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Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

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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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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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_DSC0912“We wanted to bring the ‘Wow!’ factor back,” explained Regina Cipriani, a lifelong Alhambra resident, explained.  “Now, when you open the door, you see all the wood detailing that make Craftsman homes so stunning.

Alhambra Preservation Group is honored to share the news of the completion of the beautiful, carefully and lovingly orchestrated restoration of the Cipriani Family home in Alhambra’s Ramona Park by APG member Regina Cipriani and her three siblings.

The Swiss Chalet-style Craftsman house was built in 1911. Regina’s late parents bought it in 1958, spent six months remodeling it, and then moved in with their four children. The home has been in the family ever since. The Cipriani’s are only the third owners.

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Regina Cipriani

“It’s the only home I’ve ever known,” Regina explained, other than the lovely Alhambra English Cottage she currently occupies with her husband and three sons. “All four of us siblings have such a love for this home. We wanted to bring it back to life to showcase the unbelievable craftsmanship and wood work that define historic Craftsman homes.”

So the task began. Decades of paint was stripped off  woodwork throughout the home exposing gorgeous Douglas Fir coffered ceiling beams in the living room, plate rails and wainscoting  in the dining room and a built-in desk and bookcase in the library. They repainted the three bedrooms, the kitchen, the breakfast room, and the three bathrooms. Even the service porch received a facelift because that’s how these beautiful homes were built – artistic craftsmanship in every room. The family ripped out carpeting to reveal white oak hardwood floors and stripped off a century’s worth of wall paper to reveal baby-skin-soft plaster that had never been painted.

ReginasWallThe home also revealed surprises. A now mostly illegible message written in pencil on the plaster in the rear bedroom dated August 1912 with the name “Schmidt” and “good night,” was found hidden under wallpaper.

Much of the wood decor was missing, so the family team commissioned custom wood work and custom moldings to match the original throughout the house. They remade two rows of custom molding in the dining room. And replaced molding in the breakfast nook, custom designing it to match the original molding in the library. “There was evidence that the bookcases in the library originally had doors, so we commissioned bookcase doors designed to match the windows.” The built-in buffet in the dining room still had the original lead glass. “Bringing back the natural wood of the buffet made the lead glass sparkle and shine more than it ever did when the wood was painted,” Regina said.

The siblings discovered 10 original windows in the basement. Another surprise. They had them reinstalled and commissioned three additional windows to match. They discovered a window had once been in the door to the breakfast nook. So they put it back, custom designing the new one to match the existing window in the kitchen door. In one of the bathrooms, they discovered the original octagon-shaped tile floor, safely preserved under layers of added flooring.

Cipriani.Living.RoomAn original Craftsman-style light fixture pendant was discovered in the basement. Probably one of the 10 fixtures that originally hung from the living room beams, and a match to the existing fixture in the library. It was rewired and now hangs in the breakfast room. “You think you know a house. But with these beautiful old Craftsman homes, there is still a lot to discover.”

The full restoration took six months – November, 2017 through May, 2018. The siblings were surprised to note that this was exactly the time it took their parents to remodel the home 60 years ago. And that the restoration was completed on their late mother’s birthday.

“All four of us have such a love for this home and the work our parents put into it. We think our parents would like knowing that we have brought it back to its glory.”

Today, Cipriani family members and their children are continuing to live happily ever after in their beautifully restored Alhambra home.

Photos courtesy of Regina Cipriani and Alhambra Preservation Group.

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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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Lindaraxa.park.signWhen Lindaraxa Park was first developed in the early 20th Century, Alhambra was a vastly different city. Like many surrounding communities, Alhambra was comprised of orange orchards with large Victorian farmhouses dotting the landscape. Lindaraxa Park was no different. Originally a portion of the Alhambra Tract, which was purchased by Alhambra’s founder, Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson in 1854, the area was filled with citrus orchards belonging to Sunkist founder, Francis Q. Story.

Lindaraxa.Park.Ad.Feb.1914This area located in northeast Alhambra was sub-divided and developed in the early 20th century by the Alhambra Construction Company. Elaborate full-page advertisements in a special holiday advertising section of the Alhambra Advocate generated interest. In keeping with the city’s use of Moorish names, the new development was named Court Lindaraxa. This name was taken from Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra, from which Alhambra was named. Lindaraxa was a Moorish princess who had an apartment and garden in the Alhambra, a Medieval palace located in Granada, Spain.

Lindaraxa Park made headlines earlier this year when a set of its entrance pillars located at the corner of Granada Avenue and Lindaraxa Park North Drive were restored. One of the pillars had been destroyed by a drunk driver in 2016 and the residents of Lindaraxa Park and Alhambra Preservation Group worked with the City of Alhambra to rebuild and restore the century-old pillars. Lindaraxa Park residents and the City of Alhambra celebrated the newly rehabilitated pillars in March with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Like the Moorish beauty it was named for, today Lindaraxa Park boasts some of Alhambra’s most diverse and beautiful architecture – Spanish Colonial Revival homes, Mission Revival homes, American Colonial Revival homes, Storybook Cottages – all surrounding a quaint neighborhood park. Lindaraxa Park’s unique character makes it one of Alhambra’s most distinctive and attractive neighborhoods – one worth preserving and protecting.

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CA.Pres.Found.Conf.Joyce&BarbaraBy Joyce Amaro

Spring has sprung! We’ve all been enjoying the “superbloom”, gentle showers and warmer weather that spring always brings. Here at APG, we’ve also been springing into action to move Alhambra closer to the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance. Here’s a summary of just a few of the activities we’ve been busy with since the beginning of the new year.

At the end of February, I attended a Mills Act Workshop hosted by Pasadena Heritage. This was a good opportunity to learn more about the Mills Act and how owners of historic homes may one day be able to benefit from it here in Alhambra. You can learn more about the Mills Act here.

As many of you are aware, the City of Alhambra heard an appeal of the Lowe’s Development on Fremont on February 27. APG Board Members were in attendance and several spoke at the City Council meeting. The latest information on the Lowe’s Development project can be found here.

In March, I met with City of Alhambra City Manager Mark Yokoyama and Development Services Director Tonya Pace to discuss the status of the adoption of a preservation ordinance in Alhambra and next steps.  Both stated that the adoption of a preservation ordinance as well as the adoption of a Mills Act Program in Alhambra would be addressed in the upcoming release of the City’s General Plan. As you may remember, APG members participated in the 2015 General Plan Survey as well as the community meetings, providing vital input to the City of Alhambra on the need for a historic preservation ordinance. After this meeting with the City of Alhambra, I am more hopeful than ever that APG’s hard work is about to pay off and that we will see goals related to both of a preservation ordinance and the Mills Act included in Alhambra’s draft General Plan. We are still awaiting the release of the draft General Plan. We will let all of you know as soon as we hear more from the City of Alhambra.

Recently, I was asked to serve on Alhambra’s Source’s Community Advisory Board.  I am honored to serve on this advisory board as this vital community resource takes steps towards becoming a non-profit organization.  In mid-April, I met with the Alhambra Source’s editor Phoenix Tso to discuss an article the Alhambra Source plans on writing about Alhambra’s need for a preservation ordinance. I’ll be sure to send it your way once it’s written.

On May 12, Barbara Beckley and I were honored to present “Putting Alhambra on the Map” at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference “Preservation at the Forefront” in Pasadena. You may remember the Google map APG created last spring, which maps out Alhambra’s historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. Barbara and I presented information on how the map was created as well as APG’s current and future plans for the map. Have you checked out APG’s Alhambra Historic Resources map lately? We’re in the process of adding photos of historic homes to the map. If you know of a home you would like to include, please send it my way at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Lastly, be sure and put June 29 on your calendar! APG will be hosting an early summer evening event “Coffee with a Council Member” on Thursday, June 29, 2017. More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, but you don’t want to miss this opportunity to meet Alhambra’s two new council members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia. This is your chance to spend some time with them and ask them about issues facing your neighborhood and our city.

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F.Q.Story.houseEarlier this year, Jane Fernandez, a resident of Alhambra and student from Cal Poly Pomona, contacted Alhambra Preservation Group for assistance with a class project. She and a group of classmates needed to find a historic home for a Cultural Resource Management class. APG helped them find the Francis Q. Story home, located on North Story Place. After completing their project, we chatted with Jane and her classmate, Jennifer Hernandez, about their experience and what this project taught them about Alhambra and preservation.

APG: What was the project and purpose of the project?

Jane and Jennifer: The class was Cultural Resource Management, an introductory course to laws and the practice of CRM. The purpose of this project was to give us a hands-on approach of what it is like to do work within cultural resource management. The project was meant to encourage us as students to take an active role and apply our learning to the real world versus keeping the work within a classroom setting.

APG: Did you encounter any challenges completing this project?

Jane and Jennifer: We had planned doing our project on the Victorian house on Garfield after having read about it in the Alhambra Source. After spending several weeks gathering information, we had no luck with contacting the owner and getting permission to enter the house. We then decided to visit the Historical Society and talked to APG in hopes of finding another home in the area.

Having found the Story home, the owners were very helpful in giving us information so much that we had three criteria to work with. A challenge we encountered from not having full records of the home was the fact that we did not know when the architectural change from a Victorian home to a more Federalist-styled home took place. Another challenge we encountered was the word of mouth story about a Japanese family being housed in the attic after World War 2. We weren’t able to confirm that story.

APG: What did you learn doing this project? Did anything surprise you about this house/project?

Jane: I learned that preservation can be very rewarding in so many ways. It saves history, a place’s purpose and just the overall ambience of a city/community. I was surprised at how much work needs to go into nominating a place to be recognized as historically or culturally significant. I was also surprised at how many places we drive by on a daily basis that have grand stories behind them. I learned that in Alhambra, there are many.

APG: Do you have future plans involving historic preservation?

Jane: I, myself do. At this point the next preservation project I do might be for work since I am graduating, unless other projects come along. For the rest of the group I know that they have previously done some of this work before and might continue to do so. Doing this project on ‘The Story House’ was such a great experience as a resident of Alhambra because I didn’t just appreciate the home for having historical significance. It also brought to life the people and culture from our past.

APG: Any last thoughts?

Jane and Jennifer: Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed working on this project within the Alhambra community. It gave us a new perspective on historical preservation and the beauty and history that an old building can hold in the community.

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