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Posts Tagged ‘Preservation’

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

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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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Magnifying.glass.Alhambra.cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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_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.

Regina.Cipriani

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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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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januaryWe’re all well into our 2017 new year resolutions by now, and no doubt, some resolutions are proving harder to keep than others. So to make things a bit easier, here are two simple ways to support your community and Alhambra Preservation Group in the new year:

1. Make a special donation to APG. We know protecting Alhambra’s neighborhoods is important to you. Won’t you consider making a special contribution? Your financial support ensures that we can keep working towards protecting and preserving Alhambra’s historic and cultural resources. Contact us today at info@alhambrapreservation.org to learn more.

2. Get involved and stay informed: Attend an APG-sponsored event, volunteer with APG’s Advocacy and Action Committee, attend a City of Alhambra Planning Commission, City Council or Design Review Board meeting, talk to your neighbors about APG and the importance of protecting Alhambra’s neighborhoods, like APG on Facebook or visit our website to learn about preservation myths and facts.

While we can’t help you lose those pesky holiday pounds, we can help you feel better about getting involved in Alhambra and being more engaged in your neighborhood. We’re asking for just two in the new year! And, thanks!

Photo courtesy of Imams Online.

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img_9564by Joyce Amaro, President

It took my breath away! This past spring as I was driving through Alhambra searching for homes to feature in Alhambra Preservation Group’s summer event, Alhambra’s Amazing Architecture, I saw a house that made me catch my breath and hit the brakes. It was a small, yet quaint Spanish home sited diagonally on a corner lot. A “crown” was perched atop three arches that framed its front porch, giving it a regal look. I marveled at the uniqueness of its design. I admired the intricate inlaid tile work in its arches. I smiled at finding a new architectural gem in my hometown.

Discovering new architectural gems is just one of the benefits of being a member of Alhambra Preservation Group (APG). From our home tours to our Meet the Candidates Forums, from our educational talks to our field trips, APG strives to provide programs and events to further our mission of historic preservation. This past year was no different. I am immensely proud of APG’s recent accomplishments:

  • Residential awareness about Alhambra’s architectural and historical resources is at an all-time high because of events like the one APG sponsored this past June that highlighted our city’s architecture and established Alhambra as one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Southern California.
  • Fifty-two percent (52%) of Alhambrans who submitted a written survey as part of the city’s General Plan process in 2015 said that historic preservation should be a priority for the City of Alhambra. This was a direct result of APG’s education of residents about the need for a preservation ordinance and APG’s promotion of the survey.
  • APG’s online presence continues to grow with a new interactive Google map documenting more than 500 historic homes in Alhambra.
  • APG’s newly-formed Advocacy and Action Committee monitors city meeting agendas for items of interest and will create “calls to action” when issues arise.

So, what is APG’s goal for 2017? Alhambra’s adoption of a preservation ordinance! This has always been our #1 goal, and we won’t stop fighting for this until Alhambra enacts one. We’re closer than we’ve ever been, but we still have a lot of work to do. Even as I write this, a beautiful three-story Victorian home on South Garfield Avenue faces an uncertain future because Alhambra has no legislation to stop the razing of historically or architecturally significant homes, schools, churches or commercial buildings. Alhambra is long overdue for the adoption of a preservation ordinance. We need your help to do this!

We invite you to join or renew your membership in Alhambra Preservation Group during our fall membership campaign and to give as generously as you’re able. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, we greatly value and rely on your contributions of time and money. We thank you for your support in helping APG to continue its programming and advocacy for the preservation of Alhambra homes and buildings of architectural significance.

As a special thank you, we’re inviting APG members to an exclusive event on November 30 at my home. This “Evening with the Author” event will feature a discussion by Dr. Denise Lawrence-Zuniga, a professor of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona and APG member. At this evening event, she’ll be discussing her recently published book, Protecting Suburban America, which includes a section on APG and its preservation work here in Alhambra. I’d love to meet you and welcome you into my home, so I invite you to join APG!

And, yes, that unique Spanish home is still there, on the southwest corner of South Electric Avenue and Acacia Street, just south of Main Street. Why don’t you drive by yourself and discover another one of Alhambra’s architectural gems that deserves to be preserved and protected?

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mythbusters2How much do you really know about historic preservation? In this two-part series, we explore the myths surrounding preservation. In this article, we bust preservation myths at large. In the second article, we’ll dispel preservation myths specific to the city of Alhambra.

Myth #1 – Historic designation will reduce my property values.

Fact – Study after study across the nation has conclusively demonstrated that historic designation and the creation of historic districts actually increase property values. Why? Historic designation gives a neighborhood or an individual historic site a uniqueness that many buyers seek. Two economically valuable assurances: that the very qualities that attracted them to their neighborhood will actually endure over time, and that they can safely reinvest in sensitive home improvements without fear that their neighbor will undermine this investment with a new monster home” or inappropriate new development.

Myth #2 – Preservation is only for the rich and elite.

Fact – Today’s preservation movement is increasingly diverse. In LA, the two newest Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) are in Pico-Union and Lincoln Heights, home to economically and ethnically varied populations.

Preservation today also focuses on more modest sites of social and cultural significance. Just look at the small Ralph J.Bunche House in South Los Angeles, boyhood home of the pioneering African-American diplomat. Or, consider a current preservation effort to save the modest Vladeck Center, a Boyle Heights building that was the center of the Jewish life in the 1930s.Such sites underscore that preservation can be about the “power of place” at sites of rich cultural meaning.

Myth #3 – Historic preservation is bad for business.

Fact – Historic preservation is at the very heart of our nation’s most vibrant economic development and business attraction programs. In Southern California, think Old Pasadena or San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

Here’s a national example: The National Main Street Center, a program that uses historic preservation to revitalize town centers and neighborhood commercial districts, has actually tracked economic results in 1,700 Main Street communities nationally. These preservation-based programs have created over 231,000 new jobs and resulted in over $17 billion in reinvestment to date, with every dollar spent on a Main Street program yielding $40 in economic reinvestment.

Myth #4 – Old buildings are less safe.

Fact – Although historic structures do sometimes require structural retrofits or the addition of fire sprinklers to enhance safety, historic buildings typically perform better than new construction in earthquakes and other natural disasters. What determines the safety of buildings is the quality of construction, not age, and in many ways, “they just don’t build’em like they used to.”

Los Angeles’ signature historic structures have survived every major temblor of the past eight decades. In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the most catastrophic damage occurred not to historic buildings but to newer construction such as parking garages and newer apartments with “tuck-under” parking.

Myth #5 – Preservationists are always fighting new development and only care about the past.

Fact – Historic preservationists do care deeply about the past – not to wallow in a bygone era, but to anchor ourselves as we move confidently into the future. Historic preservation is not about stopping change or blocking creative new architecture and development. Preservation allows us to retain the best of our shared heritage to preserve sites of unique quality and beauty, revitalize neighborhoods, spur economic development, and quite simply, create better communities.

Excerpted from “The Top 10 Myths About Historic Preservation” by Ken Bernstein, manager of the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.

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