Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Use of Color at Baldwin Hills Village, From 1941 to the Present Day

The Administration Building through the years.
Top left, 1944, pastel green; Top right, 1963, Tobacco Leaf Brown;
Bottom left, 1979, beige; Bottom right, 2007, once again pastel green
I wrote this document in 2006 for the Design Review Committee, when we were working to determine the original paint palette at Baldwin Hills Village. Fortunately, the Village Green has a large quantity of archival material from which to draw (blueprints, landscape plans, photographs, books, etc), more than many National Historic Landmarks. In addition to the 1940s and 1950s Kodachrome film by Reginald Johnson, in 2005 the Village Green archives had obtained many Kodachrome slides taken immediately following the Baldwin Hills Flood of 1963. This find was illuminating, and further research in various archives has uncovered more color photographs taken from the 1950’s through the late 1970’s. These new finds were all very useful in determining what the original design intent was, and which paint treatment would be most appropriate going forward. Since 2007, subsequent analysis on paint layers as buildings have been painted has turned up additional details.

Most photos here are screen captures from lead architect Reginald D. Johnson's 16mm Kodachrome film, from 1942 through 1950, unless otherwise specified. Thanks to David Lebrun and Night Fire Films for permission to use these images.

Special thanks to Christopher Long, Professor Chair, History/Theory and Ph.D Committee, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin; and to Aram and Gailyn Saroyan for their review, insight and input.

The cheerful pastel hues of the 1941-46 paint palette at Baldwin Hills Village

From 1935 through 1941, the design team responsible for the creation of Baldwin Hills Village spent several years developing and revising the plans for the Village. Every element was given meticulous and careful consideration.

In addition to all of the attention to planning the layout, architecture, landscape, circulation, and other aspects of the Village, this collaborative team also gave studied thought to the design of the colors used at Baldwin Hills Village. Their attention was not confined simply to the colors of the buildings, but more importantly, how those colors related to each other, and to the landscape. The idea was to create a harmonious ensemble overall, while giving each individual area of the Village its own distinctive character.  The colors of the roofs also varied, adding to the overall effect. The architects used color inventively on the interiors of the apartments as well. 

The design team created two distinct paint palettes and methods of applying the paint to the buildings.  Even after the Village was sold to the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company of Boston in 1949, the basic design intent and color palette the architects had chosen was retained and employed through the time, from 1973 through 1978, when Baldwin Hills Village was converted into condominiums and renamed Village Green. 

This document will examine how the use of color at Baldwin Hills Village has evolved over time, and what the design intent and philosophy was behind each period.  Each period discussed here includes descriptions of building colors and garage courts, while the earlier phases include roof colors and interior colors.

The periods that will be discussed are:

  1. 1941 – 1946 – Baldwin Hills Village Opens; the War Years
  2. 1946 – 1978 - Post War Years Through the Condo Conversion
  3. 1978 – 2003 – Post Condo Conversion
  4. 2003 – present – Return to an Historic Paint Palette
1941 – 1946 – Baldwin Hills Village Opens; The War Years

Though the economy was still faltering and the threat of war was imminent, the middle 1930s through the beginning of World War II marked a period of optimism and hope in the United States, as exemplified by the great World’s Fairs, held in Chicago in 1933-1934, in Texas in 1936, and in both New York and San Francisco in 1939-1940.

These Expositions introduced new technologies (nylon stockings, television, and plastics) and celebrated utopian planning (freeways, bridges, idealized civic planning and development). These concepts were presented in well-planned and landscaped Edens, designed by the most noted artists and architects of the day, and the innovative ideas that were introduced did indeed influence and impact design at the time, perhaps even at Baldwin Hills Village.

It was during this time of economic adversity, social reform, technological innovation, and idealized urban planning that Baldwin Hills Village was conceived, designed and built, from 1935-1942.

Vibrant pastel hues at the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco.
Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection

At the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and 1940 (as at Baldwin Hills Village the following year), the buildings were designed in a restrained and conservative modern style. This simplified modern architecture, with its lack of modernist gimmicks, was meant to make the design more palatable and attractive to a wider audience, and to more effectively “stand the test of time.”

Architect Jess “J.E.” Stanton,[i] Director of Color at the Golden Gate Exposition, created a vividly varied color palette for the Fair. In the book, The Art of Treasure Island, author Eugen Neuhaus provided a description of the colors at the Exposition.[ii]
The dazzling colors at the Exposition.  Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection
“The palette comprises eighteen separate color expressions, mostly tints. There is a bright, luminous light yellow that is called poetically Sun-of-Dawn Yellow, a darker richer yellow (Pagoda Yellow), a rather neutral yellow (Old Mission Fawn), and a still darker yellow curiously called Polynesian Brown (in reality, it is a tint of yellow-orange).  There are also four greens:  a very pale bluish green tint (Evening Star Blue), a rich warm yellow green (Hawaiian Emerald Green), and a cooler green similar in tone values, called Ming Jade Green, which is used in both a lighter and a darker tone. The reds are similarly graded from a light (Pebble Beach) coral to a warm orange (Santa Clara Apricot) to a darker brick red (Imperial Dragon Red). There are also four blues:  a light gray purple blue (Pacific Blue), a very luminous green blue (Del Monte Blue), a deeper blue (China Clipper Blue), and a blue to which a little black has been added (Southern Cross Blue).   Three rather neutral colors complete the palette:  a so-called ecru, a taupe (Santa Barbara Rose), and mauve (Death Valley).”[iii]

The colored walls also contained vermiculite, a shiny, flaky material (much like mica), which would enhance the beautifully painted walls at all hours. “By day it will add texture, color and sparkle to the wall surfaces,” while at night the magnificently orchestrated colored lights would be intensified by the glittering surfaces.
Cheerful pastel shades were enhanced by sparkling vermiculite.  Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection

Director of Color Stanton was also quoted as saying that the sidewalks and pathways at the Fair would be “asphalt mixed with a reddish color between maroon and magenta,” which would “excite gaiety, making the women appear younger and prettier, and inducing the men to spend more freely,” as well as making them more romantic.[iv]

The Art of Treasure Island explains that in order to “differentiate the several courts, almost every court has been worked out in terms of a definite color scheme, mostly of analogous color complemented by the colors of nature.” This same concept of giving each court its own unique character, through colors used and with landscaping, was also employed by the designers at Baldwin Hills Village.

The carefully engineered color palette at the Golden Gate International Exposition was the first time “chromotherapy” - the science of health treatment by color usage - would be extensively used.[v]
The pastel hues at the San Francisco Fair, one of the first uses of "chromotherapy," may have influenced
the 1941 paint palette at Baldwin Hills Village.  
Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection

This type of color palette and paint application style was used repeatedly in the various housing projects, both private and public, in Southern California at the time. Like the concept of “chromotherapy,” it was presumed that these cheerful colors, like the ideally planned and functional architecture and landscape, would influence and positively enhance the lives of the residents of these innovative housing developments.

Though it isn’t known if Jess Stanton provided color consulting services at Baldwin Hills Village, Stanton was hired to do just that at Kearny Mesa, a defense housing development near San Diego, built during the War.

1946 Kodachrome image of a yellow building from the 1941 paint palette
Village Green Archives

The 1941-46 paint palette. Pittsburgh Paints were used at Baldwin Hills Village during these years, and
a set of vintage pre-war Pittsburgh Paints chips was used to recreate the original palette.


The buildings and landscape at Baldwin Hills Village were designed in a simple, transitional modern style, with an “Old California” feeling (Monterey style balconies, adobe bungalows).  Even the paint scheme referenced this “Old California” theme, with many buildings having a darker color band painted on the lower section of the buildings, under the window line, suggesting the old Spanish Colonial style.  
Apricot with darker apricot band
Pale turquoise

Canary Yellow
Rose with a darker band below
Pale green with darker gray-green band
The colors the architects chose for the buildings were carefully considered as a way to break up the “monotony” of the deceptively formal plan. Just as Fred Barlow, Jr’s design for the landscape gave each garden court a distinctive character through a unique palette of trees, shrubbery, groundcover and flowering vines, this charming palette of paint colors was also used to give each individual court a character distinctly its own.  
Pastel salmon stucco with a darker coordinating band at base
emphasizes the horizontality of the building

The Administration Building and Clubhouse at the center of the
 property just off Rodeo Road served as the hub of the
Village during these years. At the Administration
Building—where residents paid rent, picked up parcels,
and arranged for maid service—the stucco was painted
 pastel green, with white trim and windows,
with an apricot front door as an accent.

South of the Administration Building, at the end
 of an olive allee, was the Clubhouse, which was painted apricot,
with a deeper apricot band on the lower portion of the building. 
Windows and trim were white. The Clubhouse was the heart of the Village,
and during the War years—when people were unable to leave
the Village easily due to gas rationing—regular dances, debates,
church gatherings, etc. kept the Clubhouse busy. 
The Clubhouse also had a library,
darkroom, billiards, and ping-pong tables.

Off-white building with darker band at base

Pale salmon pastel paint graces a building on the main green
16mm Kodachrome color footage taken by lead architect Reginald Johnson during construction and shortly after the Village opened shows buildings painted cheerful “Easter egg” hues such as jade green, salmon, canary yellow, turquoise, rose, aquamarine and apricot. Off-white was used as a contrasting accent for doors and windows, and several buildings were painted off-white as well.  Other buildings were painted in paler pastel colors, with doors and windows painted in much deeper shades. When new, these vibrant pastel colors sparkled in the Southern California sun.[vi]

Pale grayish-green paint in garage court
Some garage courts had tan structures
The garage buildings, initially built as carports, were alternately painted either a pale grayish-green or tan. Because children began using the carports as play areas (even starting a bonfire in one), and as a result of gasoline and tires being stolen during World War II rationing, the management began to offer garage doors for $1.00 extra per month.[viii] After the war, all of the carports eventually had garage doors added. These doors and the clothes drying yards next to the laundry rooms were painted the same pale gray-green or tan as the garage structures.
Enjoying the private patio, with tan walls
In order to unify the garage court areas, the redwood patio fences were painted in the same gray-green or tan as the garage structures themselves. The serpentine brick walls did not exist at this time; they were added after World War II.  Apartment addresses were stenciled or painted onto the fences, and other directional information was painted on the buildings themselves.
In addition to apartment addresses being hand-lettered on patio fences,
the different street names were placed on buildings themselves.
Prior to the 1950's, apartments in Baldwin Hills Village had Coliseum, Sycamore,
Rodeo and Hauser street addresses, in addition to Village Green.
The numbering system was even more confusing than it is today
Tan, white and green roofs were used for court identification in the carefully
planned color scheme

In this 1948 aerial photograph of the Village, the green roofs show up as dark, and alternate court by court with tan roofs. Though it is difficult to see here, buildings facing the main greens and garages had white roofs

In addition to the paint palette, the architects further broke up the potentially monotonous simplicity of the buildings by using three different colors for the aggregate gravel on the roofs. Court by court, buildings had either green or buff (golden-tan) roofs to add to the individual court identification measures. Buildings facing the three large green areas, the one story three unit bungalow buildings, and the garages all had white aggregate roofs. 
Aquamarine walls in a bedroom

Pastel green in Reginald D. Johnson's living room

Kitchens were color coordinated, with matching Catalin plastic knobs and
inlaid color stripe in linoleum floors

Kitchen color schemes were in red, green, yellow or blue. Even the
kitchen cabinet interiors matched the color schemes.

Color matching a blue kitchen cabinet interior

The architects did not limit their use of color to the buildings’ exteriors.  They also created interesting color ensembles for the interiors of the apartments and public spaces.

Walls in the apartments were painted in shades of rose beige, citron green, aquamarine, yellow, blue, etc. Doors, ceilings and trim were typically off white. 

Kitchens and baths were also thoughtfully color coordinated.  Bathroom tile was matte glazed in shades of pale yellow, sage green or white, with coordinating unglazed tile floors. Kitchens walls and cabinets were painted white, but the interiors of kitchen cabinets were painted vibrant colors – cherry red, sunny yellow, deep blue, or dark bottle green (with cherry red seen on the inside of some the doors). Cabinets had coordinating colored Catalin plastic knobs. Floors were covered in a neutral Armstrong JaspĂ© sheet linoleum, with an inlaid stripe of the coordinating color.[ix]
The mural by noted artist (and Baldwin Hills Village resident) Rico Lebrun, over the south facing door of the
reception room of the Administration Building. Though it was painted and plastered over by the
New England Mutual Life Insurance Company in the early 1950's, the mural still exists
under layers of paint, and will one day be restored

The Administration Building reception room had cork walls on the lower third, with the upper two thirds painted the same pale green as the building’s exterior. A mural by Rico Lebrun graced the south wall of this room.

1946 – 1978 – Post War Years Through The Condo Conversion
In 1946, the design team developed a new paint palette, which utilized varying two-toned paint application
styles to further break up the monotony of the building types, giving additional court character

Some examples from the 1946-1978 paint palette
Soon after Baldwin Hills Village opened, the Southern California-based members of the design team moved into the Village with their families.  They wanted to experience first-hand the results of their long planned social experiment; to see how it worked to foster community - and how it might be improved.  Reginald Johnson stayed a little over a year, the other architects stayed for much longer periods of time, some for decades. During their time living at the Village, they continued to modify and perfect various elements around the community.

By the end of World War II, with wartime restrictions lifted and the labor shortage problem resolved, the management of Baldwin Hills Village began a program to restore the property to its original “as planned” condition. By early 1946, the gardeners were sprucing up the landscape with plants not available during the war.[x]

By this time, trees and shrubs had begun to grow, creating a different and more complex visual impact than on completion in 1942. The original paint palette, while charming, tended to compete with the landscape as it began to mature. One of Catherine Bauer’s few complaints about the Village in her Pencil Points article from 1944 was this paint palette, pointing out that “Colors are pastel, and to this eye seem a little too pale to have much effect on the pattern of the ensemble, although this may be due partly to post-Pearl Harbor paint.” Additionally, when the AIA awarded Baldwin Hills Village with a Distinguished Honor Award in 1946, one of the few shortcomings they found was that “the project lacks architectural color, possibly due to wartime painting restrictions.”

By 1946 the buildings at Baldwin Hills Village were already in need of paint.  Because the paint available during the war was inferior, and because some buildings were painted without primer, by war’s end the paint on the buildings had begun to fail, becoming pale, chalky and oxidized.[xi] This gave the architects an opportunity to re-evaluate the painting scheme originally chosen for the Village, with its vibrant pastel hues.

Because the colors used on the buildings had a direct impact to the overall visual success of the landscape, and because the site plan and landscape were considered the dominant and most important features at Baldwin Hills Village, a new sophisticated palette of deeper earth and nature colors - inspired by the landscape - was created in early 1946.
Tobacco Leaf Brown and a deep Blue-Green were the predominant colors in the scheme. Two-tone
paint application in various styles gave welcome variety to buildings

The original paint palette on the buildings, chosen when the landscape was little more than a sea of green with a few specimen trees, emphasized the buildings over the landscape. 

Mirroring Fred Barlow Jr’s innovative vision for the landscape, a hierarchy and theme for the paint scheme was established. The color palette had two predominant colors – tobacco leaf brown and a deep blue-green – which were used as the common denominator. This was followed by a secondary palette of colors, mostly muted shades of tans, grays, blues and greens, used in varying combinations around the property. Lastly, a tertiary palette of unique shades like chartreuse was used judiciously for contrasting effect. Doors, windows, balconies and trim were painted off-white to accent the earth tones of the buildings. On larger buildings, creative two-toned effects were used, with white stucco sections contrasting with the earthier tones. With very few exceptions, it does not appear that more than two colors were used on any one building. [xii]

The two predominant colors - tobacco leaf brown and deep blue-green – were used as the theme for the two public buildings on the north-south axis - the administration building and the clubhouse.  
Two-toned building, with vine-covered balcony

Building painted a deep bluish green contrasts nicely with
a copper colored Plymouth

The recessed portion of this building is medium blue

Muted chartreuse stucco, off-white woodwork

On this Type 7 Building, the three bedroom ends are painted Tobacco
Leaf Brown, while the main body is painted off-white. The
recessed portion is painted brown, with off-white
balcony for contrast

The bungalow ends are off-white, while the body of the building is brown

In this court, bungalows were painted a color, while the main body of the building
was off-white. The recessed portions of the building
are also painted a color

This building in the West Circle had Tobacco Leaf
Brown on the upper woodwork, Off-white below

Medium blue

The Clubhouse changed from apricot to deep Blue-green, which allowed it
to blend into the landscape 

These two buildings, just west of the main green, are two of three buildings
which use two paint colors, with white
This new palette, with deeper organic colors, deemphasized the buildings somewhat and allowed them to harmonize with the landscape more seamlessly than had the previous palette. This elegant scheme was considered a success, and was in use at Baldwin Hills Village through the condominium conversion in the 1970’s.

Clarence Stein, in his 1951 book Towards New Towns for America, in his chapter on Baldwin Hills Village describes the “contrasts of pastel coloring – bluish green, suede gray, dark tobacco brown, grey blue – and holding these colors together large masses of white, slightly greyed, reminiscent of the house rows of Denmark and Sweden.”

Also, as Fred Barlow Jr’s design for the landscape had done, the new palette and paint application style helped to further diminish the Beaux-Arts inspired formality of the site plan. Norman T. Newton, describing the serenity and grace of the site in his 1971 book Design on the Land, praised the building colors as a crucial element to the success of the landscape. He pointed out that “the color scheme among the buildings never echoes the symmetry of the plan: for instance, if a certain row-house is done in a combination of light brown and cream, its balancing counterpart is most likely in, say, smoky blue.”    
In garage courts, unity was achieved by combining deep Blue-green
and Tobacco Leaf Brown for both garage buildings and
patio fences. The deeper colors also successfully
merged buildings and landscape

Deep Blue-green garage buildings, with Tobacco Leaf Brown
garage doors. Fascia board trim was painted off-white
for contrast. The deeper colors helped these utilitarian
buildings withdraw and become more unobtrusive, especially
when seen from the landscaped areas
In keeping with the blue-green and tobacco leaf brown scheme of the Administration Building and the Clubhouse, and in order to unify the overall effect in Garage Courts, with the fences in the same vicinity, the garage structures, laundry rooms and drying yards were painted deep blue-green, and garage doors were painted using the coordinating tobacco leaf brown.  Fascia boards were off white for contrast. This palette harmonized nicely with the building colors, but also made the garages less obtrusive in the overall scheme, more successfully blending into the maturing landscape, especially when viewed from the garden courts or green areas.

The patio fences were again either deep blue-green or tobacco leaf brown, chosen to coordinate with and complement the color chosen for the building. The deep blue-green fences were painted on the inside a lighter shade of bluish-green, in order to create a more airy feeling within the confines of the patio. Addresses were again stenciled or painted onto the fences.

Initially, no changes are documented.  But by the mid-1960s, the roofs were at the end of their twenty-year life cycle. The colored aggregate gravel was replaced with light gray gravel when roofs were replaced in 1964 and 1965. This was one of the first steps taken to diminish the thoughtful and unique vision of colors designed by the architects involved.

After Baldwin Hills Village was open and occupied, residents were allowed to have their apartment interiors painted to harmonize with their own decorating styles. Marilyn Brady, the step-daughter of Baldwin Hills Village landscape architect Fred Barlow, Jr., remembers her mother having their Village living room painted a deep chocolate brown.  

The New England Mutual Life Insurance Company of Boston purchased Baldwin Hills Village in 1949 from the initial group of investors, which included members of the Baldwin family, the Chandler family, the architects involved, and various other investors.

In 1962, one of the original investors, Baldwin M. Baldwin, repurchased Baldwin Hills Village from the Insurance Company.  On December 14, 1963, the earthen dam broke at the Baldwin Hills Dam disaster, and substantial flooding and damage occurred at the Village.  Fortunately, architect Robert Alexander was brought back to oversee restoration of damaged areas. The paint palette and style of paint application was retained during these periods.
Kodachrome photo taken just following the flood, December, 1963. The Administration Building is still
Tobacco Leaf Brown

Heavy damage to a Two-toned brown and off-white building

Garage Court 3 after the flood, garage buildings are still
deep Blue-green
In 1972, the estate of Baldwin M. Baldwin sold Baldwin Hills Village to Terramics, Inc., a developer, who proceeded to convert the apartment units into condominiums, and to rename Baldwin Hills Village “The Village Green.” That conversion took place in stages, from 1973 to 1978. Architect Robert Alexander was again brought in to initially oversee any changes made to the Village Green.  He was relieved that very few were made.
A page from the 1978 Design Review Committee Guidelines. Fortunately, this 1970's proposed
balcony modification was never put into place
Village Green Archives

A Design Review Committee (DRC) was created during the condominium conversion in order to document changes that had taken place, and to make recommendations on design standards going forward. The DRC created an Architectural Standards and Guidelines, and photographs in it show the same earth and nature palette and paint application style from 1946 still being used, with some minor modifications— by 1978 some lighter shades had been introduced.  Famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman took several color photographs at Village Green for the Los Angeles Times in the late 1970s to promote the conversion of the apartment units to condominiums. These show the buildings still generally using the same two-toned painting schemes and palette, but in addition to the greens, blues, tans and gray, colors such as lavender and pink were introduced. One building, used as “model apartments” in the East Circle, shows three colors being used.
An image from the 1978 DRC Guidelines shows the 1946
paint palette and application style still in place.  
Village Green Archives

The 1946 paint palette was the longest running designed paint
palette used at Baldwin Hills Village, nearly 30 years.  
Village Green Archives

The two-toned buildings were still in place in 1978.  Village Green Archives

It appears awning violations were a major concern in 1978. The fences were still
either deep blue-green or tobacco leaf brown.  
Village Green Archives

1978 – 2003 – Condo Conversion: THE BEIGE ERA
Beige garages with beige doors, beige fences, beige building with beige trim and fence

As the condo conversion was completed, and the management of the Village Green was handed over to the community, the Design Review Committee during the 1980s and 1990s chose to retire the carefully designed color palette and paint application style created by the original architects. That cohesive plan, with its creative ways of subtly articulating the architecture of the buildings while encouraging them to harmonize with and successfully blend into the landscape, was replaced with a less interesting palette of light beiges and grays. I was told by a long-time resident who was active on the Board at the time that “we thought the buildings were ugly, so we painted them all in beige to make them disappear.”

The buildings didn’t disappear, however, but were even more prominent when assessing the site plan as an organic whole. This new palette did nothing for either the buildings or for the landscape. 

Most individual buildings had very little variation between stucco color and trim, balconies, etc., when a color was chosen. Other than light beige or gray, trim, door, and window colors included tan, medium blue, gray, and deep green.
The Administration Building (now the Clubhouse), painted beige, 1979

Pale gray stucco with slightly deeper gray trim

Off-white stucco with pale blue trim

Off-white stucco with pale apricot trim

Beige stucco with light tan trim

Beige stucco with barn red trim

Layers of beige

Beige on beige on beige garage courts, with the once ubiquitous peeling paint

Beige garage structures, beige garage doors

Garages, laundry rooms, and trash and laundry enclosures were painted uniformly in beige, and did not relate to the colors chosen for fences. A few garage courts at one time had medium green bodies with white garage doors.

White plastic plaques with generic address numerals instead
of painted numbers were used from the 1980's to the early 2000's

Fence colors were painted the darker trim color of the buildings, ranging from light beige to deeper green or medium blue. Fences did not relate to other structures in the garage courts, nor was the overall harmony and ensemble quality of the Garage Courts considered. At some point after the condo conversion, white plastic address plaques were installed on the fences, with generic black stick-on numbers, replacing the stenciled address numbers of previous years.

In reaction to many years of innocuous beige or grayish buildings, the Design Review Committee in 2003 created, with the approval of the Board of Directors, a new and more integral palette of colors. This new palette was inspired by the mature landscape at Village Green, and also drew inspiration from some of the colors popular in the 1940s, with contemporary touches of color for impact.  An emphasis was placed on very light-colored buildings.
Off-white stucco with bright chartreuse trim

Orange doors and trim

Pale green stucco, orange doors and trim, white windows

Gray stucco, olive woodwork, white windows, plum doors, pale green fences

Light tan stucco, deeper brown trim, white doors and windows on this transitional style

Off-white stucco, olive trim, putty colored doors and windows

Off-white stucco, three shades of brown for trim; pale gray-green fences

The majority of the buildings were painted off-white, with neutral shades of tan and gray for balconies and trim. Doors and windows were painted more vibrant shades, such as orange, burgundy, olive or yellow-green. A few light-colored stuccos were introduced, including pale shades of green, gray, and tan. 
Garage structure gray-green; garage doors olive

Garage bodies were painted a pale gray-green, and the garage doors a light shade of olive green for contrast. These light colors harmonized with the fence colors, bringing the design of Garage Courts back into a harmonious ensemble, rather than a jumble of bland, disjointed colors that did not coordinate.

Fences were painted uniformly a pale grayish green - different than garage buildings - but in harmony with the overall scheme. This unified the look of the Garage Court areas and complemented the building colors, while giving homeowners a light neutral green which worked well with any patio furniture or decoration. The Design Review Committee had a set of stencils created for the address numbers, which mimicked the “Streamline Modern” style on the front porch lights. Addresses were once again stenciled onto the fences.
The layers unearthed during repainting. 1941 layer is apricot; 1946 layer is chartreuse; medium blue later, followed by two layers of beige

2007 – Present: Return to an Historic Paint Palette

After the Village Green became a National Historic Landmark in January 2001, the Board of Directors voted to adopt the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Around 2005, the Design Review Committee realized that the new palette being used, though successful, was somewhat limited because of the emphasis on white stucco buildings. Some residents were initially wary of colored stucco, but after seeing a few buildings painted with colored stucco, trepidation turned to enthusiasm, and the DRC realized there were not enough choices to meet the demand. Also, the predominance of very bright accent colors began to become more of a pronounced feature in the landscape than was originally planned, and was ultimately thought by some to compete with the landscape.
1941 apricot paint exposed after power-washing the old Clubhouse building

In doing research, the two original palettes designed by the architects were documented. The question then became which of the historic palettes would be the most appropriate treatment for the present day? 

The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief 10, “Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork,” does not provide much information on historic paint colors, but does say: “If the decision to repaint is made, the ‘new’ color or colors should, at a minimum, be appropriate to the style and setting of the building. On the other hand, where the intent is to restore or accurately reproduce the colors originally used or those from a significant period in the building's evolution, they should be based on the results of a paint analysis.”

For exteriors, the Standards also recommend “Reproducing the appearance of historic paint colors and finishes based on physical and documentary evidence,” but say that “Using paint colors that cannot be documented through research and investigation to be appropriate to the building or using other documented finishes” is not recommended.

Preservation Brief 28, “Painting Historic Interiors,” describes the process of choosing a historic paint treatment in more detail. There are three treatment types that may be undertaken at an historic property: Preservation, Rehabilitation, or Restoration.  Preservation Brief 28 says:

“First, it is most important to understand the range of approaches and treatments and to make choices with as much knowledge of the original and subsequent historic paints as possible, using the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties as a framework.”
“In a restoration project, the goal is to depict the property as it appeared during its period of greatest significance. This may or may not be the time of its original construction. For example, if a building dated from 1900 but historians deemed its significance to be the 1920s, the appropriate paint color match would be the 1920s layer, not the original 1900 layer. Based on historical research, onsite collection of paint samples, and laboratory analysis, surface colors and treatments can be recreated to reflect the property at a particular period of time. It should be noted that scholarly findings may yield a color scheme that is not suited to the taste of the contemporary owner, but is nonetheless historically accurate. In restoration, personal taste in color is not at issue; the evidence should be strictly followed.”
Color matching a 1941 paint layer using a current day Dunn Edwards fandeck. 
Though the National Historic Landmark period of significance for Baldwin Hills Village is  1935-42, this timeframe does not take into account the wartime conditions under which the Village was completed, nor the many modifications introduced by the architects after living at Baldwin Hills Village. When the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company bought Baldwin Hills Village in 1949, the other elements originally planned by the architects to complete the community, according to Garden City principles—such as a school, shopping center, church and Movie Theater—were already in place or under construction. Other changes, such as the brick serpentine walls, doors on the garages, etc., also initiated by the architects, had been installed. That suggests that our period of significance may realistically extend to 1949. After 1949, the Insurance Company began to diminish many of the elements originally designed to foster community - removing playgrounds and tot lots, tennis and badminton courts and horseshoe pits - for increased parking. The community Clubhouse was turned into two large apartments during this phase. As these changes occurred, the number of children living in the Village decreased, and Baldwin Hills Village became a very different place than the utopian community designed for progressive middle-income families.

In a letter dated May 10, 1990 in the Village Green archives, architect Robert Alexander describes changes he observed during a recent visit, and made a number of suggestions.  In addition to recommendations regarding the landscape and some minor architectural details, Alexander felt that paint colors should be “kept to subdued earth colors,” but that contrast could be introduced “without bloodshed” by the introduction of off-white. He also believed that the “original forest-green color” [sic] on the garages “was pleasing.”  This in essence describes the post-war palette.

The reasons the architects in 1946 chose the limited, more organic earth and nature-inspired palette were still true in 2005 — probably even more so. The post-war palette was designed to create a more restful, serene, and integrated environment that allowed the landscape to predominate, but did not diminish the architecture.

After much research, analysis and deliberation, a decision was made by the Design Review Committee, and approved by the Board in 2007 to adopt the 1946 color palette and paint application style as the most appropriate scheme overall for the Village Green going forward.
During the repaint of the old Administration Building (now our Clubhouse/Office), the paint supervisor
Alex matched the pale green 1941 layer, and the subsequent 1946 tobacco leaf brown layer.

As each building is being prepared for painting, several steps are taken to analyze and document the paint colors originally used. 

  • First, any documents, photographs, articles, etc. are examined, and anything relevant is noted—how the paint was placed on the building historically, for example, or what colors were used. 
  • Next, power-washing the building itself reveals a variety of colors used throughout the years. The initial 1941 layer of paint is carefully matched to current-day Dunn-Edwards stock colors. The second 1946 layer (and sometimes one subsequent layer, should it change) is also matched. While this is not a truly scientific approach to paint sample analysis, the Dunn-Edwards production colors are remarkably close to the historic colors, and our talented paint supervisor assists in the color matching process.
  • Each layer on the building is then photographed with the Dunn-Edwards paint chip, and the Building’s number and location documented, as is the paint placement on the building.
In keeping with the National Park Service recommendation that “documenting the sequence of paint layers and protecting this information for future investigation should be an integral part of any historic preservation project,” as research is done on the buildings at Baldwin Hills Village, new layers of paint are applied on the stabilized and properly prepared old paint. The historic paint layers are not disturbed, so that future researchers can study them.

The Historic Structure Report, which was completed in 2010, recommends hiring a historic paint consultant to scientifically and accurately analyze the historic paint colors, to ensure an identical match. That would be the next step in this process.

Historical Paint Palette - Tobacco Leaf Brown

Garages painted using the Historical Paint Palette. This scheme was designed so that the garage buildings
would become more unobtrusive, and blend more harmoniously into the landscape

Historical Paint Palette - Two-toned Tobacco Leaf Brown and Off-white

Historical Paint Palette - Deep Blue-gray and Off-white

Historical Paint Palette - Muted Chartreuse and Off-white

Historical Paint Palette - Two-toned Tan and Off-white
Historical Paint Palette - Medium Blue

[i] Jess (J.E.) Stanton is sometimes listed as an architect at Parklabrea (which also opened in 1943), a large-scale community in Los Angeles which shares some attributes with Baldwin Hills Village.  He more than likely served as color consultant on the project. In 1941, Stanton served as “color consultant” to the Kearny Mesa defense housing project near San Diego.  Jess Stanton later worked on the design of the Los Angeles County Courthouse and Hall of Administration with Adrian Wilson, brother of Baldwin Hills Village architect Lewis Wilson.  He also designed Parker Center (completed 1955), the LAPD headquarters with Welton Beckett, and the Honnold Library at Claremont College.

[ii] Business Week, Issues 383-408, p. 285, 1937.

[iii]  Neuhaus, Eugen. The Art of Treasure Island: First-hand Impressions of the Architecture, Sculpture, Landscape Design, Color Effects, Mural Decorations, Illumination, and Other Artistic Aspects of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939, University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 1939
Eugen Neuhaus was BHV Landscape Architect Fred Barlow, Jr.’s art teacher at Berkeley.

[iv] Business Week, Issues 383-408, p. 285, 1937

[v] Almanac for Thirty- Niners;Compiled by the Workers of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in The City of San Francisco, 1938, Stanford University.

[vi] Ibid

[vii] “The Villager” newsletter; Vol 1, No 10 – December 15, 1943
“New life injected into our community activities by the thorough organization of the The Villagers into various action groups throws a strong spotlight on the many splendid recreational facilities provided by the BHV management.  Numerous Villagers have enjoyed the advantages provided for the exclusive use of tenants of this deluxe apartment development.    Such features  include the four fine tennis courts, our free bus service, The Clubhouse with its well furnished meeting rooms, library ping pong and pool tables, bridge tables and sun patio, badminton and croquet courts, the nursery school, maid service, telephone switch boards, and the administration building to care for tenants needs.  In addition, there are the landscaped surroundings, lawns and play yards, the walks and open vistas, and similar attractions found in no like area anywhere”

[viii] [viii] “The Villager” newsletter; Vol 4, No 7 – July 1, 1946
“It is the desire of the owners of BHV to cooperate as much as possible with all tenants requesting doors on their garages.  Due to the shortage of lumber, it has been impossible for many months to fill requests for these doors.  However, the garage door company has just informed us that they will have sufficient lumber within the next few weeks to install all of the extra doors on order and a few extra.  Tenants who desire a door on their garage are requested to call Mrs. Jennings at the Administration building.  The charge for a door is $1.00 per month.”

[ix] Some 8x8 linoleum tile floors have been uncovered, and appear to be original, but no contemporary documentation has been found so far. 

[x] From “The Villager” newsletter; Vol 4, No 3 – March 1, 1946
“Beginning on March first, a program will be started to overcome landscape deficiencies caused by wartime shortages and to restore the grounds of the Village to their originally planned attractiveness.  Some areas will receive almost complete renovation while others will require only spot treatment.  It is expected that this work will extend over many months.
     Because it is necessary to include all areas of the Village in this program, it will be necessary to discontinue victory gardens within the Village grounds, (except within the walled-in patios of individual apartments).
    Since gardeners may start immediately to spade up and replant such areas with ground covering or shrubbery, Villagers are requested to remove to their patios, at their earliest convenience any plantings, vegetables, flowers, stakes, fences, etc which they may wish to salvage from plots which were used as wartime victory gardens.”

[xi] Due to Wartime restrictions, the paint available was inferior, and the buildings quickly faded and oxidized.  A DuPont “War Emergency Duco” paint brochure from 1945 states that “War Emergency Duco will not give the same durability out of doors as did the original Duco.”

[xii] In analysis done recently, it appears that three buildings - 51, 72 and 74 - had more than two colors.  Building 74’s main stucco body was a deep medium blue, while the brick bungalow ends were deep tobacco leaf brown.  Doors, windows, balconies and trim were off-white.  Building 51 used a deep bluish-green for the blue of building 74, retaining the brown bungalows and white trim.