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Chapel.JohnsonWe’ve all heard stories about the woman who finds a Picasso painting tucked away in a long-forgotten corner of her attic or the man who happens upon a letter penned by John F. Kennedy tucked between the pages of his grandmother’s diary.  Alhambra has a recently discovered architectural gem of its own in the historic Chapel of Saints Simon and Jude.

Alhambra’s quaint Chapel of Saints Simon and Jude, which will be adapted and reused within the proposed Camellia Court development, was designed by Reginald Davis Johnson, a renowned architect, who shaped Santa Barbara’s visual identity and designed National Register of Historic Places-worthy homes, public buildings and churches. Reginald Davis Johnson’s designs range from the Biltmore hotel in Santa Barbara to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, from elegant mansions to nationally recognized public housing projects.

Join Alhambra Preservation Group and Alhambra Historical Society at a co-sponsored event to explore the life and architectural designs of Reginald Davis Johnson, Alhambra’s link to this architectural visionary and learn more about other architects whose designs can be found in Alhambra’s neighborhoods.

Exploring Alhambra’s Link to An Architectural Visionary

7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Alhambra Masonic Lodge

9 West Woodward Avenue, Alhambra, CA 91801

 

Parade-f-house

A 1912 photo of one of the Arts and Crafts homes that caught APG President Joyce Amaro’s eye in 1984.

by Joyce Amaro, Alhambra Preservation Group President

My sister Jeanette rolled her eyes from the passenger seat of my mom’s 1960 white Oldsmobile as I began slowly backing the car out of the garage. Our father stood in front of us, pumping his forearms up and down like an airport maintenance worker and Jeanette always found Daddy’s “guidance” annoying. It was the fall of 1984, and I was a high school senior with newly earned driving privileges. I knew the road to Alhambra High School well from my parents’ home in Monterey Park. I would drive up Sixth Street from Garvey Avenue, always slowing down just north of the San Bernardino Freeway to glance at a few of my favorite homes in Alhambra, a small collection of Spanish Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts houses.

Unlike that well-traveled route to Alhambra High, the road to preservation here in Alhambra hasn’t been as smooth. Alhambra Preservation Group has worked tirelessly for the past decade to educate Alhambrans on the value of preserving cultural resources. We’ve hosted home tours, sponsored candidates’ forums, lobbied Alhambra officials, and organized educational events – all with the goals of raising awareness about Alhambra’s diverse architecture and adopting legislation that would preserve and protect historically and architecturally significant homes. This past spring APG board members presented information on an APG-created Google map that documents Alhambra’s myriad architectural styles at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference. This past summer, APG sponsored a “Coffee with a Council Member” event, providing Alhambrans with the opportunity to meet and ask questions of Alhambra’s newly elected council members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia.

As Alhambra Preservation Group celebrates its 10th anniversary I am pleased to announce that we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. This past summer, the City of Alhambra stated that it would pursue a historic preservation ordinance. We are thrilled with this development and happy to see that the City of Alhambra is finally serious about an ordinance that will preserve and protect Alhambra’s architectural gems. Another recent victory was the decision by the developer of the Camellia Court project to retain the historically significant Chapel of Saint Simon and Jude. This decision represents a shift in how historically and architecturally significant structures are viewed in Alhambra. APG is proud of the role our organization played in advocating for the adaptive reuse of this chapel.

So, while we are closer to a preservation ordinance and positive changes in how historically and architecturally significant structures are viewed in Alhambra, APG’s work is far from done. We continue to need your financial support as we work with the City of Alhambra to shepherd a preservation ordinance through the approval process. It is our hope that you will choose to support Alhambra Preservation Group in 2018, so that we can shift gears and begin the very real process of enacting a preservation ordinance in Alhambra. We invite you to join or renew your membership in APG during our annual membership drive and to give as generously as you’re able. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, we rely on your contributions of time and money. We thank you and appreciate your ongoing support!

More than 30 years later, I am still admiring that quaint cluster of homes on South Sixth Street in Alhambra’s Ramona Park. The difference is that now I call one of those beautiful Craftsman houses my home, and I’m thrilled that Alhambra is closer than ever to legislation that will protect it for generations to come!

107.Champion.Place

A century ago, Alhambra (and America) was a vastly different place. The United States had just entered World War I and the women’s suffrage movement was gaining ground. In 1917, it cost just two cents to mail a letter and a mere seven cents to see a movie. A Sears kit home cost between $191 and $2,632! Because of the uncertainty caused by the war, America experienced a pause in home construction in 1917 and this housing lull affected Alhambra as well. However, Alhambra does have at least one 1917 home that is still standing here in our city.

This home was constructed in the Arts and Crafts style with a slight nod to the Colonial Revival. Located on Champion Place within the original Alhambra Tract, this home was constructed by the property’s original owners, the Champion family, and has ties to the colony of prominent Western artists – which came be known as Artist’s Alley – who lived and worked in this small neighborhood.

When first built in 1917, this home was assessed at $1,730. Allan and Estella Bard purchased the home from the Champion family in 1919 and were its first documented residents. The Bards came to California from the Midwest, having raised three children in Cleveland and Chicago. Allen Bard got his start in the jewelry business at age 21 in 1875 and continued in the sale of precious stones after moving to Alhambra. Between 1919 and present day, 10 different families have called this house “home.” Those residents ranged from an up and coming West Coast artist to a Borax accountant, from a microbiologist to a Los Angeles Community College professor.

This year, this grand home joins many other Alhambra homes that have reached the 100-year mark. Join us in celebrating this home’s truly sensational centennial!

Photo courtesy of Sherrie Watson.

Diner.On.Main.CheriMark your calendar for the evening of Wednesday, August 23, 2017 when Alhambra Preservation Group is teaming up with Grassroots Alhambra for an evening of camaraderie and community action!

Alhambra Preservation Group will hold a summer fundraiser at Diner on Main (201 West Main Street) from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. During that time, Diner on Main will donate 25% of the total meal receipts to APG. It’ll be a time to chat over cheeseburgers about our  recent summer travels and talk over tacos about the progress made by the City of Alhambra in crafting a preservation ordinance.

Then, at 7:00 p.m., we’ll all walk over to the Alhambra Civic Center Library (101 South First Street) for Grassroots Alhambra’s community meeting at Reese Hall. The community meeting will cover the City of Alhambra’s General Plan Update, how it affects the future of our city and, equally important, how your participation in the process matters.

Questions? Send us an e-mail at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Coffee.Council.Member.June.29.2017

The announcement that the City of Alhambra will pursue the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance tops Alhambra Preservation Group’s summer advocacy and action report:

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 APG was 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.

Meetings with City of Alhambra, Development Services Department

Alhambra Preservation Group 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 Resource

A 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival Chapel on South Marengo known as the Saints Simon and Jude Episcopal Chapel currently tops 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, and APG is planning on requesting that City Council use its influence to facilitate a meeting between Alhambra officials, Alhambra Preservation Group and the developer to explore the adaptive reuse of the chapel on the property. The 92-year old Saints Simon and Jude Chapel is culturally significant. 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 hotel. 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.circa.1900

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 slideshow of a few historic photos of Alhambra’s elementary and high schools throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries.

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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