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Public Buildings for Hire : Several San Gabriel Valley Cities Offer Scenic Facilities That Residents May Rent for Parties, Weddings or Other Occasions

November 21, 1990|RANDYE HODER | Hoder is a regular contributor to San Gabriel Valley View

The Monrovia Municipal Plunge made a big splash when it opened in 1925. And by next summer, the narrow, Spanish-style building may once again be swimming with people.

"It's a sort of kissing-cousin arrangement," explained Joan Bonholtzer, president of the Monrovia Historical Museum, which will move into the structure, once the site of Monrovia's only public swimming pool. "We'll rent the building out for parties and use the money we raise to help pay for exhibits and for the museum's upkeep."

Whatever the reason--raising money, providing a service, or both--many cities in the San Gabriel Valley have public buildings that they rent to residents for private affairs.

Some are down-home, such as El Monte's log cabin, which rents for $25 a day and is used for family picnics, scout meetings and children's birthday parties. Others are elegant, such as San Gabriel's Grapevine Park and Adult Recreation Center, which is part of the ornate Civic Auditorium complex and can be rented for about $500 a day.

Renting municipal buildings is easy, but knowing what's available can be difficult. As the holiday party season approaches, here is a sampling of public buildings for hire in the San Gabriel Valley:

* The Monrovia Municipal Plunge, with its arched entryway, red-tiled roof and narrow wings on either side of the central lobby, was built just after World War I. It is bordered by a residential neighborhood and by Recreation Park, and it is the only city structure in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

What was once the outdoor pool was filled with dirt after the facility closed in 1983. Under a 50-year contract, the historical society will rent the facility from the city for a dollar a year.

The society plans to plant a garden on what was once the pool and use it, along with the building's lobby, for weddings, reunions and parties. Kristin Mariconda, a historical society volunteer in charge of raising money to restore the structure, said several groups and individuals already have expressed interest in renting the facility.

* The War Memorial Building in South Pasadena, built in 1923, has two rooms where parties and weddings are often held. Both rooms look provincial with large stone fireplaces, wood floors, exposed beams and big windows, some of which face the bougainvillea-covered Oaklawn Bridge. The rooms, which are connected, are decorated with old war-bond posters.

Jim Bowers, a member of the South Pasadena American Legion Auxiliary Post 140, which uses the city-owned building as its headquarters, says the city is spending about $190,000 to refurbish the kitchen, and to install heating and a new air-conditioning system.

* La Casita Del Arroyo in Pasadena, which has a beautiful view of the old Colorado Street Bridge, was built in 1933 by the Pasadena Garden Club, which later gave it to the city. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, the small wood-and-stone building was constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal program that provided jobs for laborers and artists.

La Casita Del Arroyo was virtually a no-budget project. Boulders for the walls and fireplace were carried up from the Arroyo Seco. The original roof shakes were split from nearby fallen oaks, and wood timbers and siding came from the bicycle race track of the 1932 Olympics. Even the building's hinges and other hardware were forged from discarded streetcar rails.

With its exposed beams, picture windows, stone footpaths and stairs, the house is in a tranquil setting overlooking the east bank of the Arroyo Seco. Recently refurbished, it has been designated a city Cultural Heritage Landmark.

* The courtyard at City Hall in Pasadena is one of the San Gabriel Valley's more popular places for weddings and parties. Surrounded by the Mediterranean-style building, the courtyard has a large fountain at its center, old-fashioned street lamps and blooming bushes and small gardens.

City Hall, which was opened in 1927, is a rectangular-shaped building. The east side is a one-story arcade, whereas the other sides are three stories high, each with a small tower at the corner. A large dome over the west side distinguishes the entrance to the building.

"People really like getting married here," said Trini Lopez, who is in charge of renting the space for the city. "It's a very pretty spot that has a lot of character."

Another distinguished Pasadena building, the recently refurbished Central Library, was rented out to City Director Chris Holden for his wedding reception, but library officials said that was an experiment that will not be repeated because it took too much staff time.

* Grapevine Park and Adult Recreation Center in San Gabriel is part of the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium complex and, like Pasadena City Hall, its grassy courtyard is the main attraction.

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