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IMG_3824Tune in on August 14 to the DIY Network’s hit show Restored to see an Alhambra Craftsman home featured as the inspiration home during the restoration of a 1910 farm house in Cherry Valley.

This episode of Restored focuses on the restoration of a 1910 home owned by a couple who are interested in organic farming. In the episode, host Brett Waterman takes the couple on a tour of a restored 1912 Craftsman home in Alhambra to give them a taste of what their home will look like during the final reveal and to receive feedback from the couple on how they’d like certain elements in their home restored.

IMG_3822“We were jazzed when the producers of Restored contacted us about featuring our humble 1912 Arts and Crafts house as this episode’s ‘inspiration home’,” said Alhambra Preservation Group Founder Oscar Amaro.  “To have our house showcased on Restored and have Brett compliment us on our restoration efforts really validated all the hard work we put into our home,” continued Amaro.

“One of the features that will be showcased in the episode is our home’s original ‘California Cooler’,” stated Joyce Amaro, Vice President of Alhambra Preservation Group. “In the early 20th century, California Coolers were installed in kitchens as small pantries to keep perishables fresh. With slotted shelving and screens above and below, the air flow coming from the full-sized basement below (a standard feature in older homes) would keep food cool. We wanted Restored to showcase all the unique features in our vintage, historic home. But, nope. The show wanted to focus on our simple California Cooler,” laughed Amaro.

The goal of the show is to demonstrate how 20th century homes can be restored using 21st century preservation techniques with stunning results. Hosted by preservationist Brett Waterman, the DIY Network show focuses on homes that have amazing potential often hidden under bad additions and inappropriate renovations.  Season 3, Episode 6 features the Amaro’s Alhambra home and will begin airing on August 14. Additional air times can be found here.

Alhambra Preservation Group is immensely proud that Restored will be featuring a historic Alhambra home, putting our city on the map as a community with historically significant and beautifully restored houses. Alhambra has an incredibly diverse and robust collection of historic homes just waiting to be discovered and celebrated. Tune in on August 14 to see how one historic home in Alhambra receives the VIP treatment on the show Restored.

Photos courtesy of Joyce and Oscar Amaro.

Alhambra.City.HallThe Alhambra City Council will consider the final City of Alhambra General Plan at its August 12 meeting. We encourage all Alhambrans to attend and show their support for strong historic preservation goals and policies.

Named Vision 2040 – A Community Mosaic, Alhambra’s General Plan describes the vision for Alhambra over the next 20 years. It addresses issues related to land use & community design, mobility, quality of life, resources, infrastructure & services, and health & safety.

Included in the Resources segment of the General Plan are goals and policies related to the development of a historic preservation program. “Since the first General Plan community meetings, Alhambra Preservation Group has advocated for strong historic preservation goals,” said Oscar Amaro, Alhambra Preservation Group Founder and President. “While the General Plan does include the goal of considering the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance and the development of a Mills Act Program, it specifically omits the goals of conducting a citywide inventory of historic resources and the establishment of an independent cultural resources commission. That needs to change. These are vitally important historic preservation elements that need to be included,” continued Amaro.

We encourage you to attend this meeting and show your support for strong historic preservation policies during the public comment period.  First, here are the specifics regarding the City Council meeting:

Monday, August 12 2019

7:00 p.m.

Alhambra City Hall/Council Chambers, 111 S. 1st St., Alhambra, CA

If you choose to address the City Council, may we suggest the following speaking points as they relate to historic preservation elements in the General Plan:

  • State your support for the historic preservation elements that are currently in the General Plan and which include considering the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance, considering the development of an incentives program (e.g. the Mills Act), and exploring private and public grant funding opportunities.
  • Thank the Planning Commission for their robust discussion and consideration of historic preservation elements and their decision to revise the priority of the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance from “medium” to “high”.
  • Ask City Council members to amend the General Plan to add two vitally important historic preservation elements: 1) consider the formation of an independent cultural resources commission and (2) consider conducting a citywide inventory of historic resources into the General Plan’s list of implementation action items.
  • Remind City Council that the establishment of an independent cultural resources commission and a citywide historic resources inventory are integral to developing a strong historic preservation program in Alhambra.

Remember, if you decide to speak at the meeting, you must fill out a blue speaker card and give it to City staff behind the dais before the item is considered.

Alhambra Preservation Group greatly appreciates your ongoing support and we hope to see you on August 12!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

DSC_0767Throughout the United States, cities both big and small have conducted historic resources inventories to better understand the properties within their communities that are historically, culturally and architecturally significant.

Here in Alhambra, we have never conducted a citywide inventory of historic resources. A partial survey was conducted in 1984 and an unofficial windshield survey was conducted by Alhambra Preservation Group a few years ago, but an inventory of Alhambra’s many historic homes, businesses, schools and churches has never been completed.

Many ask why a citywide historic resources survey is necessary here in Alhambra? Here are five reasons why our city needs to conduct a survey and why Alhambra Preservation Group will continue to advocate for a citywide inventory of Alhambra historic resources:

Identify and Understand – A citywide inventory allows for the identification and understanding of properties that are historically, culturally and architecturally significant and assists the community to make informed policy decisions about these properties.

We Love Alhambra! – A citywide survey will stimulate public awareness, encourages civic engagement and community pride about historic resources. It could lead to walking tours and increased architectural-tourism dollars here in Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley.

Is it Worth Saving? – A survey would identify properties worth protecting and preserving as well as those with limited or no historical significance where redevelopment can easily take place.

More Efficient Government – An inventory of historic resources expedites environmental review by governmental agencies and provides a basis for preservation and planning at all levels of government.

Tax Savings for Property Owners – It could lead to further designation of historic properties such as recognition as a National Register of Historic Places property, a state-designated historic place or a local landmark. These designations can sometimes lead to property owners being eligible for state and federal property tax reductions.

It’s time that Alhambra conduct a citywide inventory of its historic resources! You can help by talking to elected officials about the importance of a citywide historic resources inventory. It’s time we put Alhambra on the map!

Easter.EggsMany of you may be familiar with Easter eggs. No, not the kind filled with candy that children go hunting for this time of year. The Easter eggs we’re referring to are hidden features, messages or images in a video game. With the holiday weekend upon us, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs – those architecturally significant structures and/or features that may be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Here are just a few – waiting to be found by you!

Millard.Sheets.muralMillard Sheets Murals at Mark Keppel High School – In the late 1930s, as Alhambra’s Mark Keppel High School was being built, Millard Sheets – a Chouinard Art Institute graduate and leading figure behind the California Style watercolor movement – created three exterior enamel and stainless steel relief murals. The murals remain today. The three murals depict the history and culture of early California with one showcasing the state of California, the second featuring Los Angeles County and the third showing three groups of people who populated early California. (Mark Keppel High School, 501 East Hellman Avenue, Alhambra)

DSC_0755Neon “Alhambra” Welcome Signs – At the western, eastern and southern entrances to the city of Alhambra, you’ll find “Alhambra” neon signs, which welcome visitors to our city. Currently only the southern sign on Valley Blvd. is working. Neon signs and their rich history date back to the early 1900s. The French chemist, inventor and engineer Georges Claude introduced the first neon lamp to the public in 1910; he introduced neon signs to the US in 1923. In addition to its welcome signs, Alhambra has two historic businesses that use neon signs. The Hat on Valley Blvd. and Bun N Burger on Main St. both feature vintage neon signs. Alhambra’s Arts and Cultural Events Committee is considering the restoration of Alhambra’s neon welcome signs. APG applauds this idea. (Alhambra’s neon signs – Huntington Blvd. at the border of El Sereno, Main Street at the border of San Gabriel, Valley Blvd. at the border of Los Angeles)

Joe.Candalot.1926Joe Candalot & Sons Building – Just east of Alhambra’ neon sign on Valley Blvd. at the terminus of the 710 Freeway, you’ll find a simple non-descript two-story brick building with the words “Joe Candalot & Sons – 1926” imprinted near the roof. In 1899, Sylvestre Dupuy – the original owner of Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle – married Anna Candalot, a young Frenchwoman and accomplished chef. They raised four children – a daughter and three sons – in Alhambra. After the Dupuy’s moved into the Pyrenees Castle in 1927, the couple began developing lots on present-day Valley Blvd. Mr. Dupuy set up his sons in the tire business, naming it Y Tire Sales, which is still located on Valley Blvd. and is still owned by the Dupuy family. Whether this building in southwestern Alhambra was at one time the offices of Y Tire Sales has yet to be proven. And who was Joseph Candalot? Anna Candalot Dupuy’s father? Her brother? We’re still researching this branch of the Dupuy family. But the fact that the Candalot name features prominently on the building’s edifice links it to Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle somehow. (Joe Candalot & Sons Building, 3078 Valley Blvd., Alhambra)

Olson.1930sAlhambra’s Millionaire’s Row – In the early 20th century, many cities had neighborhoods that came to be known as “Millionaire’s Row.” These were streets lined with mansions owned by wealthy and influential city leaders. Alhambra was no different. During the 1920s and 30s, Alhambra’s elite lived on North Almansor Street in the Orange Blossom Manor tract, which featured homes with revivalist architectural styles ranging from English Tudor to American Colonial, from Dutch Colonial to Spanish Colonial. The homes were owned by such Alhambra luminaries as Victor Clyde Forsythe, renowned southwest Plein Air painter; Frank Olson, a lumberman who owned Olson Lumber and whose stunning English Tudor Revival home remains today; and Elmer Bailey, an experienced citrus orchardist who established the Golden Pheasant brand. Homes on Alhambra’s Millionaire’s Row have been featured on home tours and in movies. (Alhambra’s Millionaire’s Row, North Almansor Street north of Main Street)

43.Main.St.FacadeFormer Home Furniture Company Building Façade – As you drive east on Main Street just past Garfield Avenue, look to your left and you’ll discover a building that looks decidedly different than its neighbors. Several years ago, the 1970’s façade of this building was removed and an early 20th century storefront was discovered underneath. This building was the original location of Alhambra’s Home Furniture Company, which was Alhambra’s preeminent furniture store in the early 20th century. Boasting more than 32,000 square feet of furniture display space, the Home Furniture Company saw several owners during its lifetime. Today the façade that remains features decorative pillars and ornamental urns adorned with garlands of fruit and ribbon. (Former Home Furniture Company Building, 43 East Main Street, Alhambra)

We hope you enjoyed reading about a few of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs and the stories behind these gems. There are many more to be found in Alhambra, which is why a citywide historic resources inventory is overdue and necessary. We simply don’t know where all of our city’s architectural Easter eggs are hidden. It’s time to find them all and discover Alhambra!

Note: If you do decide to visit these locations or look for additional architectural Easter eggs in Alhambra, we ask that you not disturb business owners, residents and students. Happy hunting!

Did we miss any of Alhambra’s architectural Easter eggs? If you’re aware of any, please tell us about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Alhambra.City.HallThe City of Alhambra Planning Commission will consider the final draft of the City of Alhambra General Plan at public meetings on Monday, May 6 and Monday, May 20, 2019. Both meetings will take place at Alhambra City Hall, City Council Chambers, 111 South First Street, Alhambra, CA  91801 and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Alhambra Preservation Group representatives will be in attendance, and we encourage all Alhambrans to attend one or both of these meetings. Members of the public will be invited to make public statements about the General Plan prior to the Planning Commission’s consideration of the final draft document. If you have any final thoughts or opinions about Alhambra’s General Plan, these public meetings are your last opportunity to let your voice be heard.

The City of Alhambra released the final General Plan on January 10, 2019. APG reviewed the final General Plan along with the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and immediately noticed that three key implementation action items related to the development of a comprehensive historic preservation program that had been originally included in the General Plan’s draft EIR had been deleted from the final EIR.

APG representatives attended the first public hearing at the Planning Commission, and Alhambra Preservation Group addressed these deleted implementation action items. “The deleted implementation action items included (1) conducting a historic resources inventory, (2) establishing a historic resources commission and (3) taking measures to ensure that the City of Alhambra qualified as a certified local government. All of these action items are necessary to have a historic preservation program,” stated APG President Oscar Amaro. “We insist that these three implementation action items be reinstated into the final EIR and final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items.”

APG also submitted a letter to Alhambra City Council Members and Planning Commission Members outlining the deletion of these key implementation action items and demanded that these three key items be restored to the final EIR as well as the final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items. The letter APG submitted to the City of Alhambra may be viewed here.

Soon after the January Planning Commission meeting, the City’s General Plan process was put on hold when Councilwoman Katherine Lee requested that more residents be surveyed to gather additional input. As a result of this request, City Council voted unanimously to conduct an additional survey of 400 Alhambra residents.

The City of Alhambra began the updating of its General Plan – viewed as a long-range vision for the future of a community and sometimes referred to as a “blueprint for the future” – in the spring of 2015. The City of Alhambra’s General Plan was last updated in 1986.

For more information on the City of Alhambra’s General Plan visit the City’s web page.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

 

626.Golden.Streets.2Spring has sprung and there’s a lot going on in our city and the San Gabriel Valley over the next few weeks. Here are just a few of the events and activities that you may want to check out:

State of the City Address, April 22 – Join City Council for the State of the City address by Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler at the Alhambra City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 22, 2019. This year Alhambra’s mayor will give the State of the City address at a City Council meeting, allowing city residents to hear the speech free of charge. In years past, the state of the city speech has been given at a $30/ticket lunch hosted by the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. Kudos to Grassroots Alhambra for their role in pushing the City of Alhambra to have this address presented in a free public forum and to Mayor Andrade-Stadler for deciding to give the State of the City address at a City Council meeting, which allows all city residents to hear the status of issues facing Alhambra.

Neighborhood Clean-Up, April 27 – This year’s neighborhood clean-up will take place in southern Alhambra between West Ramona Road, West Glendon Way, South 2nd Street and South 9th Street, in the areas known as Ramona and Ramona Park. City of Alhambra staff, community service organizations and volunteers will assist with the massive one-day clean-up effort to improve the appearance of this neighborhood. The clean-up will take place on Saturday, April 27, between 8 a.m. and 12 noon.

The Neighborhood Clean-Up Command Post will be located on West Ramona Road between South 5th Street and South 6th Street. Volunteers are also needed to help with clean-up efforts! Contact the Alhambra Code Enforcement at 626-570-3230 or code@cityofalhambra.org to volunteer or if you have any additional questions. If you’d like more information on the event, please visit the City of Alhambra event web page.

626 Golden Streets, May 19 – 626 Golden Streets is an open streets (or ciclovia) event that will connect South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel. The route begins in the Mission District of South Pasadena, heads down to Alhambra Road and Main Street in Alhambra and ends at the historic San Gabriel Mission. Participants are encouraged to walk, skate, bike, run the route. Look for Alhambra Preservation Group along the route in Alhambra! More details to come on where APG can be found on the day of the event! For more information on the event, visit 626 Golden Streets.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

1968-article

A 1968 LA Times article on the destruction of the City-owned property.

By Oscar Amaro, APG Founder and 2019 President

A Carnegie library with gardens designed by Frank Lloyd Wright…The 1880’s Victorian home of Captain F. Edward Gray, a prominent Los Angeles horticulturalist…A 1920’s Tudor Revival clubhouse designed by Scott Quintin a well-known Alhambra architect…A 1910-era Arts & Crafts-styled building, which was the headquarters of  “The Wednesday Afternoon Women’s Club”…The two-story Craftsman home owned by Norma Yocum, Alhambra’s first woman mayor…

Many cities would revel in the value afforded these architecturally and historically significant structures. Not in Alhambra. These are but a few of the noteworthy structures lost in the “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley” as a result of an apathetic and negligent city hall.

Having grown up in the Alhambra/San Gabriel/Monterey Park area in the 1960s and 70s, even as a youth I was fascinated by this area’s treasure trove of historic buildings, homes, churches, schools—in addition to its rich history. Alhambrans may be unaware that US presidents found our city significant enough to make stops through here in the early part of the 20th century. Many of So Cal’s early leaders lived in Alhambra including a Captain F. Edward Gray, Los Angeles’ first commercial grower and main supplier of cut flowers to the region and president of the Southern California Horticultural Society as well as one of its first County Assessors. Captain Gray was also instrumental in securing funds to build one of Alhambra’s first schools and resided in an 1880s Victorian mansion. Captain Gray’s magnificent home was razed due to inaction and indifference on the city’s part despite strong calls from Alhambra’s residents to save it. In fact, the Alhambra Historical Society was formed in 1966 as a result of this debacle.

I moved away from this area in the early 1980s, living in both Riverside and Whittier, two cities that highly value their historic culture, architecture, and neighborhoods and take pride in these resources – as every city should. However, to be closer to work I moved back to Alhambra in the 1990s and was shocked to see so many of the historic structures that I remembered replaced by massive apartment and condo complexes. I was angered to see neighborhoods that were once quiet, picturesque and family-oriented gone. In 2000, my wife and I purchased a 1912 Craftsman home in Alhambra’s Ramona Park area. Shortly after moving in and restoring it to its period splendor, we witnessed the destruction of five 1920s bungalows just within a block of our house. That was the impetus for me to seek answers as to why this ongoing onslaught of our city’s historic character was continuing despite the Historical Society’s efforts.

When I formed Alhambra Preservation Group in 2003 with the late Katherine Hildreth, our mission was to begin lobbying our city leaders for historical and architectural protections. I naively thought that once our political leadership understood and were made aware of Alhambra’s robust architectural, historical and cultural resources, they would begin to adopt meaningful historic preservation measures.  APG set out to educate our civic leaders and Alhambrans about the need to adopt legislation. We sponsored home tours, workshops and events, and a historic homes award program. We conducted a windshield survey of Alhambra’s historic resources and mapped out Alhambra’s more than 25 architectural genres and sub-genres. We met with city leaders again and again. More than 100 of our members staged a “Stand Up for Preservation” show of support in city council chambers in 2015. But in the 16 years since APG’s formation, we have seen little to no movement on the city’s part to enact historic preservation measures. Instead, our experience with city council members has ranged from empty promises and lip service to outright obstruction.

It became apparent that there is a very real and tangible resistance within Alhambra’s government to adopt any historic preservation measures and that no amount of negotiations with [past] city council members would have had any effect.  This refusal of Alhambra’s leaders to listen to the concerns and demands of Alhambra’s residents is inexcusable.

But we are finally seeing changes.

With last year’s election, we now have several city council members who have voiced support in moving these efforts forward. Our board of directors has met with each of the newly elected council members to inform them about APG’s goals for 2019, to gauge their support and provide any guidance they may need.

What are these goals?

  • Participate in the Alhambra General Plan process, ensuring that historic preservation goals, policies and implementation action items are included in the final documents.
  • Update the partial 1984 historic resources survey and investigate what is required to conduct a citywide inventory of Alhambra’s historic resources.
  • Host an annual members event.
  • Attend city meetings including council, planning commission and the design review board as needed.
  • Monitor the status of and advocate for threatened architectural resources throughout the city.
  • Continue lobbying City Council to move forward with the development of a comprehensive historic preservation program.

APG remains committed to seeing substantive historic preservation measures enacted here in Alhambra. Nothing will deter us from our goal of preserving and protecting Alhambra’s historic homes, schools, businesses and churches. It is WAY past time.

Photo courtesy of LA Times archives.