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Alhambra.City.HallThe Alhambra City Council will consider the final City of Alhambra General Plan at its August 12 meeting. We encourage all Alhambrans to attend and show their support for strong historic preservation goals and policies.

Named Vision 2040 – A Community Mosaic, Alhambra’s General Plan describes the vision for Alhambra over the next 20 years. It addresses issues related to land use & community design, mobility, quality of life, resources, infrastructure & services, and health & safety.

Included in the Resources segment of the General Plan are goals and policies related to the development of a historic preservation program. “Since the first General Plan community meetings, Alhambra Preservation Group has advocated for strong historic preservation goals,” said Oscar Amaro, Alhambra Preservation Group Founder and President. “While the General Plan does include the goal of considering the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance and the development of a Mills Act Program, it specifically omits the goals of conducting a citywide inventory of historic resources and the establishment of an independent cultural resources commission. That needs to change. These are vitally important historic preservation elements that need to be included,” continued Amaro.

We encourage you to attend this meeting and show your support for strong historic preservation policies during the public comment period.  First, here are the specifics regarding the City Council meeting:

Monday, August 12 2019

7:00 p.m.

Alhambra City Hall/Council Chambers, 111 S. 1st St., Alhambra, CA

If you choose to address the City Council, may we suggest the following speaking points as they relate to historic preservation elements in the General Plan:

  • State your support for the historic preservation elements that are currently in the General Plan and which include considering the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance, considering the development of an incentives program (e.g. the Mills Act), and exploring private and public grant funding opportunities.
  • Thank the Planning Commission for their robust discussion and consideration of historic preservation elements and their decision to revise the priority of the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance from “medium” to “high”.
  • Ask City Council members to amend the General Plan to add two vitally important historic preservation elements: 1) consider the formation of an independent cultural resources commission and (2) consider conducting a citywide inventory of historic resources into the General Plan’s list of implementation action items.
  • Remind City Council that the establishment of an independent cultural resources commission and a citywide historic resources inventory are integral to developing a strong historic preservation program in Alhambra.

Remember, if you decide to speak at the meeting, you must fill out a blue speaker card and give it to City staff behind the dais before the item is considered.

Alhambra Preservation Group greatly appreciates your ongoing support and we hope to see you on August 12!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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DSC_0767Throughout the United States, cities both big and small have conducted historic resources inventories to better understand the properties within their communities that are historically, culturally and architecturally significant.

Here in Alhambra, we have never conducted a citywide inventory of historic resources. A partial survey was conducted in 1984 and an unofficial windshield survey was conducted by Alhambra Preservation Group a few years ago, but an inventory of Alhambra’s many historic homes, businesses, schools and churches has never been completed.

Many ask why a citywide historic resources survey is necessary here in Alhambra? Here are five reasons why our city needs to conduct a survey and why Alhambra Preservation Group will continue to advocate for a citywide inventory of Alhambra historic resources:

Identify and Understand – A citywide inventory allows for the identification and understanding of properties that are historically, culturally and architecturally significant and assists the community to make informed policy decisions about these properties.

We Love Alhambra! – A citywide survey will stimulate public awareness, encourages civic engagement and community pride about historic resources. It could lead to walking tours and increased architectural-tourism dollars here in Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley.

Is it Worth Saving? – A survey would identify properties worth protecting and preserving as well as those with limited or no historical significance where redevelopment can easily take place.

More Efficient Government – An inventory of historic resources expedites environmental review by governmental agencies and provides a basis for preservation and planning at all levels of government.

Tax Savings for Property Owners – It could lead to further designation of historic properties such as recognition as a National Register of Historic Places property, a state-designated historic place or a local landmark. These designations can sometimes lead to property owners being eligible for state and federal property tax reductions.

It’s time that Alhambra conduct a citywide inventory of its historic resources! You can help by talking to elected officials about the importance of a citywide historic resources inventory. It’s time we put Alhambra on the map!

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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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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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107.Champion.Place

A century ago, Alhambra (and America) was a vastly different place. The United States had just entered World War I and the women’s suffrage movement was gaining ground. In 1917, it cost just two cents to mail a letter and a mere seven cents to see a movie. A Sears kit home cost between $191 and $2,632! Because of the uncertainty caused by the war, America experienced a pause in home construction in 1917 and this housing lull affected Alhambra as well. However, Alhambra does have at least one 1917 home that is still standing here in our city.

This home was constructed in the Arts and Crafts style with a slight nod to the Colonial Revival. Located on Champion Place within the original Alhambra Tract, this home was constructed by the property’s original owners, the Champion family, and has ties to the colony of prominent Western artists – which came be known as Artist’s Alley – who lived and worked in this small neighborhood.

When first built in 1917, this home was assessed at $1,730. Allan and Estella Bard purchased the home from the Champion family in 1919 and were its first documented residents. The Bards came to California from the Midwest, having raised three children in Cleveland and Chicago. Allen Bard got his start in the jewelry business at age 21 in 1875 and continued in the sale of precious stones after moving to Alhambra. Between 1919 and present day, 10 different families have called this house “home.” Those residents ranged from an up and coming West Coast artist to a Borax accountant, from a microbiologist to a Los Angeles Community College professor.

This year, this grand home joins many other Alhambra homes that have reached the 100-year mark. Join us in celebrating this home’s truly sensational centennial!

Photo courtesy of Sherrie Watson.

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