California Preservation Conference, May 1-3, Report

California Preservation Conference, May 1-3, Report

Pictured: Among  the CPF Conference participants enjoying  the May 1st Journey Through Time tour are:   Left to right: Pamela Harrell, OC Historical Commission Chair; Eric Stovner, Architect; Steve Adamson, OC Historical Commissioner; Liz Bamattre, Tour Speaker, DPHS; Carlos N. Olvera, OC Historical Commissioner; Lynne Yauger,  OC Historical Commissioner: and  Saima Qureshy, Senior Planner, City of Dana Point. Photo by Barbara Johannes, Tour Moderator.



Article by Keith Johannes

The introductory reception of the conference was held in the Old Orange County Courthouse where wine and appetizers were served in the gorgeous Romanesque Revival Courthouse c.1901.  A natural history exhibit was open in the upstairs museum and tours could be taken of the restored courtroom where period films are still made and civil marriages can be held in the beautifully restored interior.

At the opening plenary session of the conference held in Chapman Memorial Auditorium, formerly Orange High School, City of Orange Mayor Teresa Smith presented California Preservation Foundation (CPF) Executive Director Cindy Heitzman with a welcome basket, a City of Orange tradition.  Mayor Smith then described how she became involved in historic preservation in the 1970s when a couple living in a historic home were threatened with an eminent domain eviction by the City of Orange which planned to build a new parking lot.  She said it was “game on” as the community galvanized to save homes and thus the Old Town Preservation Association was formed in 1986.  The CPF backed the Old Town preservation efforts and informed them of the California Environmental Quality Act.  Chastised back then for speaking in opposition to the Orange City Council, “Tita” Smith is now the charming Mayor in a City known for its historic districts and Old Town Orange was subsequently placed on the National Register in 1997.

CPF President Charles Chase, AIA, cited “community pride in history” as the reason for the title, “The True California Adventure, Preservation’s Wild Ride, Orange County.”   He observed that while Orange County is promoted for our beaches, resorts and theme park entertainment, there are those who are dedicated to preserving the old and blending the new to preserve the value of historical culture and heritage.   The conference introduced new technologies to meet the challenges of protecting and preserving our historic landmarks and communities.  Much of the focus of the conference was related to saving historic structures and adapting them for reuse with different purposes.  An example we witnessed while on a later tour included an Ice House in Orange, now an artist studio and residence.  We have some of our own examples in Dana Point.  The building used by Sidney H. Woodruff as an auditorium for real estate presentations, is currently StillWater Spirits and Sounds and Danman’s Music School.

Carol Rowland-Nawi, PhD, State Historic Preservation Officer, observed that we gather “to listen, learn . . . plan and strategize about how to make preservation in California more vibrant and effective.”  One of her examples referenced a Journey Through Time tour that was organized by our president, Barbara Johannes.  Elizabeth Bamattre and Barbara led a tour group the first day of the conference that emphasized regional heritage tourism in South Orange County.  The itinerary included the Los Rios Historic District in San Juan Capistrano where local guides Jerry Nieblas and Lori Porter told the story of the oldest continual residential district in California and its history with Mission San Juan Capistrano.  The second stop was the Bluff Top Park where Liz read from Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before Mast, explaining the significance of the Hide Drogher statue and the 1930 hotel arches. Then a brief walk down historic El Camino Capistrano past Sidney Woodruff homes and 1929 sidewalk, curb and lantern base stamps en route to the Doris I. Walker overlook in Heritage Park.  Lunch aboard the Pilgrim was next, while two docents dressed as sailors told of the sailor’s life at the time of R.H. Dana Jr.’s voyage.  The tour then passed Doheny State Beach, the memorial to Ned Doheny Jr., on the way to the newly restored San Clemente Casino where we were greeted by Linda Sadeghi, of LAB Holding, LLC, a company which revitalizes historic buildings for retail space and other uses.  She explained the restoration steps for the repurposed event center and soon-to-open café.   The finale was a tour of Casa Romantica with San Clemente City planner Jim Pechous and two of the building’s restoration architects.  Ole Hanson’s beautiful home is a perfect example of restoration and adaptive reuse, saved by the City of San Clemente and now a beautiful cultural and event center.

John Moorlach, Orange County Supervisor, while acknowledging many tourists come to OC for the entertainment venues, said that an increasing number are becoming aware of our park system and historical treasures.  Supervisor Moorlach spoke about his life-long obsession of photographing all of the (25) California State historical sites in Orange County while narrating personal family pictures in an entertaining presentation inspired by now-deceased reporter Huell Howser.  Supervisor Moorlach is booked six months in advance as a speaker, but when asked, said he is willing to share his photos.

Shaheen Sadeghi, President and CEO of LAB Holding, LLC was the keynote speaker.  Known for his urban renovation, the LAB has gained international recognition for its adaptive reuse of historic buildings and has been interviewed by numerous networks and media.  The Anaheim Packing District, opening this year, is his current project and he is known for the LAB in Costa Mesa and the restoration of San Clemente Casino.  Shadeghi’s thought-provoking questions asked why people are attracted to historic sights like the Taj Mahal, Machu Pechu and Petra.  Historic buildings are authentic and hold memories and stories.  The 1919 Anaheim Packing house represents the lives of workers and their families when it was one of the main industries in the county.  It will now include 22 restaurants; five years ago there were those in Anaheim who wanted it torn down.  Sadeghi’s message was to use our historic structures to build our future authenticity.  There is a shift, as people want a more meaningful environment and spiritual life.  Audiences want to participate in a cause and a localized culture rather than sit on the sidelines as just a statistic or bar code.

The speakers were interesting and the Educational Tracks of the conference offered sessions and study tours that expanded on their topics.   1) Nuts & Bolts, Gadgets focused on new and traditional approaches to historic preservation practices.  2) Destination Travel presented sessions on economic development through heritage tourism because heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money to see historic venues.  3) Futurama sessions were concerned with preserving our modern legacy such as the Eichler tracts and ranch homes of California and modern office buildings that could be torn down or remodeled beyond recognition.  4) The Carousel of Progress addressed future preservation methods and innovative ways to make preservation relevant to new audiences including communities with diverse cultures.

A highlight of the conference was the Three Minute Success Stories, a preservation revival held at the outdoor theater of the Muckenthaler Center in Fullerton.  The program was hilarious and the 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival home on eight acres was a beautiful setting.  Fondly referred to as ‘The Muck,” the home was a gift to the City of Fullerton from Harold Muckenthaler in 1965 and was placed  on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.  Mr. Muckenthaler, who passed away at 90 years of age on April 16, was the grandchild of Samuel Kraemer and Angelina Yorba and Albert and Agusta Muckenthaler.  The event was a celebration of preservation battles fought and won in the surroundings of a once private family estate, now reused as the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.   In fact, a Fullerton Union High School District Student Art Show was going on while we were there.  What an authentic gift of history to the people of Fullerton!

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