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This.Place.Matters.Pyrenees.CastleThe City of Alhambra is taking its first steps toward the development of a historic preservation program, and we need you to be there…from the comfort of your own home! We’ve counted on you in the past and you’ve been there for us, for our communities and for preserving our city’s collection of historic homes.

Please plan on attending the City of Alhambra City Council meeting at 7:00 p.m. on July 13, 2020 via either your computer (for video & audio) or phone (audio).

“We are pleased that the City of Alhambra is remaining true to its General Plan goals as they relate to historic preservation,” stated Oscar Amaro, President and Founder of Alhambra Preservation Group. “We are also grateful to this City Council for FINALLY making the development of a historic preservation program a priority after 17 years of advocacy on our part. We look forward to working with the City of Alhambra to adopt an ordinance that preserves and protects Alhambra’s many historic resources and sends the message that ‘This Place Matters.'”

At this meeting, City of Alhambra staff will present Item #2 “Historic Preservation Program” to City Council for their consideration. Per the July 13 agenda, major steps to be discussed will focus on (1) the preparation of a Historic Context Assessment, (2) an in-depth survey of potential significant properties, and (3) the development of a regulatory framework with an ordinance. Each step will encourage community outreach and participation. The recommended action is that City Council receive and file the presentation, discuss the 3-step Historic Preservation Program and initiate its implementation by authorizing the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Step 1 of the Historic Preservation Program, which is the preparation of a Historic Context Assessment.

Here is how you can participate in the July 13 City Council meeting:

If you are interested in participating in the meeting via Zoom, please use the Zoom Webinar direct link at the top of the July 13 City Council agenda.

If you are interested in listening by phone, please dial 1-669-900-9128 or 1-346-248-7799 or 1-253-215-8782. When prompted, please enter Webinar ID: 895 8304 3401 and Password: 499020698.

All members of the public calling or logging into the meeting will be muted so that the meeting can proceed without interruption.

For those wishing to speak on an agenda item, please e-mail David Tran at dtran@cityofalhambra.org by 5:00 p.m. on July 13 with the item number you wish to speak on and the phone number you will use when calling or the name you will use when logging into the meeting. You should then call or log into the meeting at least 10 minutes prior to its start time of 7:00 p.m. on July 13, 2020. You will have five minutes to speak, subject to Mayor’s discretion.

Alternatively, you may e-mail your comments to the City Clerk at lmyles@cityofalhambra.org by no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 13, 2020. Comments will be read into the records, with a maximum allowance of five minutes per individual comment, subject to Mayor’s discretion.

Thank you for your ongoing support in joining with Alhambra Preservation Group to fight for the preservation and protection of Alhambra’s historic, architectural and cultural resources. Your willingness to stand alongside APG for the last 17 years has led us to this historic day.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Marguerita.Curtis.HomesWe need your help to save one of Alhambra’s few remaining Bungalow Courts and a Craftsman home.

On July 16, Alhambra’s Planning Commission will hear a proposed development to raze a 1923 bungalow court at 234 South Marguerita Avenue and an adjacent 1908 Arts and Crafts home at 237 South Curtis Avenue, which sits directly east of the bungalow court. The owner/developer proposes combining these two parcels. The development will destroy affordable housing units to build at-market valued condominiums.

Alhambra Preservation Group strongly opposes this proposed development. We urge residents to join us in stopping the destruction of historic buildings and affordable housing units in Alhambra,” stated Oscar Amaro, Founder and President of Alhambra Preservation Group. “In other cities, a bungalow court and Craftsman home like this would be preserved and protected. Instead, in Alhambra, it is developers and a ‘pay-to-play’ system that is preserved and protected. This system sends a signal to outside developers and business interests that Alhambra is easy to pillage, plunder and profit from destroying our city’s character and neighborhoods,” continued Amaro.

Please join Alhambra Preservation Group in opposing this project. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Sign this petition opposing the development on South Marguerita and South Curtis.
  2. Share the petition on social media and encourage your neighbors to sign it.
  3. Write a letter opposing this development and e-mail it to Paul Lam at plam@cityofalhambra.org by 4:30 p.m. on July 16. Letters received by 4:30 p.m. will be read into the record at the Planning Commission meeting.
  4. Participate in the virtual Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on July 16, 2020 and speak out against this project. Here is the Planning Commission Agenda. For those interested in speaking out, please e-mail Paul Lam at plam@cityofalhambra.org by 5:00 p.m. on July 16, specifying that you’d like to speak on Item #5. Include the phone number you will use when calling or the name you will use when logging into the meeting virtually.

Until the City of Alhambra adopts a historic preservation ordinance, which will put into place the appropriate review process to determine the historical, architectural and cultural significance of Alhambra’s homes and buildings, our city’s historic homes will continue to be destroyed.

At the July 13 City Council meeting, the City of Alhambra took historic first steps towards developing a historic preservation program, which will include an ordinance. Because Alhambra has begun the process of developing a comprehensive historic preservation program, Alhambra Preservation Group is advocating for a moratorium on all development that proposes the razing of homes and buildings.

Help us stop this development! It’s time the City of Alhambra prioritized people and preservation over profits!

Photos courtesy of Meehar Tom.

The.Granada.Present.Day

This year we are focusing on 1920s Alhambra. In this issue, we shine the spotlight on three 1920s-era buildings that are still standing in Alhambra and retain many of their defining characteristics, almost a century after they were built.

Architecturally, the 1920s introduced Art Deco, Neo-Gothic, and Beaux-Arts and many other styles of architecture to the world. It was no different in Southern California. Here in Alhambra, the Roaring Twenties was a time of tremendous growth and change as our young city welcomed a huge influx of new residents and businesses; a decade in which the local population tripled in size. It was the Jazz Age, when “Anything goes!” was the mood and everything seemed possible. Construction exploded and Alhambra saw the design of buildings that ranged from a Carnegie-funded Greek Revival-styled library to an Egyptian-themed movie theater. Sadly, many of these 1920s-era buildings have either been razed or altered beyond recognition.

Despite significant losses through the decades, Alhambra still has a number of outstanding examples of 1920s-era architecture. These buildings should be preserved, protected and celebrated. The Granada, formerly the LA Gas and Electric Corporation headquarters; the Carmelite Monastery on Alhambra Road; and The Alhambra, formerly the C F Braun & Co. headquarters, are shining examples of how the architecture of the 1920s touched the lives of Alhambrans a century ago and how that architecture still influences us today.

The Granada, formerly the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation

The.Granada.Present.DayConstructed in 1929 at a cost of $160,000, the building was designed by LA Gas Company architects and engineers to evoke the period of the Italian Renaissance. Arched window and door openings predominate, with a glazed terra cotta base surmounted with varied-colored brick in harmonizing shades.

On September 7, 1929 the company held an “open house” at its handsome new office building. The public was invited to visit and to view the beautiful new offices. Music was furnished for the occasion by the company’s own orchestra, comprised entirely of Gas Company employees. Refreshments were served, and Manager Roy C. Gardner was on hand to greet the public as host of the gala event.

The.Granada.1930sNewspapers of the day raved about the impressive design and architecture of the building. The first floor contained the main lobby and corporate business offices, manager’s office, investigation room, vault, and distribution department offices.

Of beam and girder design, the interior featured floral decorations in pastel shades ornamenting the soffits and molds of the beams. In the northeast corner of the lobby was an enormous fireplace with a mantle of onyx inserts. The frontage on 1st Street was divided into large display windows, which were flood-lighted for the display of various household gas appliances. The main public stairs leading to the mezzanine floor featured a balustrade of ornamental ironwork. A mezzanine bordered the south and west walls and served as the display and demonstration area for the new gas- and electric-powered household appliances. The woodwork and doors on the first and mezzanine floors were of mahogany, as was the main public stairway leading to the second floor.

At one end of the lobby, a raised platform showcased the installed, fully equipped model tiled kitchen whose purpose was to introduce the public to the uses and benefits of natural gas, “The Modern Fuel.” The demonstration kitchen at the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation was in frequent use as the venue for cooking classes and “household expositions” conducted by Florence Austin Chase, a nationally-known authority on home economics who also wrote a “women’s column” in the Alhambra Post-Advocate.

The Gas Company maintained offices at this location until 1965 when the building was sold to the West San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. Today it is The Granada, a dance studio, nightclub, and event facility.

The Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite.Monastery.Main.Photo

The Carmel of St. Teresa in Alhambra was established in 1913, when five Carmelite Sisters left St. Louis, Missouri to establish a cloistered monastery in the Los Angeles area. Led by their Prioress, Mother Baptista, they lived in rented houses for 10 years until the present monastery could be built in Alhambra—the first one of their order in California. The cornerstone for this building was laid in June of 1922, with members of all Catholic orders in the Los Angeles area present at the ceremony.

A dignified Mediterranean Renaissance Revival building clad in red brick and capped by gabled roofs of red clay tile, the residence and sanctuary reflect their inspiration—cloistered European convents of the 16th and 17th Centuries. An outstanding example of Carmelite.Loggiasthis type and style of architecture, the convent was described in the Pasadena Post upon its opening on June 24, 1923 as “one of the finest in the United States”. A classically articulated portal of pre-cast concrete defines the monastery’s entrance. The first floor of the convent is defined by loggias at the south and west elevations, which overlook a broad expanse of lawn and garden.

The convent’s sanctuary faces Alhambra Road. Reached by two flights of shallow steps, the entry is framed by columns that are surmounted by a classical entablature, consisting of an elaborately molded architrave and frieze and a broken scroll pediment. The name of the convent is chiseled into the frieze. Centered above the entrance, a deeply inset circular window is adorned by a quatrefoil reveal of cast stone. This site, at the corner of Monterey Street and Alhambra Road, was selected for the convent because of its particular beauty. Originally an orange grove, the site’s location provided an unrestricted view of the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, with snow-capped ranges just beyond.

John_C._AustinAlhambra’s Carmelite Monastery was designed by one of Southern California’s most prominent architects. John C. Austin was born in England in 1870, immigrating to California in the 1890’s. He established an architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1895. Austin was very active in local civic affairs, serving as President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Southern California Historical Society, and the Jonathan Club, as well as the California Board of Architectural Examiners. He designed some of the most famous and easily-recognized landmark buildings in the Los Angeles area, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among these distinguished buildings are the Los Angeles City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium, and the Griffith Observatory.

The Alhambra, formerly the C F Braun & Co. Headquarters

CF.Braun.Gardens.1

Carl Franklin Braun, the founder C F Braun & Co. was a man who was always looking forward. Born in Oakland, CA in 1884, the son of California pioneers of Swedish and Danish descent, Carl Braun grew to be a man of many talents — an engineer, a salesman, a bibliophile, a teacher and an author. He studied mechanical engineering at Stanford University and started C F Braun & Co. in 1909 with a few associates and $500 capital. His firm would go on to become a 20th century leader in petro-chemical engineering, making substantial contributions to the World War II effort by working around the clock to build plants that produced aviation-grade fuel and synthetic rubber.

Braun Portrait.1954C F Braun & Co. moved its international headquarters to Alhambra from San Francisco in 1921. The complex included towering brick walls, 22 buildings and a landscaped plaza on 36 acres. The primary building material for this “modern office complex” was brick – all purchased from the same San Francisco manufacturer. Braun was a practical man, an engineer, who didn’t hesitate to move or modify buildings — or to build new ones — according to the nature of the work in which the company was involved and the functional needs of its various manufacturing projects. The significance — and the beauty — of this campus is that, through dozens of modifications and 92 years of operation, purposeful attention to architectural character and detail has preserved the integrated whole.

Braun.interior Office Complex.1952-1C F Braun & Co.’s interior offices featured wood paneling and were “pleasingly appointed and well-lighted” as described in a promotional brochure. It had every amenity needed for a modern manufacturing plant including a state-of-the-art engineering library, woman’s lounge, men’s locker room, a restaurant and a medical office staffed by an on-site physician. Mr. Braun’s goal was to “provide comfortable and pleasant surroundings for its workers, of every class, that they may have pleasure in their work and pride in their plant and product.” He took a great deal of pride in the “modern workplace” that he created.

The Granada, the Carmelite Monastery and The Alhambra are an integral part of Alhambra’s story. They inform Alhambrans about what life was like and how people lived and worked during the 1920s – a time of intense growth in our city. They offer a visual history. Their designs were thoughtful. Their materials and workmanship reveal the artistry, industry and aesthetic of the people who built them and the time in which they were built. When we allow historic buildings to be demolished, we sacrifice those touchstones that, by revealing our past, can help to inform decisions about our future.

Alhambra Preservation Group continues its work to protect and preserve Alhambra’s local historic and architectural landmarks and to celebrate their unique and irreplaceable contributions to our city’s community and culture.

A special thank you to Chris Olson, former president and board of member of Alhambra Preservation Group, for her assistance in writing this article.

Virtual.Yosemite.3With COVID-19 turning our world upside down, we’re all looking for ways to occupy our time while we stay safer at home. Why not take advantage of all the free virtual tours available online? 

From a spooky Gothic revival mansion in New York to Pasadena’s iconic Gamble house, there are dozens of architecturally and historically significant homes, museums and sites for you to “tour.” Below you’ll find just a sampling of available virtual tours. Grab your drink of choice, take a seat in your favorite easy chair and enjoy touring these architectural gems from the comfort of your own home.

Gothic Revival

Lyndhurst Mansion is one of America’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Built in 1838 in Tarryton, NY, overlooking the Hudson River, it is surrounded by park-like gardens. Start your virtual tour here.

Victorian

Mark Twain lived with his family in a Victorian home in Hartford, CT between 1874 and 1891. This was the home where he wrote his classics including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now you can virtually tour this home

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA began as an eight-room farmhouse but grew to a 24,000 square foot, 160-room home when Sarah Winchester owned it. Much of its construction happened between 1886 and 1922, at the height of Victorian design. A virtual tour of this sprawling mansion is available for purchase. 

Arts and Crafts

As a British poet, textile designer and novelist, William Morris is often credited as the originator of the late 1800s Arts and Crafts philosophy and movement. The William Morris Society, whose mission is to “perpetuate the memory of one of the greatest men of the Victorian Age,” offers a virtual tour of their museum. William Morris’ country home, the Red House, located in Bexleyheath, England, also provides a virtual peek inside

Charles Rennie Mackintosh had a relatively short architectural career but his impact was significant. Virtual tours of several of his designs are available – 78 Derngate is a Northampton, UK home, designed as a “charming and up-to-date miniature residence.” The Mackintosh House in Glasgow, Scotland is a meticulous re-assembly of Charles and Margaret Mackintosh’s home. Mackintosh’s iconic 1903 Willows TeaRoom can also be toured virtually.

It’s in our backyard, but we’re betting that there’s a few of you who have never toured Pasadena’s Gamble House. Known as an Arts and Crafts masterpiece, the Gamble House was the summer home of the Gamble family and built in 1907 by Charles and Henry Greene. Now you can tour this iconic Arts and Crafts home virtually

Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel is one of the crown jewels of our national park system. Built in the 1920s to attract well-to-do guests, the Ahwahnee’s Great Lounge and Dining Room are breathtaking and not to be missed. Now these majestic rooms, as well as its other cozier public rooms, can be toured virtually. If you’re interested, you can tour all of Yosemite virtually

Spanish

Did you know that the word Alhambra comes from an Arabic root that means “red or crimson castle”? That’s how the Alhambra of Granada, Spain was named. Now you can tour this Moorish palace and fortress virtually and learn more about this 8th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site from which our city derives its name.

Built overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay, Florida, Vizcaya is a Mediterranean Revival-style villa designed by architect Francis Burral Hoffman and built by millionaire James Deering in the early 20th century. Italian Renaissance-style gardens surround the $15 million home. Sadly, James Deering died before Vizcaya was completed. Its beautiful rooms and gardens can be toured virtually

His architecture may not qualify as Spanish – his designs fall more into the Catalan Modernist genre – but Antoni Gaudi is a distinctly Spanish architect. Google Arts & Culture offers virtual tours of 11 of Gaudi’s most well-known designs from La Basilica de Sagrada Familia to Park Guell. If you’re not familiar with him, take some time to discover the unique architecture of Antoni Gaudi. We promise these virtual tours will leave you amazed and figuring out how you can get to Barcelona to see Gaudi’s designs in person.

Mid-Century Modern

Atomic Ranch has done a wonderful job curating eight mid-century modern homes into which we can take a peek. From Palm Springs to Portland, from South Carolina to Sweden, check out this article where you can escape to the mid-century modern world of floor-to-ceiling windows sporting amazing views, picture-perfect split levels and bright orange fire hoods. 

Want more? House Beautiful has compiled a listing of virtual tours of historic sites around the world including the Eiffel Tower, Machu Pichu and the Taj Mahal. Your trip to some of our planet’s most beautiful sites, begins here.

Have you taken any other virtual tours while staying safer at home? Share your virtual tours with us at info@alhambrapreservation.org and we’ll share them on our Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Virtual Yosemite and Alhambra Preservation Group.

Alhambra.City.HallThis is huge news, folks! Alhambra is taking its first steps towards the development of a historic preservation ordinance!

Please mark your calendars and plan on being at Alhambra City Council at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 23, 2020 when City of Alhambra staff will present the framework of Alhambra’s historic preservation ordinance to City Council and the general public.

“APG and its members are pleased to see that the City of Alhambra is remaining true to its General Plan goals as they relate to historic preservation,” stated Oscar Amaro, President and Founder of the Alhambra Preservation Group. “We are grateful to this City Council for making the development of a historic preservation ordinance a priority and look forward to working with the City of Alhambra to craft an ordinance that preserves and protects Alhambra’s many historic resources,” continued Amaro.

The next steps after the March 23 City Council meeting will be the presentation of a preliminary draft of a historic preservation ordinance for public review and discussion at a future Planning Commission meeting. The City is anticipating that the ordinance will be considered by the Planning Commission in May, 2020. After it is reviewed, considered and approved by the Planning Commission, the final ordinance will be considered for adoption by City Council.

Stay tuned for more details about the March 23 City Council meeting and subsequent meetings. We’ll be sure to send out a reminder e-blast to everyone once we have seen the agenda for the March 23 City Council meeting and know for certain that this item will be included on the meeting’s agenda.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to e-mail APG at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

1920s.Main.StreetAs we enter a new decade, many of Alhambra’s homes and buildings will be celebrating their centennials in the 2020s. Here at Alhambra Preservation Group, we’d like to take this opportunity to look back and highlight many of Alhambra’s 1920’s-era homes, businesses, churches and schools.

Over the next few issues of APG News, we’ll introduce you to the businesses and people who called Alhambra their home in the 1920s. We’ll feature the architects who designed Alhambra’s most noteworthy historical resources. We’ll showcase the architectural styles that were introduced 100 years ago and can still be found in Alhambra. We’ll celebrate the homes, businesses, churches and schools that have stood the test of time and are celebrating their centennial in the 2020s. Join us for a trip into the past – into 1920s Alhambra.

A City of Homes

Here in Alhambra, the “Roaring Twenties” was a time of tremendous growth and change as our young city welcomed a huge influx of new residents and businesses; a decade in which the local population tripled in size.  This was the Jazz Age, when “Anything goes!” was the mood and everything seemed possible. Countless Americans – mostly Midwesterners – were reinventing themselves, settling up and setting a course for Southern California, with its promise of new beginnings; new lives.  Thanks to the post World War I economic boom, the automobile age and the newly constructed cross-country highways, the 1920s saw the largest internal migration in the history of the Olson.1930sUnited States. And, thanks, in part, to a clever marketing campaign by our Chamber of Commerce that promised a garden paradise, a “City of Homes,” where year-round sunshine offered a healthful climate capable of curing any ailment, thousands of these newcomers settled in Alhambra.  Their energy and optimism not only fueled Alhambra’s own growth, but contributed to the development of the entire region.

We look forward to exploring 1920s Alhambra with you. If there’s something about 1920s Alhambra at which you’d like us to take a closer look, please feel free to e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Pyrenees.Castle.Tour.APG.Groupby Oscar Amaro, Founder and President, Alhambra Preservation Group

“Historic Preservation Plays Starring Role in Alhambra’s General Plan Process”

“APG Hosts Sold-Out Tour of Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle”

“Alhambra Craftsman Featured as Inspiration House on ‘Restored’”

“Alhambra’s Neon Signs Return in a Blaze of Glory”

Have you seen these headlines online? Perhaps you’ve reacted to or shared a recent Facebook post featuring one or more of these stories. All told, these recent historic preservation-related articles garnered an impressive 16,200 views online in 2019. Why?

The momentum for historic preservation continues to build here in Alhambra. Residents have made it clear with their words and actions that they want to preserve and protect Alhambra’s historically and architecturally significant resources. And as historic preservation continues to take center stage, Alhambra Preservation Group is proud to be at the forefront of these ongoing efforts.

It is because of Alhambra Preservation Group’s leadership and persistent lobbying over the past 13 years that historic preservation implementation action items were included in Alhambra’s General Plan and the development of a historic preservation program received a “high priority” designation.

And, it is because of your willingness to speak up at countless public workshops and city meetings that Alhambra’s leaders are finally listening and our city is taking its first steps towards developing a historic preservation program.

Be assured that Alhambra Preservation Group will be there every step of the way as we now begin the very real work of drafting and creating a historic preservation program, which includes an ordinance.

Can we count on you to join Alhambra Preservation Group and continue to financially support our efforts?

We are stronger together. It is our sincere hope that you’ll join or renew your Alhambra Preservation Group membership in 2020 and that you’ll give as generously as you are able. Memberships begin as low as $25/year at the Household level. Here are just a few of the benefits membership affords you:

  • Access to our online Resource Guide, which offers real-time listing of “member approved” home improvement vendors and contractors
  • A subscription to our informative and educational quarterly e-newsletter, APG News
  • Notification and Action Alert e-blasts about issues of concern here in Alhambra
  • Invitations to special educational events and field trips, like the free exclusive tour of Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle which we offered to 50 members this past summer
  • The knowledge that you’re supporting an all-volunteer organization whose mission boosts Alhambra’s current civic renaissance

This year during our 2019-20 member drive, we’re pleased to also offer a special gift to two new or renewing members. Join APG during this member drive and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win one of two $50 gift cards for Los Angeles’ newly restored Formosa Café. We will announce the lucky winners in January 2020.

Once again, 100% of the funds raised during this fall membership drive will be set aside for a future Alhambra citywide historic resources inventory. Last year APG raised $4,500 in membership dues. Those funds were earmarked for future inventory efforts. It is our goal to raise a total of $25,000 for future citywide inventory efforts.

APG celebrated quite a few milestones in 2019 – historic preservation implementation action items included in the General Plan, an Alhambra home featured on the nationally syndicated TV show Restored, and an exclusive tour of Alhambra’s Pyrenees Castle. Won’t you help Alhambra Preservation Group reach another milestone – Alhambra’s adoption of a historic preservation ordinance?

Join APG and help us do just that and thank you!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Pyrenees.Castle.Stairs.Entryby Barbara Beckley, Alhambra Preservation Group Board of Directors

It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Taking a guided tour inside Alhambra’s beautiful Pyrenees Castle.

Sitting atop a forested hill at the end of a long private driveway off Grand View Drive, for most Alhambra residents the mansion has remained a lifelong mystery, with only glimpses of the castle’s rooftop among the trees leaving us to wonder what it looks like inside.

The curiosity was finally satiated on Saturday, September 21, for a select number of Alhambra Preservation Group members who signed up for the exclusive APG-members-only tour of this beautiful residence.

IMG_3032Arranged through the courtesy of Ladd Jackson, the Estates Director of Hilton & Hyland, which is listing the hilltop castle for $4.9 million, APG members were treated to a one-hour walk and talk – led by Ladd – through the 8,686-square-foot, two story home and its 2.5-acre walled grounds.

A landmark since it was built in 1924 by Sylvester Dupuy, a wealthy Basque immigrant who wanted to recreate a chateau-style residence of his homeland, the mansion was home to his family into the 1960s. It was divided into apartments for a few years, then returned to a single-family mansion in the 1980s. Phil Spector bought it in 1998. His ex-wife is currently in residence.

The day was sunny and bright, and Ladd was extremely knowledgeable as he led us through the grand marble foyer, flanked by the wood paneled living room and formal dining room, both with impressive fireplaces, pointing out the crystal chandeliers, hand-painted murals and original hardwood floors. While renovations have changed much of the interior’s originality, the nine bedrooms, two kitchens, kitchenette, billiards room, full bar and 10 baths remain impressive.

The kitchen and breakfast nook opens off the formal dining room. Walking up the main stairway – and down what we thought was the maids’ stairway – Ladd provided insight into the castle’s mysterious past.

No, the back stairway wasn’t for staff. The Dupuys didn’t have staff, Ladd revealed. They kept up the mansion themselves – and only lived on one side of the house. Being from Europe, they liked wine and made their own. But the castle was built during Prohibition. Ladd pulled out what looked like a heavy wall mirror in one of the bedrooms to reveal a hidden staircase. Just one of the several secret doorways and staircases that led to where the family hid their wine barrels.

We learned that the wide, sunny room on one side of the upstairs, was where Mrs. Dupuy did her needlepoint – a grand take on our grandmothers’ sewing rooms. And the spacious downstairs billiard room originally built and enjoyed by Mr. Dupuy and his buddies had been changed to other uses throughout the years – until Mr. Spector returned it to a billiard room.

Sweeping Los Angeles views from the upstairs veranda were complimented by equally picturesque views from the front of the home, which is landscaped with old-growth trees on one side and a beautiful water fountain in the main courtyard.

IMG_3023Photos were not allowed inside, but members captured memorable photos from the grounds. To see the interior rooms visit the Hilton & Hyland website.

The tour was limited to 50 APG members only. The response was enthusiastic with the tour selling out within 24 hours. Proof that historic preservation remains a priority for many Alhambrans and visiting Alhambra’s most famous mansion is just one of the many benefits of APG membership.

Why not join APG during our 2019 fall membership drive and be a part of our next members-only tour?

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Alhambra.neon.signAnyone who has lived in Alhambra any length of time has probably caught a glimpse of one of three “Alhambra” signs located at the city’s borders – East Main Street on the border of San Gabriel, West Huntington Blvd on the border of El Sereno and West Valley Blvd at the 710 terminus. The problem is that two of the iconic neon signs haven’t worked for decades and the third sign on West Valley, while still working, has been looking worn out and neglected.

That all changed when Alhambra’s Arts Commission voted earlier this year to allocate funds to fix these three neon signs. Alhambra Preservation Group applauds the City’s decision to give these signs a bit of TLC and get them working once more. “Fixing Alhambra’s neon signs is an easy way to preserve an important historic resource and demonstrate pride in our city,” stated Oscar Amaro, APG Founder and President. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who never noticed these signs at night. Now it’s impossible to miss them as you drive into Alhambra after sundown.”

Neon signs were first introduced in the United States in the early 1920s by Georges Claude and his French company Claude Neon. Georges Claude had demonstrated neon lighting in a modern form at the Paris Motor Show in December 1910, but it didn’t catch on here in the U.S. until 1923 when a Los Angeles Packard car dealership purchased two signs advertising “Packard” for $24,000. Soon after that, neon lighting became a popular outdoor advertising fixture in America with patrons stopping to stare at the neon signs dubbed “liquid fire.”

In Alhambra, there are several establishments who have retained their neon signs from the mid-20th century. The Hat on the corner of Valley Blvd and Garfield Avenue lights up their neon sign nightly. Alhambra’s Bun and Burger located on east Main Street has an intricate working neon sign, but it’s rarely on because the restaurant is not open during evening hours. One of Alhambra’s most iconic neon signs was recently removed when Twohey’s left its location at the corner of Atlantic and Huntington.

Alhambra.Come.Again.Soon.NeonWe are pleased that Alhambra’s welcome signs have returned in a blaze of glory. Here’s hoping that they shine bright for generations to come.

Do you have a favorite neon sign in Alhambra or Southern California? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Alhambra.City.HallAlhambra Preservation Group strongly urges you to attend the Alhambra City Council meeting on Monday, September 9, 2019 when City Council will have a second reading of an ordinance that was initially intended to institute Rosenberg’s Rules of Order rather than Robert’s Rules of Order at City Council meetings. However, at the August 12 Council meeting when this ordinance had its first reading, Councilman David Mejia proposed two amendments, which included the following:
  1. Reduce the public comment time for agenda items from the current five minutes to three minutes per person.
  2. Prevent members of the public from turning in speaker cards for an agenda item or oral communications if public speaking for that item has already begun.
Alhambra Preservation Group is very concerned about these two amendments, and we are adamantly opposed to them.
One reason for our opposition is that often times the concepts and/or ideas that our representatives and members present at public meetings are detailed or complicated in nature, with historical data and figures. It is difficult, and at times almost impossible, to express any ideas or rebuttals in just five minutes. To reduce the public comment period by two minutes would unnecessarily restrict our right to provide important input regarding city decisions.
These amendments not only impact APG’s mission and historic preservation efforts, but they also affect every single Alhambran and their right to speak at City Council meetings on any item of concern in our city. Your attendance and voice at this meeting will send a clear message that the residents of Alhambra will not be silenced.
Here is the information on the meeting:
Date:  Monday, September 9, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Alhambra City Hall, 111 South First Street, Alhambra, CA