The home is not called the Cedar House anymore, even though that’s where it calls home: at 605 Cedar Ave. in the Willmore City Historic District. While the district does indeed feature several impressive historic residences, its two neighbors to the north are decidedly non-contributing multi-family condo units built in 1955.

Perhaps because of its proximity to a pair of unspectacular buildings, the stately Craftsman-style fourplex at 605 Cedar looks rich in history, in the they-don’t-make-them-like-that-anymore sort of way.

The four rental units in the building are generously sized by today’s often diminutive micro-studio standards, each has two bedrooms and one bath with upgraded kitchens and bathrooms as well as their own laundry rooms. The current residents are paying less than $2,000 a month, though the buyer of this property will have two vacant units with Austin Zahn, the listing agent, projecting those may fetch as much as $2,600 a month.

An empty apartment room painted yellow with cream-colored wood trim and ceiling. The large room ileads to a smaller room with windows. The floors are light hardwood.
A large room at 605 Cedar Ave. leads to a sunny sitting room. Listing photo.

The property is listed at $1.55 million.

In its early days, the fourplex had the usual sort of Long Beach tenants, no one of any particular note save for the 1920s when a Mattie Josephine Lewis used the house for her speech therapy classes for youngsters, or, as it was quaintly termed, for “nervous and backward children.” She came to Long Beach after spending years teaching in Detroit at the Lewis School for Stammerers.

The house on Cedar became the Cedar House in 1974, when the organization of that name was founded and began its work with the prevention and treatment of child abuse, renting the entire house for its 24-hour non-residential treatment program.

Cedar House became the model program to be replicated throughout Los Angeles County for a community-based treatment of child abuse, in which the organization’s staff of marriage, family and child counselors and social workers worked with the children and their families through individual and group therapy and other services in the attempt to keep families together rather than spinning the child off into the warren of foster care.

Cedar House was beloved in the community and was the recipient of fairly robust donations as well as volunteers. It survived until the building was sold in 1987 and subsequently merged with Sarah Center, which focused on women’s abuse, and became today’s For the Child organization.

“We rented the entire house,” recalled Freda Hinsche Otto, who was Cedar House’s administrative director and still remains active in community causes.

“It wasn’t residential, but one of our women stayed in the house full time, which was nice because it gave the place a more homey feel. There was always a pot of coffee on and soup was always simmering in the kitchen, so the place smelled wonderful. You could sit around the coffee table and chat or people could just relax in a chair.”

In 1981, Otto told the LA Times in an article about Cedar House, “I think what we are doing here is going to set a precedent for the rest of the country. Establishing a domestic, nurturing environment for abusing parents and their children has been untried in the field. It’s controversial and out of the ordinary, but it works.”

The house, with its impressive architecture and large, welcoming front porch, still gives off a pleasant vibe, even with traffic on Sixth Street roaring by.

“It’s funny that it’s for sale now,” said Freda. “We tried for years to buy it, but the owner wouldn’t give it up.”

It’s a different owner now, held by a group of investors who are, obviously, willing to give it up for a price. And even if you can’t afford the million-and-a-half price tag, you might take a shot at renting one of the units when they come up.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.