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Mission: Revival

In West Adams, a Landmark Comes in for a Little Largess

March 16, 2003|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

For more than a century, the Mission Revival edifice at the southwest corner of Hoover Street and Adams Boulevard has served as a lifeline for education, hopes and dreams. Recently, however, Casa de Rosas, home of the oldest continually operating shelter for homeless women in Los Angeles, found itself on the receiving end in the generosity department. Supporters say that a $20,000 Preserve L.A. gift from the Getty Grant Program for conservation planning will pay for the planning phase of a projected restoration of the Craftsman-style ballroom in one of the complex's four buildings.

"It's one of those great places in L.A. that a lot of people don't know about," says architect Thomas Michali, a partner in the firm M2A, who has been involved in restoring Casa de Rosas since 1988. "It's a huge ballroom with a great fireplace with bricks to the ceiling. You walk into it and it's like 1915." The dilapidated ballroom is architecturally significant and has great potential, he says. "There are just not that many Craftsman spaces of that scale."

The firm has designed restoration plans for the Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills and the Los Altos Apartments on Wilshire Boulevard. It restored Casa de Rosas' dining room and rehabilitated the shelter's 55 one-room housing units and 20 shelter beds. "It's [unusual in] that it's a campus of buildings designed around a series of courtyards, and it's also one of Southern California's first Mission Revival buildings," Michali says.

Architect Sumner Hunt designed Casa de Rosas, built in 1896, as the Los Angeles campus of the international Froebel Institute, which originated a program that became kindergarten education. The building containing the ballroom was added between 1908 and 1920. Between 1908 and 1951, the campus accommodated a girls' collegiate school and a hotel-restaurant, and it later served as an Army barracks and showplace for USO shows during World War II. It became the Sunshine Mission women's shelter in 1951, when Sister Essie Binkey West, a radio evangelist and contemporary of Aimee Semple McPherson, purchased Casa de Rosas for $4,000. West moved her entire operation to the site, where she broadcast sermons and provided services to the needy until her death in 1978.

The complex has survived 100-plus years of use and several fires. It was designated a City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Landmark in 1981 and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The ballroom currently serves as storage for donated office equipment sold to generate badly needed funds, says Stephen Knight, executive director of Casa de Rosas Inc., which provides shelter, housing and services to needy women, and partners with nearby USC on the Neighborhood Outreach program. "This grant is a dream come true," Knight says, noting that Casa de Rosas can seek additional funds under the Getty Grant Program. "I'd like to see it around for another 100 years," Knight says. "It's more like a home, not a shelter."

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