Friends of Historic Fire Station 62

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Mark Crawford of the Mar Vista Historical Society kindly sent in this narrative telling of the settlement and development of the area encompassing Historic Fire Station 62. This is excerpted from a book-in-progress titled Distant Vistas: Exploring the Historic Neighborhoods of Mar Vista. Betcha there’s stuff here you never knew.

The neighborhood in which the historic fire station 62 is located is itself historic. The station stands almost in the dead center of the old Rancho La Ballona, the Spanish land grant bestowed to the Machado and Talamantes families in 1819. When in 1839 Agustin Machado applied to the Mexican government for clear title to the rancho, he submitted a map of Ballona Valley – the first such map known to exist. Near the center of this map is the first historic reference to Mar Vista, a region he designated “lomas muertas” – dead hills – hills on which the fire station sits.

In 1868 the California District Court broke up the rancho into 64 allotments of various sizes to the several claimants who owned acreage in Ballona. The fire station land went to the heirs of Agustin Machado. In the late 1870s they sold a 335-acre parcel to Wallace Woodworth, a man who had helped organize the first gas company in Los Angeles in 1867. This parcel was roughly bounded by Centinela (then known as Ballona Road No. 2), Palms, Beethoven, and Zanja/Washington Blvd. In 1881 Woodworth sold the land to an Indiana farmer named Samuel Cripe. Cripe sold this land piecemeal over the years, including about 40 acres to his son, Jim Cripe, who cultivated a farm near the present-day corner of Windward of Centinela avenues – the site of the fire station. Cripe and his wife sired and raised their six children on this farm. In 1905 Cripe subdivided some twenty acres of his farm and created the sixth-oldest residential neighborhood in Mar Vista. Originally called Venice View Heights, this tract’s boundaries were Centinela, Windward, Frances, and, Westminster, and now forms the crown of historic Mormon Hill.

The fire station was built in 1949 on two prime Venice View Heights lots that had been sitting vacant for forty-three years. The building is a fine specimen of the late Moderne architecture that made do with simple rectangular forms of various thicknesses arranged either horizontally or vertically, the most well-known example in this area being the Sears Building on Colorado and 4th Street in Santa Monica.

That’s from Distant Vistas. From the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive, one also learns that Engine Company No. 17 which came to occupy the Centinela/Windward location was originally housed at a fire station at 213 Rose Ave. in Venice. That structure, built in 1906, still stands at the intersection of Rose and Main and is home to the Firehouse Restaurant. The restaurant and the intersection it sits on were made famous in the 1994 film Speed!