Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 15, 2020

Close to Home: The Castle and the Bungalows

Travel in a bubble? That’s the reality of stay-at-home isolation. The Web is replete with virtual visits to museums, cities, faraway places one can tour online during our time spent at home.

One recourse for a travel blogger is to mine deeper into previous trips to uncover the previously unreported. That risks evoking a sort of nostalgia for places one cannot go in the immediate future; one can only remember.

IMG_6372 Venice waterfront Brad Nixon

I do intend to go back to Venice. I won’t mind if the cruise ship throngs are slower to return than I. This scene of a jam-packed Piazza San Marco in 2011 was … daunting.

IMG_6364 Brad Nixon

Drive-By Tourism?

The only way to not only see but genuinely appreciate most of the world is by getting out and walking around. Currently, that’s a challenge, and to be avoided. Lots of walks, both near and far, are simply off limits. That includes magnificent places not that far away from me, like Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree Brad Nixon 6293 (640x471)

The entire park — as well as most other U.S. national parks — is completely closed. I trust the flora and fauna are glad to be rid of us. For once, they can roam freely, breathe, grow, without irritating bipeds crashing through the chaparral, forests and mountains.

The alternative to travel nostalgia is a form of making-do. Running necessary errands does at least get one out of the house. Perhaps there’s something to see near home? That, after all, is one of the premises here at Under Western Skies: There’s lots to see close-by, if we only LOOK.

Other than the trips to the grocery every 7 or 9 days, which require immersion into a space with other people, most errands are non-contact events. Last week, I had a check to deposit, drove a mile to the ATM outside the bank and waited for the area to be clear. I donned my mask, punched buttons, then got back into the car.

A perfect opportunity to cruise through a nearby neighborhood I’d never seen. No meetings to attend, traffic was light, everyone staying home.

From the bank, I drove lazily east into a residential neighborhood of San Pedro, California.

The “Castle”

One local site I’d read about but never seen is the “Danish Castle.” It’s in a residential neighborhood not far from the bank, but away from any of my usual routes. In a few blocks, I stopped on quiet 10th Street, looking at it.

Danish Castle Brad Nixon 8302 1250

Admittedly, it’s not the grandest of all castles.

Built in the 1880s, the oldest structure on the block by some decades, it’s reminiscent of tens of thousands of Victorian era houses in the United States, but different in detail. It reflects the architecture from the home country of the original owner, a Danish sea captain who sailed in and out of the Port of Los Angeles, not many blocks away.

From that widow’s walk or cupola on top, one would have a panoramic view of the harbor.

Reportedly, sailors in the port named it “Danish Castle.” Whether or not the owner had a charming Danish name for it is not recorded.

From the Grand to the Petite

Utility work on 10th St. forced me to cut over one block south to 11th before heading home: another street I’d never explored. There — unlooked for — at the intersection with Mesa St., one of my favorite forms of period architecture in Los Angeles: a bungalow court.

11th Mesa Bungalow Brad Nixon 680

Spanish Mission or Spanish Colonial Revival or something like that. I estimate it’s from the the 1920s, although I’m not so ambitious as to search through county land records to find out. Nearly a hundred years old, forty years newer than the Danish Castle one street away, reflecting a change in the residential patterns of the city. Its central courtyard now rather pedestrian, but a notable survivor from another era.

Bungalow courts originated in L.A. early in the 20th century: a way for property owners and developers to maximize rental return on relatively small plots of land. In denser cities like New York and Chicago, the only way to build was up: tenements and apartment blocks. In wide-open, widespread greater Los Angeles, room for single story architecture was (and remains) widely available.

11th Mesa bungalow Brad Nixon 8318 680

As settlers and vacationers streamed into the sunshine and ocean breezes of the Golden State, they needed places to stay. Compact, multi-unit dwellings arranged around central courtyards, built in a variety of architectural styles, took hold.

I’ve written about historic bungalow courts numerous times before. Here’s an introduction at this link.

I did get out of the car to walk into the intersection of Mesa and 11th to shoot the photo above. One of the benefits of the stay at home order is that … many people stay at home, and there’s little life-threatening traffic on residential streets.

When I turned to look at the west side of 11th Street, what was there? This.

SP Bungalow Brad Nixon 8389 680

Another bungalow court, this time in all-out Craftsman style, maybe 10 years younger than its neighbor across the street, maybe less.

Four units along a central court, built in mirror images of a single floor plan (an easy trick, even given the graphic limitations of diazo chemical blueprint printing technology of the day). Again, the courtyard has declined from what may have been a more elaborately landscaped swath in the 1930s, but the buildings still have all those Craftsman hallmarks: gable roofs, attic windows, covered front porches, wide eaves. Originally, possibly roofed with wooden cedar shakes, now asphalt shingles in dry, fire-prone southern California.

Take the Long Way Home

Yes, we’re sticking close to home. Still, the way not previously taken, however near, might have something to see. We’ll never know if we don’t go to look.

Please bear in mind that all the buildings in this post are private residences. Please respect the privacy of residents if you cruise past for a look. The Danish Castle is at 324 W. 10th St., San Pedro, California. The bungalow courts occupy opposite sides of 11th St., just north of the intersection with Mesa, at 1033 S. Mesa St. and at 429 W. 11th St.

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2020


  1. Liked by 1 person

    • True enough, GP. Now that I no longer commute to work, I’ve gotten accustomed to going a while between fill-ups, but this something else. Do you think people will learn “social distancing” between CARS and adopt safe driving distances, along with turn signals? Carry on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What wonderful finds, and nearly in your own backyard! Thank you for the reminder that there is so much to see, so close to home, if you only look. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Stacy. Doing our best here. The same good wishes to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Glad to hear that, we’re doing well here. Crazy times, though.


  3. Nice! Those bungalow are always pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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