1323 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Gussie Moran House

Known As: Gussie Moran House
Architect: Unknown
Built: 1887 and 1891
Designated: January 27, 1979

Like its neighbor at 1333 Ocean, the Gussie Moran House is a remnant of the time when Ocean Avenue was first developed as a residential street. It is remarkable both for its Victorian styling and as the longtime residence of tennis champion, Gertrude Moran.

Santa Monica was a small town of perhaps a few thousand, most living in the downtown area, when this house was started around 1887. Though many structures built in early Santa Monica were hastily erected and architecturally undistinguished, lots on desirable Ocean Avenue filled up with imposing Victorian homes.

Victorian buildings came in many styles but the Queen Anne variant dominated domestic architecture in the 1880s and 1890s. This home, one of the few remaining examples of the style in Santa Monica, displays several Queen Anne hallmarks. Visitors will note the steeply pitched roof and the prominent front gable, as well as the expansive L-shaped porch on the ground floor. The Victorian age glorified domesticity and this house proclaims “A man’s home is his castle” with its whimsical tower (added on sometime between 1891 and 1895) capped by a conical roof. Both plain and fishscale shingles are used throughout to add texture and interest to flat surfaces. A modern building in a similar style now occupies the back of the lot but a tidy front garden calls to mind the comfortable, residential character of the neighborhood more than a century ago.

This house is notable as well for its famous resident—Gertrude “Gorgeous Gussie” Moran. Born in Santa Monica, where her family had owned this home since the 1890s, Gussie Moran took up tennis early, won several single and doubles championships and by 1949 was playing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. In this respect Moran carried on a proud Santa Monica tradition—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the city was a renowned tennis capital and produced many extraordinary players, among them several national champions, as well as Wimbledon victors May Sutton and “Bunny” Ryan. Moran’s fame, however, was for more than just great tennis. At Wimbledon she created a scandal by wearing a shockingly short skirt and matching lace panties visible below the hem. Staid officials demanded her ouster from the tournament (relenting later as attendance soared) while photographers scrambled for the best shots of her risqué attire. Newspapers around the world published the photos and Gussie Moran became known worldwide. Called “one of the great originals” Moran later toured professionally with Bobbie Riggs, appeared with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in a film (as herself), and worked as a radio host. She lived here until 1986.

The unexpected combination of a traditional house and a very untraditional woman make this landmark truly memorable.

Sources:

  1. John Maass. The Gingerbread Age: A View of Victorian America. New York: Rinehart & Co., 1957.
  2. John Maass. The Victorian Home in America. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1972.
  3. Santa Monica Historical Resources Inventory, 1985-1986. Vol. 1. City of Santa Monica, Building and Safety Department.
  4. Paula A. Scott. Santa Monica: A History on the Edge. Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  5. Staff Report on Gertrude Moran House, 1323 Ocean Avenue. City Planning Division, Santa Monica.
  6. Charles S. Warren ed. Santa Monica Blue Book. Santa Monica: Arthur H. Cawston, 1941.