By Jorge Casuso
September 26, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Conservancy is launching the public phase of a campaign to raise $1.6 million to hire staff, expand programming and complete work on the 1890s shotgun house that will serve as its headquarters.
The conservancy -- which is celebrating the completion of a decade spearheading local preservation efforts -- has raised more than $860,000 from various private and public foundations, businesses and individuals.
|Computer rendering of the Preservation Resource Center by Fonda-Bonardi and Holman Architects
"We have accomplished a great deal in ten years as an all-volunteer organization," said Carol Lemlein, the conservancy's president. "The time has come to hire professional staff and secure a site easily accessible to those who want to learn more about historic preservation."
Of the total raised, $155,000 has been earmarked toward the $230,000 it will cost to preserve the last of the tiny turn-of-the-century structures known as "shotgun" houses that once dotted Santa Monica.
The conservancy must raise $75,000 to rehab the narrow, one-story City-owned dwelling -- with no hallway and each room placed in a single-file order -- that is being stored at the old Fisher Lumber site on 14th Street and Colorado Avenue.
"We need to show the City that we can complete the work," Lemlein said. "There's a lot of work to be done on the house itself.
"The house needs to be completely rehabilitated," said Lemlein, adding that it needs a foundation, seismic retrofitting and an addition to the back.
Originally located at 2712 Second Street, the dilapidated house is a sample of the a style so named because if someone fired a shotgun from the front door, the bullet would fly through the house and out the back door without hitting anything.
Efforts to preserve the small, worn wooden structure began 14 years ago, when the property owner applied for a demolition permit and the Landmarks Commission designated the house a city landmark.
Five years ago, the conservancy won its bid to relocate, rehabilitate and operate the structure as a historic preservation resource center, after it was moved twice and saved twice from demolition. Even members of the Community Gardens in Ocean Park turned down an offer to use the structure as a tool shed in 2005.
The house will be relocated to City-owned land at Norman Place and Second Street adjacent to the Ocean Park Library in a neighborhood with other landmark buildings reflecting the history of Santa Monica.
The conservancy, which will use the structure as its headquarters and hold board and committee meetings there, will pay $1 rent per year for 20 years
"The architect has determined a way to put twelve parking spaces and the shotgun house on the site," Lemlein said.
“By establishing our Preservation Resource Center in this historic house, we will provide an instructive model of the adaptive reuse of a structure that many might have thought had long outlived its usefulness,” Lemlein said in a statement.
Asked if in hindsight it was worth spending $230,000 to save a tiny dilapidated house, Lemlein paused before responding.
"I think it's a statement of principle in terms of what can be done," she said. "It's a way of showing that the conservancy walked the talk."
Among the major contributors to the conservancy are the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the National Trust of Historic Preservation, the Friends of Heritage Preservation and the City of Santa Monica, Morley Builders and the Minardos Group.
Leading the Campaign Steering Committee is chair Tom Neary, vice president and director of business development at Morley Builders, headquartered in Santa Monica. Huell Howser, host of the popular TV show “California’s Gold,” is serving as the honorary chair.
For more information see www.smconservancy.org or leave a message at 310-496-3146.