in other neighborhood issues and causes beyond restoring Lincrusta wallpaper or replicating Victorian-era landscaping. Maryann Hayashi, executive director for Central City Action Committee, recalls that many Angeleno Heights residents were less than thrilled when her group, which runs a youth program and graffiti-paint out crew, moved into the restored Old Firehouse No. 6. Levine, however, was one of the exceptions. "She was one of the first to welcome the kids. She understood that we were filling a real need for the youth in our community and supported us."

Who in Angeleno Heights is going to fill Levine's void? It's not clear. Her former home, listed for sale at $879,000, went into escrow this week.

Middle photo from the California State Library via Big Orange Landmarks.

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