3219 South Figueroa Street


  • Built in 1899 on Lot 18 of the Dana Tract by furnace and stove manufacturer and dealer Frank Edward Browne; relocated to 631 West 28th Street in 1924
  • Architect: John C. Austin. Austin's Hiram Higgins house, built at 2619 Wilshire Boulevard in 1902 and seen here below, shares several design features with our subject house including arched windows of various sizes and gable treatments. The Higgins house was itself relocated; in 1923 it found its way to Windsor Square, where it famously still stands at 637 South Lucerne Boulevard 
  • Connecticut-born Frank Browne developed the popular Browne Furnace, often noted in Southern California real estate listings of the day as a premium feature of houses; he manufactured and sold this and other household appliances. Browne and his wife Lizzie were moving from a cottage at 740 South Broadway, the unimproved lot it occupied having been purchased by Browne in 1882 for $600. Retaining what became a prime downtown property until 1903, Browne sold 740 South Broadway for $52,500 in December of that year
  • Lizzie J. Browne died at 3219 South Figueroa on August 19, 1909, age 55. Her husband's sister and brother-in-law, Juliette and Joseph Wall, moved into 3219 afterward
  • Frank E. Browne married Bertha Nelson of Ocean Park in Santa Ana on February 7, 1912; while referred to as a "Miss" in the Herald's announcement two days later, the bride, 45, appears to have been married twice before. (The Walls left 3219 afterward and after purchasing a newly-built bungalow at 3667 Arlington Avenue) 
  • Frank E. Browne died at 3219 South Figueroa on November 4, 1912. He was 63. His Times obituary the next day reported that he had been ill with "neuralgia of the heart" and pneumonia and referred to him as an inventor, property investor, and gun enthusiast 
  • Bertha Browne remained at 3219, living with her widowed mother Elizabeth Zimmerman, who died on August 26, 1920. Mrs. Browne left the house within two years of her mother's death and began to plan for the redevelopment of Lot 18 of the Dana Tract
  • By 1924, 3219 South Figueroa—the house itself—had been sold to the Xi Psi Phi Holding Corporation, which was issued a relocation permit in the name of dentists Clayton M. McCauley and Alton D. McLeod by the Department of Buildings on June 16, 1924. The house was trucked two blocks north by the Kress House Moving Company and settled on a parcel comprised of the east 30 feet of Lot 38 and the west 50 feet of Lot 39 of Del Valle's Subdivision of the Wheeler Tract. Drs. McCauley and McLeod were purchasing and relocating 3219 to become the Alpha Theta chapter house of Xi Psi Phi, a U.S.C. dental fraternity
  • On June 19, 1924, Bertha Browne was issued a permit by the Department of Buildings to replace her 25-year-old house with a full-lot-width $72,000 store and garage building. A new automobile row was developing along Figueroa Street; the future site of Felix Chevrolet was just across the street from Mrs. Browne's property. Her new structure would last until 2008 and be replaced with the University Gateway apartments as U.S.C. continued its century-long expansion of its campus. (The 1889 John M. C. Marble house next door to 3219 served as the U.S.C. School of Music from 1915 until it moved to 2601 South Grand Avenue in 1924)
  • Once settled on its new foundation at 631 West 28th Street, the men of Xi Psi Phi moved into the former Browne residence, with an open house marking the completion of the house's transfer and renovation on November 21, 1924. The brothers remained until 1939, eventually moving on to 880 West Adams Boulevard before FIJI settled in there. The Tau Epsilon Phis were to occupy 631 West 28th next, staying through 1943. The house was converted into a fourplex in the summer of 1944, its ownership unclear, and remained in this configuration until its purchase in 1948 by the Scorpion Benefit Corporation, which was issued a permit by what was now called the Department of Building and Safety on July 8 authorizing interior alterations and additional bathroom fixtures. Tau Kappa Epsilon's Beta Sigma chapter had been formed out of U.S.C.'s Scorpion Club; an item in the Los Angeles Times on October 27, 1948, reported that a ceremony marking Beta Sigma's installation on campus was to take place four days later at the University Club, with Rufus von KleinSmid, school chancellor and strong supporter of the Greek system (and now ignominious champion of eugenics), slated to speak. The Tekes moved into 631 West 28th and remain in residence to this day
  • Moving with the times over the decades, the Tekes have regularly modernized its 1899 house, though the brothers wisely held off major renovations for several years after moving in. As the Times of February 5, 1950, described it, the path of the developing Harbor Freeway (today, "the 110") had yet to be settled, with one 300-foot-wide proposal threatening to plow through Fraternity Row, sparing the Teke house but placing it on the east side of the highway. (Political power in the form of Von KleinSmid and the redoubtable Mrs. Doheny of Chester Place might have been the prevailing forces that settled the matter with today's east-curving 110 configuration.) The Tekes may have taken some ribbing from fellow Greeks along 28th Street for their delay in upgrading their quarters, even if, according to photographic evidence, its façade was being kept quite tidy: Per the writer of the text of Teke's page in the 1952 El Rodeo yearbook, "Yes, they plan to remodel their ancient abode in the near future." The freeway matter settled, the Times reported on July 18, 1954, that Teke had completed a major transformation of the house, which included a two-story, $20,000 addition accommodating 10 more men and an expanded dining room capable of holding 70. "A new attractive front of brick is a feature of the project being done by Walter Krounse, condtractor, and Dave Oakley, who drew the plans. The Scorpion Club, Inc., building association of the fraternity, is sponsoring the new addition." Images of 631 West 28th appearing in El Rodeo over the years chart its upgrades. With the form of what was once 3219 South Figueroa Street still just discernible, the bones, at least, of the Browne house live on 121 years after first being assembled on Figueroa Street
  • In 2006, the Beta Sigma chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon purchased 625 West 28th Street next door, which had been built by Charles W. Blaisdell at 2622 South Figueroa in 1896 and moved to U.S.C.'s developing Fraternity Row in 1923. (Charles W. Blaisdell was the father of Richard Blaisdell, who had built 880 West Adams in 1895, a house mentioned here previously as the home of Xi Psi Phi after it left 631 West 28th Street.) The Tekes demolished 625 after being issued a permit by the Department of Building and Safety on July 26, 2006, planning a new house on the site as an annex to its original building at 631. This building opened in early 2009 and became known as Teke East; a compound having been created for the brothers, unique along the Row, 631 became Teke West. Teke West, the 1899 Browne house, received its most recent renovation in 2014

After 25 years at 3219 South Figueroa Street, the Browne house is seen here settled on its
new foundation at 631 West 28th Street in the 1927 U.S.C. yearbook, El Rodeo.

Now home to the Tekes at 631 West 28th Street, the Browne house is pictured in the 1953 El Rodeo, offering evidence of a renovation since 1924 of the third floor that involved removing key features.

As rendered in the 1955 El Rodeo and pictured in the
1957 edition, below, the Teke house presents its 1954 east-side
addition; the first and second floors of the building's left side
and center retain some of their original 1899 forms.

Seen above in the 1966 El Rodeo, alterations that came to the Teke house in
the 1960s removed the last vestige of the house's 1899 façade. Below is the Teke
house today. The fraternity has expanded to become something of a campus-within-
a-campus; its 1899 house at left has evolved into a modern facility now known
as Teke West, which was joined by the brothers' Teke East, at right, in 2009.

John C. Austin also designed 2619 Wilshire Boulevard, completed in 1902. Its massing is similar to
 3219 South Figueroa and the houses shares several design features including 
gable treatments
and arched windows of various sizes. In 1923 the Wilshire Boulevard house was moved to
637 South Lucerne Boulevard in Windsor Square, where it remains standing today.

Illustrations: Private Collection; USCDL