By now most residents of Monrovia are aware of the fact that structures within the city can be locally identified as a landmark (landmarks of the State of California and National Register designations are distinct and separate).
Currently, Monrovia has created 127 landmarks (126 are structures, with the Boxx Jewelers clock the only exception). What a lot of people may not know is that there is also another list of buildings on what is referred to as the “potential landmark list.”
In 1985 thirty-nine Monrovia volunteers, with partial funding by the State Office of Historic Preservation, conducted a survey of pre-1920 homes in Monrovia. They were able to identify 66 existing structures that appeared to qualify for entry onto the National Register.
Then in the late 1980s the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group (MOHPG, but then was known as the Monrovia Old House Preservation Group) began their own historic resources survey in an effort to identify the more significant structures in the city. That survey listed approximately 2400 homes that appeared to be of pre-1930s vintage.
In the 1990s the City of Monrovia appointed a Historic Resources Survey Committee, although no residents of Monrovia were on the committee. That committee then compiled a list of buildings that could potentially be landmarked. The list was derived from three sources: (1) buildings that up to that point had been part of MOHPG’s Mother’s Day home tours; (2) homes listed in Volumes 1 and 2 of T. Myron Hotchkiss’ books, Monrovia’s Heritage; and (3) homes identified on the 1985 survey.
The “Potential Historic Landmarks” list of 157 structures was approved by the City Council in 1995. The properties on the list “were deemed to have historic value” and were considered to be potentially landmarkable. The resolution by the Council gave the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) “advisory review authority over proposed changes and demolitions” to the buildings on the list.
Usually, this is no big deal if the owner is trying to do the “right thing.” Some of the items not requiring review by the HPC were alterations of the following type: repairing/replacing materials with like kind, accessory structures, fencing, and incidental appurtenances such as awnings or shutters.
Today only 45 of the 157 structures on the potential landmark list have been landmarked by the City Council. That means that 81 buildings which have been landmarked do not appear on that list. The fact that so many landmark applications have been granted to homes or buildings not on the potential list prompts the question: Should these buildings have been included on the original list? Are there other buildings that belong on the list and should the list be revised?
The exact process used to determine which structures were or were not added to the potential landmark list is not known. But in the opinion of this author the list should be updated for a very simple reason: A significant structure not on the list has almost no protection from alteration. As a result the losses we have seen to our architectural heritage in the past could continue unless we have exercised due diligence by updating the buildings on the list.
A special thanks to Ili Lobaco and Craig Jimenez for supplying some of the factual information in this article.