When the Los AngelesConservancy, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of historic preservation, announced the recipients of its 33rd Annual Preservation Awards in June, West Adams’ own David Raposa received one of the awards for the restoration of the Joseph Lee Starr Dairy Farmhouse located on Arlington Avenue in Jefferson Park.
Laura Meyers served as the historic consultant for the project, and Derek Japha was the architectural designer. Restoration architect Martin Eli Weil had also consulted on the project before his death in February 2009. Carpenters Taidgh O’Neill and Bob Gangl, among other talented craftsmen, rebuilt the Victorian era farmhouse, which is the oldest house in Jefferson Park and the last remnant of the neighborhood’s agricultural history.
The Joseph Lee Starr Dairy Farmhouse was built in 1887 for a dairy operation started by Texas cattleman J. L. Starr. At that time, the dairy spanned twenty acres on what was then the western edge of Los Angeles. The farmhouse was designed in the Folk Vernacular Victorian style by fellow ex-Texan Jasper Newton Preston. The well-known architect had moved to Los Angeles to complete commissions for the County Hall of Records (1887), the Andrew Glassell residence (1887), and Los Angeles High School (1890). He is also known for many works in Texas, such as the Driskill Hotel in Austin (1886).
By 2008, after decades of neglect, the house stood vacant, had been partially demolished, and was rapidly deteriorating. The City of Los Angeles deemed the home a public nuisance, and it was in danger of being razed. During its vacancy, the building was occupied by drug users and vagrants. Then a subsequent owner demolished not only a garage and out-building, but also the farmhouse’s early service porch addition and many interior elements. It had decayed rapidly to the extent that the public questioned whether the site could, but more importantly, should, even be saved.
According to the Conservancy’s description of why he won an award, Raposa “rescued it from the brink of demolition, painstakingly restoring it in an effort that redefines determination. He even used the project to educate the community, providing public access then and now to promote the value of preservation.”
Striving for the greatest possible historical accuracy, the project team conducted extensive research, from pulling records from the nineteenth century to peeling back the layers of the house to determine its original structure and colors.
An informational banner and website informed neighbors of the project and helped foster support for a historic district (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, or HPOZ).
“The restored J. L. Starr Dairy Farmhouse provides enthusiasm and encouragement for future historic preservation projects in the local community, and was also open for public tours and training for HPOZ staff,” according to the Conservancy. “It is a shining example for others who dream of saving neglected landmarks.”
The awards are selected by an independent jury of leading experts in architecture, historic preservation, and community development. This was another competitive year, with 26 nominations submitted and many deserving projects. Among other award recipients are the Ace Hotel and Ace Hotel Theatre in Downtown; the reinvented Forum in Inglewood; the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue; Rancho Los Alamitos’ Barns Area and Rancho Center; and Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, along with a special award for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
The Conservancy presented the awards at its sold-out Annual Preservation Awards Luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on July 31. The luncheon is a rare opportunity for hundreds of business and community leaders to hear inspirational stories of how historic preservation strengthens communities and fosters economic development. City National Bank served as presenting sponsor of the luncheon for the fourteenth consecutive year.
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.