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Posts Tagged ‘Ramona Park’

Parade-f-house

A 1912 photo of one of the Arts and Crafts homes that caught APG President Joyce Amaro’s eye in 1984.

by Joyce Amaro, Alhambra Preservation Group President

My sister Jeanette rolled her eyes from the passenger seat of my mom’s 1960 white Oldsmobile as I began slowly backing the car out of the garage. Our father stood in front of us, pumping his forearms up and down like an airport maintenance worker and Jeanette always found Daddy’s “guidance” annoying. It was the fall of 1984, and I was a high school senior with newly earned driving privileges. I knew the road to Alhambra High School well from my parents’ home in Monterey Park. I would drive up Sixth Street from Garvey Avenue, always slowing down just north of the San Bernardino Freeway to glance at a few of my favorite homes in Alhambra, a small collection of Spanish Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts houses.

Unlike that well-traveled route to Alhambra High, the road to preservation here in Alhambra hasn’t been as smooth. Alhambra Preservation Group has worked tirelessly for the past decade to educate Alhambrans on the value of preserving cultural resources. We’ve hosted home tours, sponsored candidates’ forums, lobbied Alhambra officials, and organized educational events – all with the goals of raising awareness about Alhambra’s diverse architecture and adopting legislation that would preserve and protect historically and architecturally significant homes. This past spring APG board members presented information on an APG-created Google map that documents Alhambra’s myriad architectural styles at the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference. This past summer, APG sponsored a “Coffee with a Council Member” event, providing Alhambrans with the opportunity to meet and ask questions of Alhambra’s newly elected council members, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia.

As Alhambra Preservation Group celebrates its 10th anniversary I am pleased to announce that we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. This past summer, the City of Alhambra stated that it would pursue a historic preservation ordinance. We are thrilled with this development and happy to see that the City of Alhambra is finally serious about an ordinance that will preserve and protect Alhambra’s architectural gems. Another recent victory was the decision by the developer of the Camellia Court project to retain the historically significant Chapel of Saint Simon and Jude. This decision represents a shift in how historically and architecturally significant structures are viewed in Alhambra. APG is proud of the role our organization played in advocating for the adaptive reuse of this chapel.

So, while we are closer to a preservation ordinance and positive changes in how historically and architecturally significant structures are viewed in Alhambra, APG’s work is far from done. We continue to need your financial support as we work with the City of Alhambra to shepherd a preservation ordinance through the approval process. It is our hope that you will choose to support Alhambra Preservation Group in 2018, so that we can shift gears and begin the very real process of enacting a preservation ordinance in Alhambra. We invite you to join or renew your membership in APG during our annual membership drive and to give as generously as you’re able. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, we rely on your contributions of time and money. We thank you and appreciate your ongoing support!

More than 30 years later, I am still admiring that quaint cluster of homes on South Sixth Street in Alhambra’s Ramona Park. The difference is that now I call one of those beautiful Craftsman houses my home, and I’m thrilled that Alhambra is closer than ever to legislation that will protect it for generations to come!

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1824Sixth.currentIn a recent award ceremony, Alhambra Preservation Group honored the homeowner of a classic 1912 Swiss Chalet Craftsman Bungalow with its 2013 Heritage Home Award. Located in Alhambra’s historic Ramona Park area, this home is one of many houses built by the Ramona Park Building Company just after the turn of the 20th century. “It is Alhambra Preservation Group’s great pleasure to present this award in recognition of the investment this homeowner has made in the preservation of Alhambra’s architectural history,” stated APG president, Christine Olson, in presenting the annual award.

This home, located on the western edge of Ramona Park, features many of the design elements for which the Ramona Park Building Company was known. The company’s principles, John and Daniel Althouse, were contemporaries of the Pasadena-based Greene brothers and had a solid reputation for high-class, high-quality work. Two front-facing low-pitched gables and the influence of the Swiss Chalet style can be seen in the arrow-patterned gable vents.  The wraparound porch is offset to the north, supported by columns and is enclosed by a distinctive stickwork railing.  Two broad fixed windows flank the front door, with its leaded glass window.  Shingles sheathe the structure down to the windowsills, where a flared skirt of shiplap siding wraps the building.

Arlow and Georgia Watson had this home custom built in 1912. The Watsons came to Southern California from St. Paul, Minnesota in 1909 with their two-year old daughter, Dorothy.  Their son, Arlo, was born in Alhambra. The Watson family lived here for more than thirty years, until Arlow’s death in 1943.

More than 40 years later, the current homeowner was in the market to purchase a “well-built home with real character” in Alhambra. In an interesting twist, the homeowner’s realtor talked about the home in which he had been raised – this very home. The home needed a lot of work! Most of the Douglas fir woodwork had multiple coats of paint and the green shag carpeting throughout.  The ceilings had been texture-coated and all of the original light fixtures were gone. In the kitchen, a suspended ceiling was installed over fluorescent lights.

Despite its challenges, the homeowner could tell that the home had “good bones and was very solidly built.” It featured a beautiful built-in buffet in the dining room that had somehow managed to survive unpainted.  Most importantly though, the home’s essential character was still there – although barely distinguishable under all the paint and carpeting – and the homeowner could see its potential.

Today that potential has been realized!  The front porch, which was enclosed as a separate room when the homeowner purchased the house, has been removed, and its original use restored with its wooden bead board ceiling painstakingly stripped and stained. The fireplace and chimney have been repaired and restored. In the kitchen, the fluorescent lights and suspended ceiling have been removed and the original straight-pine floor restored. The ugly carpeting has been torn out, revealing the original quarter-sawn oak floors.  And along the way, there have been a few surprises. The basement contained a box of beveled glass pieces that the homeowner learned belonged in the home’s front door, which have now been reinstalled. In another section of the basement, the frame and hardware for the folding Murphy bed that was original to the home’s front parlor was found.  Its re-installation is a project yet to be tackled.

Now, this Craftsman gem welcomes friends and family, restored to its original splendor by a homeowner who looked past a neglected and forgotten old house and saw the beauty and quality that is unique to this home. Thanks to the care and stewardship demonstrated by this homeowner, this home is ready to shine for another century in Alhambra’s historic Ramona Park.

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