Doheny Days

Nestled alongside the contemporary beach residences that line today’s Hermosa Strand, this 5,172-square-foot home between 24th and 25th Streets was built and owned by the Doheny family in the early 1900s.

“You don’t see views like that anymore,” a woman says as she glides by multiple windows lining the western wall of the master bedroom.

A bluish light from the coast fills every corner of the wide expanse, painted wall-to-wall in brilliant white. On an antique wooden desk, a WWII-era portrait of a man in uniform overlooks a small box of vintage personalized stationery. Notwithstanding the mounted plasma screen and a few modern dressings, many of the original charms appear intact, from shutters to ornate fixtures. Indeed, you don’t see views like this anymore.

Nestled alongside the contemporary beach residences that line today’s Hermosa Strand, this 5,172-square-foot home between 24th and 25th Streets was built and owned by the Doheny family in the early 1900s. In 1947, Lucy Smith Doheny Baston handed the property down to her daughter, Lucy Doheny Washington or “Dickie”, opening the doors for new generations to enjoy.

Cynthia Niven Griffin, Dickie’s daughter, spent many a summer at the beach house with her two older brothers. “The house was always full of friends,” she remembers fondly. “It just sucks up guests. There was always room for more.”

“People would stop by for drinks or conversation,” says Laurence Van Cott Niven, recalling his childhood at the house, swimming by day and sleeping to the sounds of the surf by night. “It was a friendly neighborhood.” He reminisces about running to The Green Store with the other kids, collecting bottles and turning them in for nickels to buy candy.

One year, their father built a catamaran that lived on the sand in front of the house. On weekends they would take it out through the surf and catch sand dabs in the Redondo Channel and eat them for breakfast. “Our winter life was much more structured,” Cynthia says. “Hermosa was heaven.”

Visiting the home today, one can trace the visual layers of the property’s 100-plus-year history. Lauren Forbes, whose husband also spent summer days at the home, notes the multi-room kitchen in the back portion of the first-floor. “Back in the day, this was the servant’s pantry,” she says. “The children were never permitted to go through those doors. That was the rule of the house.” She then points out a mid-century gazebo, resembling a giant birdcage, sitting in the middle of the patio area. She says the family planned to remove it until they learned it was built by a famous architect of the period and is quite valuable.

Still owned by Lucy’s children, the decision was made to put the home on the market this past summer. Though the structure itself still offers incredible appeal, the true value of the property is the enormous piece of land it sits on, 7,632 square feet in all. In addition to the main house that faces The Strand, a separate building with a three-car garage that once housed the servant’s quarters above, reaches all the way to Hermosa Avenue in the back. “The lot is more than twice the size of an average Strand lot,” says Lauren. “It spans twice the width and one-and-a-half times the depth.”

While the future of the home and lot remains unknown, the days and nights of summers’ past live on in the minds and hearts of its former residents. “My husband proposed to me in the den,” says Cynthia who, in recent years, spent time at the house with her own children and grandchildren. “So many memories as a child, and many as a young woman.” Long showers in the basement after a day of swimming, surf burgers on 22nd Street and watching their dogs chase the tides are only of few of the most treasured. Her brother, Michael C. Nevin, affirms the sentiment: “It was the hardest place to leave.”

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