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BELL : Lack of Funds May Stall Work on Historic Home

March 03, 1994|JENNIFER OLDHAM

Some say the James George Bell house is haunted. Others believe the 118-year-old structure, once a brothel, is occupied by the city's mayor.

These are myths surrounding the Victorian farmhouse built by the city's founder on a 350-acre ranch that is now the heart of Bell. But it's no myth that attempts to restore the inside of the home are threatened by a lack of funds.

"Historic things are always put on hold when you have a tight fiscal concern," said Annette Peretz, director of development services.

Unable to finance $250,000 to restore the landmark's interior to its original state, the City Council voted last summer to put restoration plans on hold. Officials agree the house's fate may remain in limbo as long as two years.

Councilman Rolf Janssen said the council's decision was based on the fact that property tax revenue is declining and fewer funds are trickling down to Bell from Sacramento. Community Development Block Grant funds cannot be tapped because the city has not registered the house with the state Office of Historic Preservation as a historic building, Peretz said.

The city purchased the house for $18,000 in 1968. Efforts to refurbish it began in 1989 when it was moved from Lucille Avenue to the Civic Center. The landmark had been taken from its original location at California and Gage avenues to Lucille Avenue about 1900.

Janssen said the home's latest location has restored its significance as a landmark: "This house has helped to create a sense of community. We want people to understand we are a distinct city that was created by a family with a lot of history in Southern California."

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