Historic Fitzgerald House in Los Angeles Needs a Renovation Specialist

Even mansions have their ups and downs. Built in 1906, the Fitzgerald House in the West Adams area of Los Angeles has seen its share of highs and lows, ranging from turn-of-the-20th-century elegance, to home of circus performers, to ad-hoc community center, to site of raucous parties.

Needless to say, the home's seen a number of changes over the past century -- even its address was changed when the city renumbered West Adams Boulevard early in the 20th century. But the stateliness and grandeur of the home remain, awaiting a new owner to restore it to its former glory, explains listing agent Michael Rodgers.

The 6,665-square-foot Italian Gothic -- style mansion and an adjoining lot are on the market for $1,495,000. Renovation specialists have focused on this area of the city looking for similar turn-of-the-century homes to rehab, Rodgers notes.

Estimating the cost of a complete restoration is difficult without an architect's input, but Rodgers says a new owner should expect to spend over $500,000 to return the home to its past glory.

Built for roughly $15,000 over 100 years ago, the six-bedroom, two-bathroom home was designed by noted architect Joseph Cather Newsom. The interior includes such majestic features as California redwood ceiling beams. Also, the five vintage fireplaces remain in the home, Rodgers says.

Original owner James T. Fitzgerald made his mark selling pianos and organs. The second owner bought the place in 1920 but then fell on hard times during the Great Depression, even holding a yard sale on the home's lawn before moving out in 1934. The depression took a toll on the entire neighborhood, starting its steady decline.

By 1952, the home became the headquarters for the Regular Associated Troupers, a group of female circus performers that held onto it into the 1970s, when seamstress Arlillian Moody moved in.

"From the ruins of the Fitzgerald home rose Elegant Manor, a curious mix of community center, dress shop, catering operation and halfway house," according to the Los Angeles Times in 2004. "Ms. Moody hosted fancy weddings and quinceaneras and Mother's Day celebrations. She rented it out for TV and movie shoots. It served as a polling place and a classroom, and the occasional home to political groups, nontraditional churches and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings."

One of Moody's sons took a decidedly different tack with the home after her death, renting it to local gangs for wild parties. Those parties became such a nuisance that the city eventually took over the property and cleaned it up. The current homeowner has put the property back on the market in hopes that a buyer can give this L.A. story a happy ending.