The early twentieth century was a time of rapid growth in Santa Monica as waves of immigrants from the East and Midwest flooded into Southern California looking for the good life. This modest cottage at 954 Fifth Street is testimony to that period in the city’s history.
The cottage was built in 1906 when the city had a population of about 7,200. Though within the original town boundaries of Santa Monica, at the time it was constructed the cottage was one of only a few structures scattered on Fifth Street north of Washington. The surrounding neighborhood was essentially rural. By 1915, however, the city’s population had more than doubled and the 900 block of Fifth Street was well-settled with over a dozen residences. By the 1950s empty lots in the neighborhood were few and far between.
The house was built by a local contractor named James Kneen and he and his family were its first residents. His name is familiar to locals because it is still stamped into sidewalks he built around Santa Monica.
Though aesthetically unremarkable, the cottage has architectural significance because it is typical of the kind of hipped-roof cottage—featuring a large front porch, double hung sash windows, exposed rafter tails, and bay windows—that were once ubiquitous in Santa Monica and in Southern California generally. It is the best remaining example of this type of dwelling still standing in the city today, many others having been remodeled or destroyed due to development pressures. Currently surrounded by much larger and more modern dwellings, the cottage provides a rare glimpse at an architectural form whose heyday is long past.