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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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DSC_0767

by Joyce Amaro, President

Can you feel it? It’s that feeling of anticipation that goes along with change. And that change is coming in the form of new policies from the City of Alhambra, dynamic programs from Alhambra Preservation Group and the election of three new City Council members in the fall.

Draft Alhambra General Plan Released – The City of Alhambra released its draft General Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report for public review on August 3 and public comments are due by Tuesday, September 18. APG will be reviewing the draft General Plan and preparing a response. We encourage you to do the same. To learn more about how you can review the draft General Plan and comment on its contents within the 45-day public comment period, please visit the City of Alhambra’s General Plan page.

“Discovering Alhambra” Videos – Alhambra Preservation Group has been working on a series of 1-minute videos that feature the historic architecture of Alhambra and its historic neighborhoods. We’re excited to debut these short educational videos on APG’s  Facebook page. Look for them later this year!

Online Resource Guide – While we recognize the popularity of our printed Resource Guide, we felt it was time for this piece to enter the digital age and save a few trees. We will unveil our new online Resource Guide during our 2018 fall membership drive. To prepare for this online piece, we encourage you to share any vendors and/or contractors you’d like us to include in the Resource Guide by e-mailing APG at apg91802@gmail.com.

2018 Meet the Candidates Forum  – In 2006, Alhambra Preservation Group pioneered the idea of a community event where Alhambrans had the opportunity to meet and ask questions of City Council candidates. Because of APG, a Meet the Candidates Forum before City Council elections is now the norm in Alhambra. This year, we’re taking it to the next level, partnering with more than half a dozen other Alhambra non-governmental organizations to organize and host the 2018 Meet the Candidates Forum. We are just beginning to organize this event and haven’t confirmed a date yet, but you can be assured that it will be an event that you won’t want to miss. Stay tuned for more information in September!

As always, thank you for your ongoing support of Alhambra Preservation Group and for affecting real and positive change here in Alhambra.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Langham.Hotel.Tour

By Barbara Beckley, Vice President

Alhambra Preservation Group (APG) hosted a free guided tour of the historic Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena – and everyone came! More than 60 APG members and non-members came from throughout Southern California to enjoy our winter outing on Saturday, March 3 at the Langham Huntington Hotel.

Combining fun with our mission to highlight the historic architecture of Alhambra and its surroundings, we were thrilled at the overwhelming interest of history and architecture enthusiasts who came from Alhambra, San Marino, Fullerton, La Canada-Flintridge (five lovely Delta flight attendants), Glendale, West Los Angeles and as far as away as Rancho Cucamonga to experience the glory of our area’s most venerable hotel, opened in 1907.

We were also pleased that it provided a wonderful opportunity to familiarize these like-minded folks with the work of Alhambra Preservation Group. We signed up many people to receive our newsletter and future event information.

The Langham was a most gracious host. Suzie Tadevossian, Langham guest services manager, welcomed our group, followed by remarks from APG board member Susan Bejeckian and APG vice president Barbara Beckley.

Langham.Tour.2Then it was off on the tour. We were divided into three groups of 20 each, to provide a more intimate tour experience. Each of the three lovely Langham Service Stylists: Cherylin Baines, Andres Jackson and Aileen Ventura, provided history, insight and even a bit of gossip as they led us through the public rooms, gardens, across the Picture Bridge (which is undergoing renovation, but replicas of the original paintings will be back and the originals safely protected) and past the private villas. This was the first time many of the participants had experienced the hotel, even though they knew of its landmark status.

Afterward, most everyone stayed for tea or early cocktails, enjoying the elegant ambiance and making new friends. Many of the out-of-towners planned on driving through the area, and I gave directions to Alhambra’s nearby iconic buildings including the Carmelite Monastery, the Norman Rockwell studio home and the Father of the Bride home. A good time was had by all – providing proof of how important it is to preserve and protect our historic assets.

In case you missed this event, The Langham Huntington offers free, two-hour Service Stylist-guided tours daily at 2 p.m.

Photos courtesy of the Langham Huntington Hotel.

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2018As we kick off a new year, Alhambra Preservation Group is excited about the activities, programs and initiatives planned for 2018!

City of Alhambra Historic Preservation Program – With the City of Alhambra beginning the process of developing a historic preservation program, APG will be focused primarily this year on working with the City of Alhambra to ensure that the city’s historic preservation program includes elements that preserve and protect Alhambra and works for our unique community. We’ll provide periodic updates and make sure everyone is aware of any upcoming City of Alhambra-hosted community meetings.

Huntington Langham Hotel Tour – For our winter field trip, we’ll be touring the Huntington Langham Hotel on Saturday, March 3. Join us for this free tour of one of the San Gabriel Valley’s most popular landmarks.

“Quiet on the set! Action!” – APG is working on a series of educational videos that we’ll debut in the spring. These short 1-minute videos will focus on educating residents about Alhambra’s historic neighborhoods, their unique cultural resources and the need to #PreserveAlhambra!

Neighborhood Steward Program – In the summer, we’ll kick off a new initiative we’re calling our Neighborhood Steward Program. We’ll pilot this initiative in several historic tracts in Alhambra with a few “Preservation Picnics.” It’ll be a way for us to create more community here in Alhambra, teach residents about their historic neighborhoods and the benefits of historic preservation.

City Council Candidates Forum – On November 6, Alhambrans will go to the polls to elect three new city council members. To make sure voters have the opportunity to meet the candidates and learn their positions on the major issues facing our city, APG will once again partner with the Pasadena League of Women Voters and host the 2018 City Council Candidates Forum.

This year is shaping up to be an exciting year for Alhambra Preservation Group! Become a member and join this vibrant group that is protecting neighborhoods, building community and preserving Alhambra!

Photo courtesy of marketingland.com.

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APG.Board.2011This is an exciting time for Alhambra Preservation Group. We’re on the cusp of adopting a preservation ordinance here in Alhambra, and we need your help in ensuring that Alhambra keeps moving forward towards adopting legislation that will protect our historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. We’re looking for a few members who are interested in taking the next step and serving on APG’s board of directors.

Will you consider helping Alhambra Preservation Group and Alhambra? We’re looking for a few talented and conscientious volunteer board members to lead and strengthen our organization. If you can contribute your time, thoughtfulness and leadership one evening a month for meetings and a few hours a month for programs development and implementation, please e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org to learn more and find out if this volunteer opportunity is right for you. We’re especially looking for folks with an interest in local history and are familiar with Word and Excel. Knowledge of social media platforms like Facebook or Constant Contact would be a plus!

Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!

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