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Local Real Estate Listing May (or May Not) Have Ties to Author Jack London

Photos from the listing for 5152 La Vista Court.

Like a great many of our readers, we here at the Buzz love a good real estate listing…and we love finding out about little-known local history.  And when those things occur together, our Spidey sense just gets all sorts of tingly.  Which is why we were intrigued to be tagged in a reader’s tweet a few days ago, alerting us to a local house for sale that may or may not have a connection to famed author Jack London.

The listing is for a 4-unit, loft-style building at 5152 N. La Vista Ct., a small street just south of Melrose Ave., and just east of Van Ness Ave.  Details in the listing are sketchy, and mostly technical, except for the intriguing phrase “an unsolved history of the possible connection to the author Jack London.”

So we couldn’t resist a quick Google search, which turned up a bit more information.

In a story titled, “Jack London May Have Slept Here,” author Lionel Rolfe recounts several encounters and conversations he had with the house’s then-owner, a screenwriter and script supervisor named Robert Gary. During those meetings, which took place from the 1960s through the 1990s, Rolfe writes that he tried to piece together the story of the house’s origins and possible connections to London.  But Rolfe says Gary’s accounts weren’t definitive, and – ultimately – seem to disprove the rumors: although the house was apparently built by a close friend of London’s, sculptor Finn Haakon Frolich, and has long sported a large bas relief portrait of the famous author…city records show the building wasn’t constructed until 1923, after London’s death.  (Note: Rolfe also penned a somewhat updated piece about his meetings with Robert Gary in a Huffington Post essay in 2013.)

A more detailed account of research by Gary himself can be found in a 2011 story in the Paradise Leased blog.  In this version, too, Gary eventually came to believe the rumors that London actually lived at the house couldn’t have been true, based on key dates of London’s life and the building’s history.  But then, the story continues, an elderly visitor showed up one day, claiming to have visited London at a small cottage at the rear of the property.  Gary apparently tried to figure out whether there might have been an earlier building on lot, which London could have occupied. But although that possibility deepened the mystery, it, too, ultimately fell short of connecting with historical facts.

So while it appears that London may not actually have “slept” at the La Vista Court house, it does seem to have been built by a close friend of his…and the rumors of London’s possible stay there have been intimately connected with the property for many decades.  Fun history and mysteries to ponder.

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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