Robert Leary, Passionate Preservationist

Robert Leary, a passionate preservationist and Los Angeles Conservancy member, passed away on January 23 after a long illness.

A native of New Jersey, Leary received a bachelor’s degree from Niagara University in New York. He worked as an actor on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles in 1991.   Leary joined the Conservancy in 1992, was active in the leadership of the Friends of Hollyhock House, and was active in West Adams preservation advocacy.  Leary’s experience as an actor contributed to the great tours he gave of his West Adams home, as well as architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House and Ennis House.

Teddi Shattuck of Hollyhock House remembers, “I can’t forget all that Robert did for Hollyhock House, but above all, I remember his energy and enthusiasm for all projects, from gardening to cleaning to meeting and promoting the house and his particular delight in giving a private tour to Brad Pitt.  Robert inspired many people to take on the challenge of revitalizing Hollyhock House, which, at the time, was in such disrepair.  Our accomplishments are due, in part, to Robert.  His spirit, along with Aline’s lives on in the House.”

Leary was instrumental in preventing demolition of the 1902 South Seas House on Arlington below the 10 freeway, a unique landmark that suffered decades of severe neglect before its award-winning transformation into a community center.  Leary and the many others in the community who helped save the South Seas House won both California Preservation Foundation and preservation awards for their efforts.

In 2008, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy honored Leary’s work on the Ennis House with a Wright Spirit Award acknowledging his untiring and unlimited efforts in leading the restoration of this historic home. Gail Fox, curator of the Wright-designed Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, had this to say about Leary’s award.  “People were so obviously pleased by the announcement of the award recipient.  What struck me and stuck with me were not the specific remarks that Robert made upon accepting the award for the group, but the humility and grace he demonstrated while accepting it so modestly on behalf of the Ennis House Foundation. Fortunately, the Conservancy left no doubt about the level of planning and effort the accomplishment entailed. Robert’s demeanor and words were eloquent and moving.”

Along with his significant contributions to historic preservation in Los Angeles, Leary was widely beloved for his warmth, charm, humor, and dedication. He had a way of making instant friends, and he always had a smile, words of encouragement, or a witty remark for everyone.

Reprinted and edited wiht permisssion from the Los Angeles Conservancy membership newsletter.

 

 

 

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist 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.

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