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Monday, March 3, 2008


These are excerpts fro an article published in the March 3, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Daily News, entitled: Valley Losing its History as Development Spreads "Activists working to save significant landmarks".

"Some say the uncertain fate of the Weddington house is symbolic of what has happened in the Valley for decades as a string of historic sites have been lost or are threatened amid the growing pressures of urbanization.
"In an attempt to revitalize an area, the history and quality of life suffer from overdevelopment," said Richard Hilton, a Valley historian.
Hilton cites the Josef von Sternberg House in Northridge. Designed in 1935, it was regarded as one of the finest pieces of work from modernist architect Richard Neutra. But it was torn down in 1972. There was also the Valley Music Theater, the area's first performing arts center, which hosted Bob Hope, Jim Morrison and other celebrities. It was demolished to make room for condominiums in 2004.
And then there was one of the original homes sold by William Paul Whitsett when the Valley pioneer laid out the blueprint for suburbanization of the region in 1923. A developer razed that home last year just days before it could be designated a historic landmark.
Grass-roots efforts, however, have been successful in preserving some sites over the years. In Van Nuys, community members helped save City Hall, Baird House and Woman's Center with historic designations.
But it remains an uphill battle.
For now, the Weddington house has become a rallying cry for preservationists.
"… at a recent Cultural Heritage Commission meeting, Valley history buffs said that plan simply won't do.
"This house should stay in North Hollywood. It's here where it has historical and political meaning," said Guy Weddington McCreary, an active Valley historian and a descendant of the original family.
City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the site of the house, said he is making it a priority to preserve the Valley's iconic structures even though money and land remain a challenge.
Among his ideas is widening Chandler Boulevard to create an outdoor architectural museum - similar to Heritage Square - for the Valley's historic homes.
And while preservationists also worry about the fate of the Lankershim Train Depot and historic dining car Phil's Diner - designated cultural monuments that have seen little attention - LaBonge said their restoration should start soon, particularly if more community members get involved.
"It's more than just a government designation that makes a historic neighborhood successful," LaBonge said. "It's the devotion and love of the people in the area."
In the Valley, Hilton said, renewed emphasis on preservation appears to be brewing as more historical groups spring up.
And the battle now is ensuring structures are not only saved but also restored and turned into community venues.
"We are always grateful to save a structure, but we also want the public to have access to it so history can be interpreted and it can become a visceral experience," he said. "Otherwise, it's just a shell.
"If you have to fight over preserving the Lankershim depot because a developer is given the opportunity to construct higher and denser, the priority's clearly not set right."

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