Curiosity for Rent: The Osiris Apartments, Westlake
Proclaiming its bond with the Egyptian god of the afterlife, the Osiris Apartments sport a towering sign, its letters studded with bulbs, now darkened.
The 30-unit building in Los Angeles' Westlake neighborhood was built in 1928 by architect J.M. Close, who also designed Hollywood’s Karnak and Ahmed apartments, as well as a 1930 Egyptian-inspired, 20-unit building at 747 Wilcox Ave.
The Osiris, at 430 S. Union Ave., has a colonnaded pylon-style base painted beige and trimmed elegantly in black. The lobby features a Moorish arch painted ochre and patterned with blue eyes called nazars, seen widely in the Middle East and used to ward off the evil eye, a glance believed to cause harm. Other Moorish arches, also painted ochre, are found at stairwell landings.
“J.M. Close had his eye on what would sell -- the latest and the exotic -- and he was astute at picking up on trends,” said Marcello Vavala, preservation associate at the Los Angeles Conservancy. Vavala added that Close’s office on Western Avenue was known for tropical plants and unusual furniture for the time. Close did most of his work from 1910 to 1935, including Spanish Colonial Revivals and a number of Hollywood bungalow courts.
Close’s initials stood for John Manley, but he preferred J.M., Vavala said. The architect’s blueprints were inspired by Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. Among other Egyptian revival buildings in Los Angeles: the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the Vista Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz and the Citadel Outlets, formerly the Samson Tire and Rubber Co., which was modeled after a 7th century B.C. Assyrian palace.
Osiris tenant Howard Scott, 32, thought his building's sign was left over from an old hotel. Perched on the bed of his $598-a-month studio, Scott said the neighborhood is “a bit crowded for my taste, but I won’t live here forever. It’s for the moment.”
Asked about his tattoos, Scott said he got the first at age 18 -- comedy and tragedy masks inked on his right arm after his mother repeatedly told him that he was “overly dramatic.” The maintenance employee at Fox Fitness in Culver City said he got small angel and devil tattoos on his throat at age 24 -- perhaps appropriate symbols for what it takes to court Osiris, god of the afterlife.
“I got the angel and the devil to remind me that I always have a choice -- to make a good or bad decision,” said Scott, who papered his walls with his sketches of DC and Marvel comics characters: Storm, Firestorm and Phoenix, among others.
Scott raised his hand to his neck. “The angel and devil remind me that right and wrong are here -- right at my throat.”
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-- R. Daniel Foster
"Curiosity for Rent," a series on the novel apartment buildings of Southern California, appears here on Wednesdays (with a bonus second installment today). You can send nominations to email@example.com. For an easy way to follow future installments, join our Facebook page for California home design.
Photos: R. Daniel Foster