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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.

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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!

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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.

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St.Simon.&.Jude.Chapel.2.17.19As 2019 begins, Alhambra Preservation Group has several key items on its advocacy and action agenda:

City of Alhambra General Plan – 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 historic preservation measures 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 President and Founder Oscar Amaro addressed these deleted implementation action items to the Planning Commission. APG also submitted a letter to Alhambra City Council Members and Planning Commission Members outlining the deletion of these key implementation action items and demanding that these three key items be restored to the final EIR as well as the final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items. For more information, the letter APG submitted to the City of Alhambra may be viewed here.

At a January city council meeting, Council member Katherine Lee stated that the number of Alhambrans surveyed for the General Plan was insufficient and proposed that more Alhambra residents be surveyed. City Council supported this proposal. Additional surveying efforts are taking place now with the Planning Commission set to consider the final General Plan on May 6 and May 20, 2019.

Reginald Davis Johnson’s St. Simon and Jude Chapel – Demolition of the former Kensington Senior Home structures surrounding the historic St. Simon and Jude Chapel designed began in early January. APG is monitoring the proposed Camellia Court construction site and wrote a letter to the City of Alhambra Development Services inquiring as to what protective measures were being taken to ensure that this historic chapel is saved. APG received correspondence back from Marc Castagnola as well as the construction supervisor assuring us that protective measures are in place. Above is a photo of the fencing surrounding the chapel. APG will continue to monitor the situation as demolition and construction progresses.

Meeting New City Council Members – Last November, Alhambra elected three new city council members – Adele Andrade-Stadler, Katherine Lee and Ross Maza. The APG Board of Directors is meeting with each of the newly elected city council members to educate them on APG, our organization’s mission and Alhambra’s need for a comprehensive historic preservation program. In light of the release of the final General Plan last month, we are also communicating to them that key implementation action items related to historic preservation measures were deleted from the final EIR and asking that they be restored to the final EIR and final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items.

403 South Garfield Avenue – We continue to monitor the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield Avenue. In January, APG representatives met with the owner of the property to discuss future possibilities for the property. We were encouraged to learn that the property owner recognizes the historic nature of the home and is open to a solution that preserves it. We will continue to keep in contact with the owner and continue working towards a solution that saves this local landmark.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Magnifying.glass.Alhambra.cropped

Thirty-four years ago in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president, Kenny Loggins was footloose and Dan Akroyd was busting ghosts, the City of Alhambra and the Alhambra Historical Society, conducted the Alhambra Historic and Cultural Resources Survey of our city’s major architectural landmarks using state grant funds.

The survey inventoried two Alhambra neighborhoods (the northwest Wuest Tract and the southern Ramona Park Tract) and 34 at-large sites focused on pre-World War II structures. The nine-month effort documented 637 buildings and community design features. Within those 637 identified sites, 42 buildings and clusters were singled out as worthy of local landmark designation and 36 buildings were evaluated as potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1984 survey also listed buildings and neighborhoods identified for inclusion in future surveys.

Except future surveys never happened. The City of Alhambra placed the survey in a filing cabinet and ignored it. City leaders disregarded the historic preservation recommendations in the 1984 survey, which included the need for future surveys and a heritage-conservation ordinance. As a result, many of the historically significant structures listed in the 1984 survey have been razed or substantially altered, and entire neighborhoods have never been inventoried for their historical, architectural or cultural value. Additionally, current historical resources risk being destroyed – the Queen Anne Victorian at 403 South Garfield and Crawford’s Corner at New Avenue and Valley Blvd. top that list!

The closest Alhambra has come to a new historic resources inventory is the windshield survey conducted by Alhambra Preservation Group in 2016. This survey documented hundreds of homes, businesses, churches and schools throughout Alhambra. APG discovered structures representing more than 20 architectural genres and sub-genres built before the mid-1960s. APG’s resulting interactive Google map validates the conclusion of the 1984 survey, which stated, “…the survey demonstrated, to the city government and to the public, that Alhambra does indeed have an architectural heritage.”

Alhambra still has an architectural heritage, and it’s time to document, celebrate and preserve it!

Alhambra desperately needs to conduct a citywide inventory of its historical, architectural and cultural resources. Digitizing and updating the 1984 survey is a tangible first step we can take towards that goal. Can you help? Here are the types of volunteer help we need to digitize and update the 1984 survey:

  • Are you a fast typist? We need help inputting individual survey sheets from the more than 600 structures surveyed. We have hard copies of them all but they need to be digitized.
  • Do you like to walk? We need to canvas the two neighborhood tracts surveyed in 1984 and update survey sheets to reflect changes in those neighborhoods.
  • Are you a photographer? We need current photographs of the homes and structures listed in the 1984 survey.

These are the beginning steps of a new endeavor APG is calling Putting Alhambra on the Map, an intensive, multi-year effort to survey all of Alhambra’s historical, architectural and cultural resources.

If you’re interested in helping us with the efforts related to digitizing Alhambra’s 1984 survey or if you’d like to volunteer for APG’s future citywide historical resources inventory project, please e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Because we’re going to need everyone’s help to put Alhambra on the map!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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DSC_373

by Joyce Amaro, President

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”   – Margaret Mead

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ms. Mead’s words lately. At its core, Alhambra Preservation Group strives to effect positive change in Alhambra through educational and innovative programs. From our grassroots beginnings to our popular home tours, from the first-ever 2006 city council candidates’ forum to the creation of an interactive online architecture map in 2016, APG’s pioneering spirit has produced events that raise awareness, build community and bring historic preservation to the forefront of Alhambra’s civic discourse.

This past year has been no different.

  • APG celebrated the restoration of Lindaraxa Park’s one remaining entrance arch and the sensitive rehabilitation of the century-old storefront on West Alhambra Road.
  • We produced four educational videos that showcase Alhambra’s architecture and its historic neighborhoods.
  • APG wrote an emphatic response to the City of Alhambra’s draft General Plan, pointing out its non-committal historic preservation policies and goals. So far, there has been no response.

APG’s principal event of 2018 was the Kids and Candidates – A Community Engagement Forum, a city council candidates’ forum on October 11. APG was part of a coalition of five Alhambra community groups and high school students who organized this first-time event. More than 400 Alhambrans attended the evening event at Alhambra High School. Candidates discussed issues facing Alhambra, including the need for a historic preservation ordinance, tax incentives for owners of historic homes and Alhambra’s need to conduct a citywide survey of its resources.

That last issue – Alhambra’s critical need for a citywide survey of its historical, architectural and cultural resources – is guiding APG towards its next endeavor.

APG firmly believes that a baseline of Alhambra’s resources needs to be established. In 1984-85 the City of Alhambra conducted an inventory, but it only included two Alhambra neighborhoods and 34 at-large sites. As a result, the survey overlooked many historically significant structures and entire neighborhoods. It’s been 34 years since that partial inventory was conducted. Completing a citywide inventory of Alhambra’s historical, architectural and cultural resources is a crucial first step in saving our city’s historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. It’s time to finish the job!

We’ll be honest. A citywide survey is neither inexpensive nor easy. It will cost a significant amount of money and will require volunteer help. But APG is committed to leading this effort, and we can’t wait! Several historic structures are currently in jeopardy – the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield and Crawford’s Corner at New Avenue and Valley Boulevard top the list. If we don’t start now, we risk losing these and other historical resources. In 2019, we’ll develop a plan for conducting a citywide survey. Stay tuned for more details!

For now, we are asking that you give as generously as you can during APG’s fall membership drive and consider increasing your tax-deductible donation to assist us in funding a citywide inventory. As a member, you’ll continue to enjoy the same benefits that we’ve always offered – a quarterly e-newsletter, educational field trips and informative events. Beginning this year, members will have access to APG’s new online Resource Guide, which will replace our printed guide. Members will also receive a new thank you gift – a window decal for their home’s front window.

We thank you and greatly appreciate your support! APG has always been a pioneer and we’ll continue to develop community-based programs that lead Alhambra towards a comprehensive historic preservation program. It’s our hope that you will join us in working to fulfill Alhambra Preservation Group’s mission: “Ensuring that the historical, architectural and cultural resources of our city are identified, protected and celebrated for their contributions to Alhambra’s heritage, economy and environment.”

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

 

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Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspacesby Barbara Beckley

Alhambra Preservation Group congratulates Mike McCollum on the beautiful restoration of one of Alhambra’s many historic structures.

Mike McCollum knows a great building – and its potential — when he sees it. “People value and appreciate restored buildings that have character – they have a human quality,” he explains.

As the successful attorney-owner of McCollum Counsel, which works with international and Chinese multi-national companies, Mike was looking for an office in Alhambra to be closer to his clients.

Alhambra.Road.Iona.Workspaces.McCollum“This building caught my eye,” he said, of the sprawling, single-story brick structure that has graced West Alhambra Road between Curtis and Electric Avenues since 1918. He knew right away its picturesque brickwork and multiple spaces with large windows looking out on a tree-lined residential street had “office potential.” Its location, near Huntington Drive and easy access to Los Angeles and other San Gabriel Valley communities was an added plus.

Lucky for the building – and Alhambra – Mike loves to restore vintage structures. As a high school student in Los Feliz, his first summer job was cataloging historic courthouses for a preservation group. He was hooked. Since then he’s made a hobby of refurbishing vintage buildings with his father and brother, restoring aging gems first in Angelino Heights and then in Silverlake, Hollywood, Echo Park and now Alhambra.

Why? “For a love of old things and history. And the satisfaction of being able to bring something back to life that has stood the test of time and restore it to again be beautiful and useful.”

So in 2015 Mike bought the building at 1500 West Alhambra Road and began researching its history. “I love this building’s history,” he says. With so many individual spaces, it housed flourishing neighborhood businesses for decades. Among the longest running were the HM Pease & Co. Grocery, opened in 1918, along with a drug store, fruit specialist, butcher shop, barber shop and tailor. Small businesses came and went, including in 1932 a carpet store; 1937 a beauty shop; 1941 a lawn mower store; 1946 an upholsterer; 1949 a drapery boutique; 1952 a variety store; 1954 a doll shop; 1956 a plastic products manufacturer and in 1964 a café, and Golden West Books publishing, which occupied the building up until the early 2000s.

Mike was also pleased to learn that during the Great Depression, the grocery store owner, Alhambra resident Howard M. Pease, organized the donation of more than 1.5 million loaves of bread and other supplies to local residents in need.

“Hidden treasures” were also discovered during the renovation process – a bunch of wires going into a back room looked like they had been put in after the Great Depression.  “I’m guessing it was probably a bookie joint,” he surmises.

Mike began the renovations in 2016. Using his own good taste and love of vintage architecture, he added skylights to open up sunny spaces, and exposed the original brickwork, original beams, and concrete to give the building a stylish, vintage/contemporary feel.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.2What’s the highlight of his reborn space? “All the beautifully preserved, and now exposed brick, and solid redwood beams. These beams shouldn’t be destroyed. We should be exposing and celebrating this rich beautiful wood. I love to see and celebrate the old brick, the wood and the concrete, and the new steel – the beauty of form and function.”

Work was completed this past summer. Mike threw a community party, in partnership with Brethren Shoes a new e-commerce company founded by an old friend, on September 9, 2018 celebrating his beautiful new Alhambra-based IONA Work Spaces. Mike chose to highlight Brethren as a nod to the original owner’s community service. “Brethren sells stylish shoes at reasonable prices — and for each pair they sell, they donate another pair to the homeless. Howard Pease would be pleased!” Mike adds.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.3“Everyone is always impressed with the space,” he says. “Warm. Inviting. Calm,” is how his clients, visitors and prospective tenants describe this newest of Alhambra’s retro gems. “People like that they can have a beautiful office and natural light,” he says.

IONA Work Spaces features a collection of unique offices, common areas and meeting spaces, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and large spaces opening onto an historic street. “We’re getting a lot of interest from a mix of professionals including design and architect, consulting and real estate firms and tech oriented business who find IONA an ideal space to run their businesses and meet with clients. There are also a lot of neighbors within walking distance with home-based businesses who want a desk here as their ‘home office,’” Mike says.

A large “living room” space is perfect for after-hours events, like the informal chamber music performance put on by one of IONA Work Spaces new members. Mike hopes this space can be used for ongoing similar gatherings for its members.

More than a beautiful office building, Mike is looking to IONA Work Spaces to be a center of attraction to Alhambra. He hopes to use it to strengthen and promote Alhambra’s position as a center of all the economic activity coming from Pasadena, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. In particular, “I would love for IONA to be a hub of China-related businesses,” he declared.

IONA Work Spaces is currently accepting tenants. To learn more, visit IONA Work Spaces or email info@iona.work.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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