Alhambra To Pursue Historic Preservation Ordinance

In the same neighborhood where Alhambra Preservation Group held its first home tour in 2004, Alhambra City Council Member Jeff Maloney made the announcement that Alhambra Preservation Group members have been waiting to hear for more than a decade. The City of Alhambra will pursue the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance, which will create a citywide survey of cultural resources, a cultural resources commission and a register of Alhambra landmarks and historic districts.

“We are thrilled that the Alhambra City Council is finally showing leadership in the area of historic preservation,” stated Joyce Amaro, Alhambra Preservation Group President. “More than 50% of residents surveyed during the city’s 2015 General Plan Update input process stated that the preservation of historic homes and neighborhoods needed to be a priority. We’re pleased that they are listening to their constituents.”

So, congratulations! Alhambra is on the road to adopting legislation that will preserve and protect our neighborhoods! Thank you for your continued commitment to Alhambra, your dedication to Alhambra Preservation Group and its mission, and your unwavering belief that Alhambra’s cultural resources are worth saving.

Now the exciting work begins!

June 29 Coffee With A Council Member Summer Event

The announcement regarding the pursuing of a historic preservation ordinance came at the Alhambra Preservation Group’s June 29 Coffee with a Council Member summer event. Alhambra Mayor David Mejia and Council Member Jeff Maloney were in attendance and fielded questions from Alhambra residents on a variety of topics ranging from the need for street repair throughout Alhambra to concerns regarding mature trees due to be cut down at the Camellia Court development and the need for a tree ordinance, from future plans for creating a more environmentally sustainable city to the idea of creating a citizens oversight committee for procurement, budget and contracting issues.

General Plan Update Workshop

APG members were in attendance at the General Plan Update community workshop on June 14. While we were disappointed that the workshop did not include the release of the updated General Plan, we were encouraged to hear that there are preservation goals included in Alhambra’s updated General Plan. We look forward to reviewing the updated General Plan when it is released. If you’re interested in being notified when the updated General Plan is distributed to the public, please e-mail the City of Alhambra at generalplan@cityofalhambra.org.

Alhambra Source’s Community Voices Workshop

Members of the APG board of directors attended the Alhambra Source’s Community Voices workshop on June 24 at Ramona Convent. Attending seminars on opinion writing, news writing and photography, they hope to put their newly learned skills into practice as future contributors of the Alhambra Source.

Meeting with City of Alhambra, Development Services

APG President Joyce Amaro has met twice with Alhambra’s new Director of Development Services Marc Castognola in June and July to discuss the future of a historic preservation ordinance, the creation of a cultural resources commission and the implementation of a citywide inventory of cultural resources. The City is moving forward with the drafting of a preservation ordinance so stay tuned for more details regarding this initiative. We are hoping to have more news on this in the fall.

Endangered Cultural Resources

The 1885 Victorian home on South Garfield and a 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival Chapel on South Marengo known as the Saints Simon and Jude Episcopal Chapel top APG’s most endangered list. APG wrote a letter to Alhambra City Council members expressing concern about the Saints Simon and Jude Chapel located at 1428 South Marengo Avenue. The cultural and historic significance of this chapel is a recent discovery. Reginald Davis Johnson was a true architectural visionary, whose work shaped Santa Barbara’s visual identity and whose buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In Santa Barbara, Mr. Johnson designed the Santa Barbara Post Office and the Santa Barbara Biltmore. Locally, he was responsible for the design of All Saints Church and Hale Observatory in Pasadena, the Saint Saviours Chapel in Studio City, and the Flintridge Riding Club. Because of its link to this celebrated architect, Alhambra’s Chapel of Saints Simon and Jude should be preserved and cherished instead of destroyed and forgotten.


DSC_0114Programming and events that combine education and fun are at the heart of the Alhambra Preservation Group. Its summer ice cream socials often felt like homecomings for members and its Heritage Awards program took members on mini virtual tours of award-winning homes throughout Alhambra.

In 2013 APG embarked on a new idea – a Magical History Bus Tour that transported participants back to 1920s Alhambra to tour architecturally significant homes and meet the men and women who shaped the city we know today.

A few years later in 2015, the City of Alhambra began the process of updating its General Plan and APG actively participated in this initiative. APG hosted three ice cream socials in members’ homes and provided a summary of the General Plan Update at these events, encouraging members to participate in a survey that the City of Alhambra was conducting to receive feedback on future priorities for our city. APG members also participated in the community workshops hosted by the City of Alhambra. This effort by APG resulted in more than 50% of survey participants stating that the preservation of homes and neighborhoods should be a future priority for Alhambra.

In 2016, APG created a Google map which introduced residents to Alhambra’s amazing architectural diversity. From Victorian to Mid-Century Modern, this map provides a visual representation of the more than 25 architectural styles and sub-styles that can be found in Alhambra and begins the conversation that Alhambra is arguably one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Los Angeles County.

Now Alhambra is on the cusp of developing and adopting a historic preservation ordinance and creating an inventory of cultural resources, two of APG’s main goals when it was founded by Oscar Amaro and Katherine Hildreth. We are excited for the next 10 years in Alhambra as we continue working to preserve Alhambra’s neighborhoods, one historic home at a time.

Note: As Alhambra Preservation Group celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, we are taking our readers on a two-part virtual trip back in time to meet the tight-knit group of members who make up the APG community and continue to move our city towards the day when Alhambra’s historically and architecturally homes, schools, businesses and churches are recognized, celebrated, preserved and protected.

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Garfield School in the late 1800s.

As Alhambra’s children get ready to go back to school in early August, here’s a brief history of Alhambra’s schools and a few historic photos of Alhambra’s elementary and high schools throughout the late 1800s and 20th century.

In 1880, the San Gabriel School District extended from the Los Angeles City boundary to Duarte, including the great ranches in between. It was considered at one time to be the wealthiest district in Los Angeles county. However, the early school houses consisted of redwood “shacks,” one of which was located under an oak tree on the ranch owned by J. A. Graves. A similar one was situated on Roses Road near the Bradbury Packing House, and another on Santa Anita Ranch, which later became the Baldwin Ranch. A fourth school house was an adobe building at the southeast corner of Las Tunas Drive and Mission Drive in San Gabriel.

San Gabriel District trustees decided in 1881 that they needed a new and better-equipped school house. A special tax was voted and a two-room building was erected at Vega and Main Street, on the west bank of the Arroyo. About 1884, the Alhambra Tract homeowners decided they wanted their own school house. After two bond elections failed, partly because of the strong opposition of the San Gabriel School District, Alhambrans petitioned for a division of the district and agreed to give San Gabriel the school at Vega and Main. Old Mill Creek became the dividing line on the east, with a detour that gave San Gabriel the school.

When the petition was granted, the new school was opened in an empty redwood shack near the corner of Chapel Avenue and Main Street. A hydrant across a plowed field supplied the school with drinking water. When the roof on the school caught fire one day, the children brought water in their lunch pails to extinguish the blaze. A few years later, a $10,000 bond measure was passed to build a school and a site at the corner of Garfield Avenue and Alhambra Road was purchased from John Conner for $175. A four-room, two-story frame school house was constructed.

In September 1887, the school opened with 27 elementary and high school students. Mrs. Edward Jones was the principal. Because of the increasing enrollment, Marengo School was built in 1905 and the cornerstone for Alhambra High School was laid in April of that same year.

Alhambra would go on to construct four high schools: Alhambra High School (rebuilt several times at the same location, south of Main Street and between Second and Third Streets); Mark Keppel High built in 1939 on Hellman Avenue; San Gabriel High, constructed in 1955; and Century High School, located south of the former Marengo Elementary School. Today, there are 13 elementary schools in Alhambra Unified School District – nine in Alhambra and four in the City of Monterey Park.

Ramona Convent – an all-girls boarding school – was opened on January 30, 1890.  The Convent was built on land donated by James de Barth Shorb, Don Benito Wilson’s son-in-law and an early prominent resident. Shorb’s daughter, Edith, disliked going to Northern California to boarding school. It is said that she convinced her father to donate the land for Ramona Convent so that she could attend school in Southern California.

Portions reprinted from the City of Alhambra’s history webpage.

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coffee.cup.2Join Alhambra Preservation Group for an evening of coffee, cookies and questions with Alhambra’s two newly elected City Council Members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

901 North Bushnell Avenue, Alhambra, CA  91801

This is an opportunity for Alhambrans to get to know their two newest City Council Members and ask questions about Alhambra’s future and any community concerns. Additionally, the City of Alhambra will have just released its updated General Plan, and we will provide an update on the next steps related to this important development in our city.

This event is free and the general public is welcome to attend. Light dessert refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to info@alhambrapreservation.org by June 25, 2017. We look forward to seeing you there!


The City of Alhambra will present Alhambra Preservation Group with a congratulatory certificate marking APG’s 10th anniversary at its evening City Council meeting on Monday, May 22, 2017. You are invited to attend and help us celebrate Alhambra Preservation Group’s 10th anniversary.

Alhambra Preservation Group will host a dessert reception in the lobby of Alhambra City Hall before the presentation in City Council Chambers.

Alhambra Preservation Group Celebrates 10 Years

Monday, May 22, 2017

Celebratory Reception: 6:00 p.m.

City Council Presentation: 7:00 p.m.

Alhambra City Hall, 111 South 1st Street

Please join us as we celebrate Alhambra Preservation Group’s 10-Year anniversary. Please RSVP to info@alhambrapreservation.org or (626) 755-3467.



Oscar Amaro and the late Katherine Hildreth founded APG in 2003.

Fourteen years ago this month, a small group of residents met at the Alhambra Historical Society’s Museum to talk about forming a new group. Led by Oscar Amaro and the late Kathy Hildreth, these Alhambrans expressed anger at seeing older homes razed and agreed that it was time to start fighting for the preservation and protection of Alhambra’s historic homes and quaint neighborhoods. And so began the story of Alhambra Preservation Group, or APG. Over time, APG grew from a small group of concerned residents into the successful non-profit organization it is today.

As Alhambra Preservation Group celebrates the 10th anniversary of becoming a non-profit organization, join us for a two-part series back to the not-so-recent past. We’ll celebrate APG’s achievements and milestones. We’ll share APG’s advocacy efforts and awareness-building programs. And, we’ll introduce you to the tight-knit group of members who make up the APG community today and continue to move our city towards the day when Alhambra’s historically and architecturally homes, schools, businesses and churches are recognized, preserved and protected.

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CA.Pres.Found.Conf.Joyce&BarbaraBy Joyce Amaro

Spring has sprung! We’ve all been enjoying the “superbloom”, gentle showers and warmer weather that spring always brings. Here at APG, we’ve also been springing into action to move Alhambra closer to the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance. Here’s a summary of just a few of the activities we’ve been busy with since the beginning of the new year.

At the end of February, I attended a Mills Act Workshop hosted by Pasadena Heritage. This was a good opportunity to learn more about the Mills Act and how owners of historic homes may one day be able to benefit from it here in Alhambra. You can learn more about the Mills Act here.

As many of you are aware, the City of Alhambra heard an appeal of the Lowe’s Development on Fremont on February 27. APG Board Members were in attendance and several spoke at the City Council meeting. The latest information on the Lowe’s Development project can be found here.

In March, I met with City of Alhambra City Manager Mark Yokoyama and Development Services Director Tonya Pace to discuss the status of the adoption of a preservation ordinance in Alhambra and next steps.  Both stated that the adoption of a preservation ordinance as well as the adoption of a Mills Act Program in Alhambra would be addressed in the upcoming release of the City’s General Plan. As you may remember, APG members participated in the 2015 General Plan Survey as well as the community meetings, providing vital input to the City of Alhambra on the need for a historic preservation ordinance. After this meeting with the City of Alhambra, I am more hopeful than ever that APG’s hard work is about to pay off and that we will see goals related to both of a preservation ordinance and the Mills Act included in Alhambra’s draft General Plan. We are still awaiting the release of the draft General Plan. We will let all of you know as soon as we hear more from the City of Alhambra.

Recently, I was asked to serve on Alhambra’s Source’s Community Advisory Board.  I am honored to serve on this advisory board as this vital community resource takes steps towards becoming a non-profit organization.  In mid-April, I met with the Alhambra Source’s editor Phoenix Tso to discuss an article the Alhambra Source plans on writing about Alhambra’s need for a preservation ordinance. I’ll be sure to send it your way once it’s written.

On May 12, Barbara Beckley and I were honored to present “Putting Alhambra on the Map” at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference “Preservation at the Forefront” in Pasadena. You may remember the Google map APG created last spring, which maps out Alhambra’s historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. Barbara and I presented information on how the map was created as well as APG’s current and future plans for the map. Have you checked out APG’s Alhambra Historic Resources map lately? We’re in the process of adding photos of historic homes to the map. If you know of a home you would like to include, please send it my way at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Lastly, be sure and put June 29 on your calendar! APG will be hosting an early summer evening event “Coffee with a Council Member” on Thursday, June 29, 2017. More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, but you don’t want to miss this opportunity to meet Alhambra’s two new council members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia. This is your chance to spend some time with them and ask them about issues facing your neighborhood and our city.