Urban architecture historians: Can you tell me anything about this building design?

I’ve noticed a number of small, old commercial buildings have a design similar to this. They generally have narrow frontages but are deep from front to back. Usually only two or three stories in height, the distinctive feature is that the upper story is set back from the ground footprint, and has a sort of portico, making a kind of “widow’s walk”.

This picture is from the back; I’ve driven by the front of the building for years, but had no idea it looked like this because that side is stuccoed over. This is where the Lobster Shrine is that I posted about here.

What I’d like to know is when this style of architecture was current, and what the ‘terrace’ was used for. I’ve seen a number of such structures in downtown L.A., so I’m thinking it’s probably a hundred or so years old.

From the windows I’d say the age you suggest is fairly accurate, maybe a little late. The buildings around here with that sort of window arch were built in the late 19th century.

The design looks to be “Slapped Together Without Benefit of Architect or Zoning Laws.”

The “terrace” was used as a terrace by the owners who lived above the shop. They didn’t have air conditioning.

That’s about what I thought. L.A. being the way it is, locals go to Olvera Street and marvel at how “ancient” it is, since it’s purportedly the site of the city’s founding in 1781. But, except two or three major exceptions, most of the structures there date from no earlier than about 1890, and were originally built and used by Anglo businessmen who had moved here from the Midwest. What makes this interesting here, where people tend to assume that every building they see is younger than they are, is that there are numerous small neighborhoods and commercial districts around town that have a few buildings like this, equally significant in terms of longevity, but having remained in continuous use and thereby passing unnoticed. Which is an irony of our time: One may not notice how historic a building or house may potentially be, unless it falls into disuse and thence into incipient ruin.

What’s the address of this building?

1655 Sawtelle Ave, L.A. I tried to look up the parcel in the Los Angeles County Assessor’s website, but it didn’t seem to be there. The closest likely match I found was 1653, for which it said the “effective build date” was 1932 or around there. (Note: Sawtelle was once an independent city, but was annexed to L.A. in the 1920s.)

Here’s a picture of the front, which they’ve decorated to resemble an ancient Ethiopian building, to reflect its use as an African curio store and art gallery. (Apologies for the cropping at the top–I should have taken it from across the street!)