McNary House

McNary House
McNary House, photo by Charles J. Fisher, 2008

McNary House, Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #889

Built: 1923  Declared: 10/12/2007

This house is reminiscent of the early housing in the City of Eagle Rock, which existed from its incorporation in 1911 until its consolidation with Los Angeles in 1923. The McNarys first came to Eagle Rock in 1911 after leaving their native Pennsylvania, where Thomas B. McNary had been a farmer. They were a part of a second large wave of cross-country citizen immigrants that came to Southern California to find a new life. At the time, Eagle Rock was sparsely settled and land was still plentiful and he purchased a parcel of land in newly subdivided Tract 341 from developer Theodore Wiesendanger. However, the family relocated to San Jose before he could build a house. They returned to Eagle Rock in 1917 and the house was constructed during the latter part of that year, with the family moving in during the beginning of the following year.

The family was active in the local Presbyterian Church and Thomas’s wife, Jennie, soon became active in the Local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U), which would eventually build a retirement home (HCM #562) just down the street from the house. The McNary Family had eight children, five of which lived in the house during the early years. Two of them were to become teachers, while a son, Thomas B. McNary Jr., was to become a well known prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. The McNarys celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1943, which was a big celebration for Occidental Presbyterian Church. Thomas McNary passed away in 1950 with Jennie staying in the house until 1955, at which point it was sold to Clayton and Rose V. Pickerel.

In 1962, the McNary house was identified and photographed by the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society as one of the important pioneer homes of Eagle Rock. In 1966, it was purchased by J. P. and Katie Smith, part-owners of Bragg and Smith Realty, who soon erected a large sign for their real estate business and opened their real estate office in the house. For the next twenty five years, the firm was to be the best known and most respected local brokerage in Northeast Los Angeles. In addition, Katie Smith was a driving force in the local business and political arena. Throughout its existence, The McNary House has been a focal point of local history. The McNary Family descendents still contribute to the community, continuing their pioneer legacy in the Eagle Rock Valley. The house itself is an excellent early airplane bungalow. McNary was to go on to build two additional small bungalows on an adjacent lot behind the family home in 1923. These homes stand today as unaltered examples of kit homes from the “Pacific Ready-Cut” company. It is not known if the original is also from that company, as critical records have not yet been located. Even if it is a kit house, the home was built much deeper on the lot to accommodate the large McNary Family. This aspect was to become a major factor in the home’s later life as a real estate office, allowing it to survive virtually unaltered for almost nine decades.

The two bungalows were assembled from kits by the Pacific Ready-Cut Company, which was a major fabricator of pre-manufactured housing in the early years of the 20th Century. These homes have been recognized by historians as an important part of the built environment, yet have never been fully recognized by monument designations as most remain undocumented in surveys. Many have been noted architecturally as contributors to historic districts, but have not been properly documented, primarily because these owner-constructed structures list nothing as to their origin on permits. McNary used the option of having the manufacturer assemble the houses, which was documented in the Eagle Rock City building permit as reported in the “Southwest Builder and Contractor.” After completion, McNary deeded the lot to his two oldest sons, John and James, who lived in them for several years, each having a 50% interest in the property. Eventually they moved out of the small houses and deeded them back to their father, who then retained ownership until his death in 1950.