SAN PEDRO — Although money problems still stand in the way, the San Pedro Historical Society's effort to restore the turn-of-the-century Muller House began last week with work on the new foundation.
It has been three years since Bill Muller, a grandson of the original owner, gave the society the 10-room Colonial Revival house on the condition that the group move it from its 19th Street site, which Muller planned to sell to a developer.
In February, the society moved the house six blocks north to a palm-lined lot overlooking San Pedro Bay's freighters and oil tanks.
But after spending $18,000 on moving costs and city fees, the society needed about $15,000 to pay for a foundation and restoration. A corporate sponsor recently donated $10,000, which is being used to build the foundation, said society President Art Almeida.
On Historic List
The house, which is on the City of Los Angeles List of Historic Cultural Monuments, needs the chimney strengthened to meet city codes, as well as a staircase leading to the front door. It could also use exterior paint, wallpaper and polishing of the interior African gumwood and teak, Almeida said.
The society plans to use the house as a headquarters and public museum. The group currently houses its archives, photographs and memorabilia at the San Pedro Municipal Building.
As for the interior, "that house is not in bad shape," Almeida said. "We've stripped the house inside--the doorknobs and chandeliers--so there's nothing of value to steal in it." As an extra precaution against vandalism, the society installed a chain-link fence around the house.
The Historical Society still needs to replace its $400,000 liability insurance policy, canceled two weeks ago by Ohio Casualty Insurance Co.
"One quote was that it will cost $25,000, and that's too much for us," Almeida said.
Almeida said he does not know why the policy was canceled. New coverage is needed before the house can be occupied or opened to the public, but restoration can proceed because workers are covered by the contractor's insurance.
The Historical Society chose the house's 1543 Beacon street address to correspond with the year that Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo discovered San Pedro Bay.
Muller Noted Shipbuilder
The house was built in 1899 by Harbor-area contractor Edward Mahar. It was bought in 1901 by William Muller, who in 1912 had it moved from 1st and Front streets to 19th Street. Almeida explained why the society chose the house as a headquarters:
"Architecture for one, the fact that it was built by a pioneer contractor and owned by a pioneer German immigrant shipbuilder who built some distinguished ships in San Pedro."
William Muller's daughter, the late Margarethe Muller, lived in the house most of her life.
The city required the society to put up a $3,000 bond to be used to demolish the house if the society fails to complete restoration by January, 1988, but Almeida is hopeful that an extension will be granted if necessary. Meanwhile, a fund-raising dinner and other events are being planned to obtain the rest of the money needed for restoration.