Houghton Park Buildings in North Long Beach Facing Demolition

The Houghton family donated three acres of land for a lovely park in North Long Beach in 1924 and in 1927 the city bought 25 additional acres from them. Soon a Spanish Revival style clubhouse with Moorish inspired exterior details was built for public programs in the park. It contains an auditorium complete with a raised stage framed by a curvilinear molding, recessed arches with painted heraldic motifs along the walls, and a ceiling with elaborately carved wooden beams. From 1933 to 1935 the newly formed Jordan High School held classes in the Houghton Park clubhouse. In 1946 local architect Harold Wildman designed another structure with American Colonial Revival fanlight windows that enclosed a courtyard next to the earlier clubhouse. A recreation building for Jordan High School students by the Long Beach firm of John Duffy and Leo Dreher was added to the complex in 1959. Designed in a Mid-Century Modern mode, it has large expanses of glass windows and a post and beam motif framing the entrance.

Houghton Park Buildings Facing Demolition

 

All of these buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair due to lack of maintenance and their exteriors, in particular, need some tender loving care. On September 23 the Long Beach City Council awarded a $1,300,000 contract to Studio Pali Feketi Architects of Culver City to hold meetings soliciting community input for the design of a new recreation center. The architects may decide to save a portion of the original Spanish style clubhouse, but they definitely plan to destroy the 1946 and 1959 buildings. The circa 1930 clubhouse/auditorium is an architecturally significant structure with intact character-defining details found both outside and inside. It is similar to the Bixby Park Band Shell, which dates from the same era and was recently refurbished. The entire Houghton Park clubhouse should be saved and restored to its former glory.


By Maureen Neeley

 

In March this year, Nancy Latimer, Long Beach Heritage advisor, hosted a joint group of LBH Advisors and Advocacy committee members. This meeting resulted in many positive outcomes, one of which was the desire to see more Long Beach buildings nominated for landmark status.

 

A little history

In the 1980s and 1990s we lost many significant structures to ill-conceived planning. The Jergins Trust, Heartwell, Omar Hubbard, Barker Brothers, and the Pacific Coast Club were just a few of the icons that were razed in the face of misguided property tax codes and unenlightened earthquake retrofit techniques. At the same time, the demolitions ignited a fire under many residents who understood that losing our unique historic fabric was short-sighted economic policy.

To that end, our city’s former Historic Preservation Officer, Ruthann Lehrer, enlisted several preservationists to help identify and nominate scores of buildings throughout Long Beach. Although not a guarantee that a building would be untouched, historic landmark status does provide a great deal of protection against demolition. Today, the city’s Development Services website lists 131 landmarks, several of which –unfortunately - have been demolished. The last structure to be landmarked was the former Palace Hotel on Anaheim in 2009.

 

Today – New Landmarks on the Horizon?

At our joint Advocacy-Advisors meeting in March 2014, several buildings throughout the city were identified as potential landmarks. At the April CHC meeting, LBH Advocates Maureen Neeley and Tami Dowgiewicz made a brief presentation requesting that the city activate this core function of our Historic Preservation Element, one that contributes to our eligibility as a Certified Local Government.

The commissioners positively received the presentation, directing staff to bring nominations back to the commission, thus requiring that each building be assessed vis-à-vis the city’s landmark criteria. 

With current staff shortages, this nominations project became inter-departmental. Development Services ‘borrowed’ a city librarian to conduct the research and complete the forms. Using local staff allowed for easy access to local resources.

 

Starting somewhere…

So, which buildings are top on the list? Although there are many, many worthy candidates, the committee had to start somewhere. In an effort to select potential landmarks in several districts, and to provide city protection for some that are already on either the state or national register, the following structures were nominated in July 2014 by the Cultural Heritage Commission as eligible for landmark status. The first four are undergoing secondary review, and we hope to see their nominations at City Council by the end of 2014, and the balance some time next year:

  • Fire Station No. 12 (6509 Gundry Ave.)
  • Former Southern Pacific Passenger Depot (now in the city yard on San Francisco Avenue, soon to be moved to Willow Springs Park)
  • Alamitos Branch Library (1836 E. 3rd St.)
  • Edison Theatre (formerly the site of the Nippon Pool Room, 213 E. Broadway)
  • Forest Lawn Mortuary (formerly Sunnyside Mausoleum, 1500 E. San Antonio Dr.) 
  • Federal Post Office (300 Long Beach Blvd.)
  • Jennie Reeve Spec House by Greene & Greene (1265 Chestnut, moved from 316 Cedar)
  • Former Southern California Automobile Club building (757 Pacific Ave.)

ACTION: If you have information on any of these buildings, or would like more information on the nomination process, please call either Steve Gerhardt with Development Services (570-6822) or Maureen Neeley, LBH Advocacy Committee (438-4687).

 

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Written, read and submitted to city council by Maureen Neeley, Advocacy, Long Beach Heritage
562-493-7019. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - [October 22, 2013]

Mayor Foster

Council-members

 

Long Beach Heritage is once again at this podium, with the same message. The Civic Center, designed in the 1970s by a consortium of local Long Beach architects for Long Beach residents, can be retrofitted and renovated to accommodate the needs of our city today.

Our current civic center is a post modern collection of monumental buildings, created by a canon of internationally-known architects.: They read like a who’s who of mid-century icons – Frank Homolka, Edward Killingsworth, Kenneth Wing Sr. and Jr., Hugh and Don Gibbs.

The design won awards and is still considered a prime example of the ideas and forms of the Modern Movement (not Brutalist).

Believe it or not, Long Beach’s Civic Center is on the radar of many preservationists across the United States. Long Beach Heritage, L.A. Conservancy and the USC School of Architecture have been fielding calls, all with the same question: “How can Long Beach even consider razing these iconic structures?”

We ask, instead, that you consider constructing the complete civic center that was originally designed for our city in 1973. This design – which we paid for and is still available for our use - included: coffee houses and retail, a comfortable and welcoming city plaza, expanses of park, a beautiful museum (designed by I.M Pei). This museum, by the way, was designed to include international programming in conjunction with Cal State Long Beach.

All of these amenities are highlighted in the ‘new’ plans presented by three consortiums which will require a ‘Public-Private Partnership’ – a model which has not yet been proven as a friend to taxpayers.

On behalf of preservationists, pragmatists, and taxpayers, we ask that you seriously consider utilizing the original plans which exemplify the post modern movement. A perfect fit – and retrofit - for today.

[photo credit: Mullio, Cara & Jennifer Volland, Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis, 2004]

 

[photo credit: Mullio, Cara & Jennifer Volland, Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis, 2004]