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

On July 6, 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, which sits directly east of the bungalow court at 237 South Curtis Avenue. 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, 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 while elected officials remain silent allowing our city’s character and neighborhoods to be destroyed,” 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 6. 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 6, 2020 and speak out against this project. For those interested in speaking out, please e-mail Paul Lam at plam@cityofalhambra.org by 5:00 p.m. on July 6, specifying 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 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.

Alhambra’s elected officials have informed us that a historic preservation ordinance will be brought to Alhambra’s residents, Planning Commission and City Council for review and adoption later this summer. Because our city is close to adopting and implementing a comprehensive historic preservation program, which may include a historic resources commission and conducting a citywide historic resources inventory, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

 

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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.

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208.Beacon.StAlhambra is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Los Angeles County. From elegant Victorian homes to classic Mid-Century Modern houses, from a hilltop castle built by a Frenchman to a rustic log cabin built by Boy Scouts, Alhambra boasts more than 25 different architectural genres and sub-genres in a mere eight square miles.

Meet Alhambra’s oldest residences – its Victorian homes. Many are familiar with the white Queen Anne Victorian home located at 403 South Garfield and recognize it because of its location on a major thoroughfare and Alhambra Preservation Group’s work to save this local landmark. But did you know that Alhambra has a dozen other Victorian homes throughout the city? Read on to learn more about Alhambra’s grand old Victorian’s.

1885.Victorian.Garfield.403 South Garfield – Easily Alhambra’s most recognizable Victorian home, this three-story Queen Anne Victorian home has stood at 403 South Garfield since the mid-1880s and was home to multiple families before it was even 50 years old. This house was home to the owner of a printing company, a teamster, a salesman and served as a boarding house called The Garfield during the 1920s. Listed in the 1984 Alhambra Historic Resources Survey, this home would qualify as local landmark status. A little known fact is that famed San Gabriel Mountains conservationist and hiker Will Thrall lived across the street from this home at 400 South Garfield during the early 20th century.

208.Beacon.St200, 204 and 208 Beacon Street – If you travel east on Beacon street from the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield, you’ll discover a trio of Victorian homes on the south side of the street. Brightly painted like Easter eggs, these Victorian homes are listed in Alhambra’s 1984 Historical Resources Survey as qualifying as a historic district. The two-story blue Queen Anne home located at 200 Beacon Street is especially significant to Alhambra’s history as it was the original home of Claude Adams – the son of George Adams, one of Alhambra’s earliest settlers. This home was originally located at the corner of Chapel Avenue and Main Street. It was moved to its current location on Beacon Street in the early 20th century.

Shorb_home300 North Granada Avenue – This was the home of one of Alhambra’s founding fathers – James DeBarth Shorb – and his large family. James DeBarth Shorb’s wife was Maria, the eldest daughter of Alhambra’s founder, Don Benito Wilson. Rumor has it that this home may have been moved in the early 20th century from San Marino to the home’s current location on North Granada. Built in 1888, this house, which was built in the Italianate style, features characteristics that one would find in this Victorian-era architecture. The two-story house is sheathed in shiplap siding and features a truncated roof with bracketed cornices at the eaves line.

F.Q.Story.house502 North Story Place – Francis and Charlotte Story built the home at 502 North Story Place in 1883. Its matching carriage house can be found a few doors down Story Place. Francis Q. Story was among Alhambra’s first leaders and played a huge part in the success of California’s fledgling citrus industry by creating the Sunkist brand of oranges that endures today. Mrs. Story was key in establishing Alhambra’s first library.

If you drive past this house, the first thing you’ll notice is that it faces north. The reason is because when this house was built in the late 1800s, its long, grand driveway began at502.N.Story.Place the corner of present day Almansor Street and Alhambra Road! Mr. Story’s citrus orchards stretched from the arroyo on the east to present day Main Street on the south.

Unfortunately, this home was significantly damaged in a fire in the mid-20th century and was greatly altered as a result. Today, it sports a more Federalist style than its original exquisite Queen Anne Victorian design. In its glory days, this was one of Alhambra’s finest homes!

Graffen.Grayscale2391306 West Pine Street – Located in the northwest corner of Alhambra, on the border of South Pasadena, this two-story Foursquare home was built in 1905 and was the original home of Adolph Graffen, an orchardist whose land holdings included the area from this home south to Alhambra Road and east to Atlantic Boulevard. A fun fact is that when Mr. Graffen subdivided his land in the early 20th century, present-day Marguerita Avenue was named after his daughter, Margie.

117 North Stoneman Avenue – Built in 1886, this Victorian home is located on the corner Elgin-Stoneman_1of present day Stoneman Avenue and Elgin Street. Elgin, Illinois was the birth place of Claude Adams and this may account for the naming of this small street in Alhambra. This was the home of Samuel and Emma Crow in the early 20th century. The Crows, in partnership with William Drake, owned Crow and Drake Grocers, which was located at 4 East Main Street, catty corner from the Alhambra Hotel. No doubt they did a booming business as “Dealers in Groceries, Hardware, Tinware, Provisions, Fruit, Flour and Feed” as their 1903 advertisement boasted.

2114.San.Clemente2114 and 2118 San Clemente Avenue – Tucked away on the corner of San Clemente Avenue and Date Avenue, just west of Alhambra’s Granada Park is a pair of transitional Victorian homes built in 1905 and 1910 respectively. Transitional Victorians were popular during this time and often included a mix of Victorian and Arts and Crafts characteristics. Built long before the Midwick Country Club was constructed, the owners of these homes were probably two of Alhambra’s earliest farmers or orchardists.

212 South 6th Street – When this farmhouse was built in 1890, it would have been located on the western outskirts of Alhambra. Sixth Street’s former name was Ynez Street, named for James DeBarth Shorb’s second daughter, Ynez. In 1903 the only house listed on South Ynez Street was a home at 202 South Ynez. It was the residence of Charles Bixby, his wife and four children. While we can’t be 100% certain that this is the home, there’s a pretty good chance that this was the original residence of the Bixby family and that its address has simply changed over the years.

These homes are Alhambra’s oldest residences and deserve to be identified, celebrated, preserved and protected. It is time for Alhambra to adopt a comprehensive historic preservation program including a citywide inventory of historic resources as well as a historic preservation ordinance to provide the protection these grand old Victorian homes deserve.

We invite you to take a driving/windshield tour of Alhambra’s Victorian homes. Which one is your favorite? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Crawfords.Corner.RenderingCrawford’s Grocery chain was a quintessential Southern California success story of the 20th Century; a family business that began very humbly, with the husband and wife team of Wayland and Leemoria Crawford selling watermelons off the back of a truck. They opened their first grocery store in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, followed by a vegetable stand in the City of Bell. The couple soon determined that the rapidly developing San Gabriel Valley and northern Orange County provided a more lucrative business climate, so they opened a chain of stores, which eventually included locations in Alhambra, Glendale, El Monte, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead and Stanton. The Crawfords’ two sons, Ray and Billy, as well as their grandchildren were closely involved in the family business from the time they were youngsters.

The original Crawford’s Market in Alhambra was built in 1929, at the corner of Valley and New, across the street from the Alhambra Airport. This location, in an otherwise agricultural area of town, captured the regular business of pilots, mechanics, and passengers, as well as families from surrounding communities. This location was followed a few years later by the opening of a second store in Alhambra, at the corner of Valley Blvd. and 9th St. (a short stroll from the Crawford home at 1842 S. 9th St.).

Crawfords.Corner.Sign.1960s

Crawford’s Corner new sign.

In 1964, the Crawford family determined that their growing Alhambra enterprise required a fresh image. The architecture of the new shopping center they built was significant both for its ability to convey the principals of mid-twentieth century storefront design, as well as the Western theme they utilized as part of their marketing plan. Covered walkways, false front parapet walls, elaborate turned wood detailing and rustic signage all expressed the Old West Style. It is noteworthy that the most popular television series of 1964 was the western-themed Bonanza, set on a huge ranch near the Comstock Lode boomtown of Virginia City, Nevada. A simulation of the Old West boomtown was created here in Alhambra at Crawford’s Corner, paying homage to historical themes of American prosperity created by the settlers, prospectors, and entrepreneurs of the Mid-Nineteenth Century.

Crawfords.Corner.1964.Yocum.Opening

Opening Day in 1964

As a commercial center, Crawford’s Corner comprised more than 30,000 square feet of shopping space, one third of which was dedicated to general merchandise. The many individual retail outlets originally included a drug store, barber shop, men’s clothing store, dry cleaner, shoe repair shop, ice cream parlor, fabric and sewing supply store, gift shop, and music store. In designing the new Crawford’s Corner in 1964, the owners’ intention was to project an open, friendly, community-involved image. The shopping center included a bell tower, patio area with gazebo and fountain, which was made available at no charge for community events and celebrations, including band concerts, festivities associated with the annual “Hi Neighbor” parade, and art shows. A community meeting room on the second floor was offered for indoor events such as cooking and pottery classes.

Like the Old West boomtown after which it was modeled, Crawford’s Corner has lost some its former luster but its architectural significance to Alhambra remains strong. Its one-of-a-kind mid-century architecture make it worth protecting and preserving! And, the enterprising spirit that brought success to the Crawford Family is alive and well among the current generation of entrepreneurs at Crawford’s Corner—each working tirelessly to achieve their own American dream of prosperity.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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