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Pillars of History : Council to Weigh 12 Highland Park Houses for Monument Status

July 14, 1988|DAVID USHERY | Times Staff Writer

Twelve houses in Highland Park will be submitted to the Los Angeles City Council on Friday for designation as cultural-historic monuments.

Approval by the council would increase by 50% the number of cultural monuments in Highland Park and would boost efforts of community groups trying to spare two of the houses in the area from being demolished for development.

All the houses were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Several of them are Craftsman style, a type of architecture that originated in Southern California. Also included are examples of the Colonial Revival and Greek Revival styles and a house constructed largely of stones from the Arroyo Seco.

The houses have met criteria established in the Los Angeles Administrative Code and have been recommended by the city's Cultural Heritage Commission. The designation has also received approval of the City Council's Recreation, Library and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Members of the Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn. have been meeting with the owners of two of the houses that are in danger of being demolished, said Robert Spiro, an attorney who is co-chairing the legal affairs committee for the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn.

Owners Oppose Designation

The owners of the two houses, the Morrell House at 215 N. Ave. 53 and the Reeves House, 219 N. Ave. 53, are opposed to the designation, said Nancy Fernandez, executive assistant to the Cultural Heritage Commission.

If a property is declared a monument and is in danger of being destroyed, the commission can block issuance of a permit for demolition, major alteration or removal of the property for 30 to 180 days and can hold up the permit for as long as 360 days with the approval of the City Council.

The Morrell House is owned by developer Stanley T. Mak of Monterey Park. Mak is planning to build a 16-unit apartment building on the site, Spiro said.

"We're involved in negotiations with a number of parties," Mak said. "This is a delicate situation. We really have nothing to say at this time."

The Morrell House was built in 1906 for John G. Morrell, who was an organist. It was designed by architect Charles E. Shattuck, who was known for country club designs and who designed the first mausoleum in Southern California, said Charles J. Fisher, past president of the Highland Park Heritage Trust. He and his wife, Anne Marie, live in the Craftsman-style house that features as low-sloped roof, a deep porch that runs along the side of the house, leading to a large back yard.

Some residents in Highland Park are dismayed that the house might be torn down in favor of an apartment building.

"Its just inconceivable that this house could be destroyed. It's one of the best examples of Craftsman type in Los Angeles," said Hendrik Stooker, a member of the Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Highland Park Neighbors Assn.

Rose and Frank Xochihua, who live next door to the Morrell House, said the house is too beautiful to be destroyed. They also fear that an apartment building would ruin the intimacy of the neighborhood.

"We know everybody here. They're family," said Rose Xochihua. "There's years of neighborhood connections here."

'Milk-Bottom Columns'

The Reeves House was built in 1905 for Susan Reeves, a schoolteacher. It is a Colonial Revival house noted for the short "milk-bottle columns" on the front porch and inside the entryway, Fisher said.

The house is owned by the estate of the late Opal E. Vossbrink. Spiro said Vossbrink's grandson, Mike Murphy, is administrator of the estate.

Murphy could not be reached for comment, but Spiro said Murphy has entered a contract to sell the house to an Orange County developer who plans to build a 22-unit apartment building on the site once the sale is approved by probate court.

Spiro said the association is offering alternatives to the developers in an attempt to save the two houses. "We are in negotiations with the owners. . . . Our No. 1 priority is to save the structures," he said.

Bought From Developer

Two other houses on Friday's agenda, the Tustin House, 4973 N. Figueroa St. and the Mary P. Field House, 4967 N. Figueroa St., were saved from demolition when they were purchased last year from a developer who was planning to replace them with a 10-unit apartment building.

The other houses pending before the council are:

The Arroyo Stone House, 4939 N. Figueroa St. The L-shaped building with diamond-pane glass windows is constructed of wood frame overlayed with stones from the Arroyo Seco.

The Mary P. Field House, 4967 N. Figueroa St. This is a brown two-story Craftsman "barn type" bungalow with offset raised porch, high gable and roof dormer.

The Mary Tustin House, 4973 N. Figueroa St. The two-story Craftsman house was built for the widow of Columbus Tustin, founder of the City of Tustin in Orange County. It was designed by Meyer and Holler.

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