By SDCNN Staff
On May 18, Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) presented their annual People in Preservation awards on the lawn of the historic Marston House in Balboa Park. The 10 awards were presented to the winners by Amie Hayes, SOHO’s historic resources specialist, while Bruce and Alana Coons and the rest of SOHO’s board looked on.
Six of the 10 awards have a connection to Downtown. While we will summarize those awardees and the words that Hayes spoke at the presentation below, in future issues we will dig a little deeper on each of the winners and their relationship to Downtown and present them to you in future issues.
We also wish to acknowledge the craftsmanship of Sande Lollis, who photographed winners at the location of their choice and put together beautiful four-by-three foot posters honoring them, which we are also using, represented in digital form for each of the winners below. Enjoy.
- Two editors associated with this paper — editor Morgan M. Hurley and contributing editor (and editor of Uptown News) Ken Williams — were pleased to receive the first PIP award that was presented, the Town Crier Award, for our “ongoing commitment to communicating the importance of our heritage and historic resources.”
With so much information flying at us every second of the day, focusing on what’s important can be a challenge. Experienced journalists know how to present facts and tell relevant stories. Raising readers’ awareness about our history and the development of San Diego’s built environment is a bit more complicated. Three newspapers — Uptown News, Downtown News and Gay San Diego — consistently devote space throughout their print and digital pages to preservation issues, projects and threats. Entire historic neighborhoods are benefitting from this informative coverage and many readers are spurred to attend public meetings, write letters to decision makers and more.
We’re fortunate to have two editors who care about our region’s heritage and historic preservation at the helm of these popular and influential community newspapers. They have gathered historians, community leaders, museum professionals, artisans, preservationists, and archivists of the LGBTQ community to write informative articles and persuasive columns on an ongoing basis. Regular readers stand to learn a lot and tend to be moved to act to protect their historic neighborhoods.
- Bandy Blacksmith Guild won the Historic Arts Restoration and Education Award, and was accepted by Guild president, Jim Richmond.
Artisans trained in traditional crafts aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, making those devoted to their specialties all the more valuable. Better yet are the artisans who teach others their craft to keep the techniques alive through the next generation and beyond. This all-volunteer group also works with nonprofits to restore priceless historic artifacts, fittings and hardware.
Their projects include the San Diego Maritime Museum’s San Salvador, the Escondido History Center’s mud wagon and the centennial cannon, a rare survivor from 1870s San Diego now owned by SOHO. A group of blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and carpenters restored the recently rediscovered iron cannon and made a new carriage for it, so it can be used once again for ceremonial purposes. This group is being honored for their ‘broad accomplishments and heritage artisan skills.
- The Cultural Landscape Award went to the Friends of Balboa Park, a Downtown News contributor, for their restoration of the gatehouses that welcome people to Balboa Park. Board member Jim Hughes accepted the award.
When the Panama-California Exposition opened in Balboa Park in 1915, the main entrance was reached across Cabrillo Bridge from Laurel Street. A gate stretched between a pair of gatehouses to control admission. After the expo closed, the gate was removed, but the gatehouses continued to stand guard. Closed for decades, the twin sentinels fell into serious disrepair.
Over 18 months, the gatehouses were restored to their original appearance. They are now ready to greet visitors throughout the 21st century with new roofs, new stucco and paint, restored wood doors, and replicated missing ornament and flagpoles. Once forlorn and visually lost in the busy park, the gatehouses have regained their proper historic stature.
- The Outstanding Public Service Award was presented to Elizabeth Maland, the city’s clerk for her archival work.
Every student, historian, and researcher knows you have to be savvy, creative, and dogged when searching for information you need. Sometimes, you joyfully stumble upon records you had no idea existed.
Thanks to the city of San Diego’s Archives Access and Preservation Project, rare publications, documents, and maps are now available to the public online and in person at the city’s archives center. Priceless pioneer statehood records, which date from the 1850s and are extremely fragile, are now accessible. So are 1856 Pueblo land maps and tax assessment books dating from 1872 to 1925. Providing online access is crucial as we rely more and more on digital devices, especially among younger generations, who are, after all, our future historians.
There’s another reason for preservationists and researchers to rejoice at this improved access. According to the city clerk, preserving original and trustworthy records and making these legal and historical records available to citizens is a vital function in our democracy.
- The Adaptive Reuse Award went to the San Diego Housing Commission and its CEO Richard Gentry for their work in restoring the Hotel Churchill and adapting it for affordable housing. Representatives from primary partners Studio E Architects, Heritage Architecture & Planning and KPFF — Structural Engineers, joined executive vice president and chief strategy officer, Deborah Ruane and senior vice president of real estate, Michael Pavco in accepting the award.
You can’t hide a seven-story historic landmark when it has faded from glory and been shuttered since 2005. To some visionaries, however, the potential of the former Hotel Churchill was hiding in plain sight. Built in 1914 in anticipation of the Panama-California Exposition, the downtown hotel was later converted to a low-cost residential hotel. Efforts to revive its fortunes as a fantasy medieval getaway in the 1980s failed. Luckily, the best idea was yet to come.
Last year, the restored and rehabilitated building welcomed new residents to much-needed affordable housing. The majority are veterans, plus eight adults reentering society from the corrections system, and eight young adults. Gone are all the traces of the kitschy castle mural and faux medieval décor. Instead, large restored windows on most floors shower the units with natural light. Six Juliet balconies and the entrance blade sign and awning have been replicated from historic photographs. Residents now use the restored lobby, including the historic check-in desk, and adjacent lounge.
The 1940s-era illuminated rooftop sign gleams once again against the night sky. This blazing sign, coupled with replacement lights lining the cornice between the sixth and seventh floors, symbolize a bright future for Hotel Churchill and its residents.
- The Partners in Preservation Award went to the city of San Diego, Civic San Diego and Westfield, LLC for the redevelopment of Horton Plaza Park. Accepting the award was Jodie Brown, Daniel Kay and Nate Smith.
The ravages of time and ill-conceived social engineering nearly destroyed Horton Plaza Park, one of Downtown San Diego’s most historic public places. Everything that was once attractive about the park was made inhospitable and uncomfortable to keep homeless people from camping out. Broadway Fountain, its colorfully illuminated centerpiece, stopped flowing for years. SOHO saved the iconic fountain three times, which is why it appears on our logo.
Both the park and fountain take on increased significance when you know they were designed by Irving Gill, one of San Diego’s most influential architects. Horton Plaza Park has been restored to its original 1910 appearance, with paving, furnishings, and pedestrian access for optimal use. The meticulously restored fountain is working again under a restored glass and bronze dome, with colored lights washing over it at night.
The long-awaited restoration of Horton Plaza Park and its signature Broadway Fountain amount to one of the most important public-private preservation projects the city has ever undertaken. It serves as a model for successful future partnerships.
“Congratulations to all our People In Preservation winners,” Hayes said as she closed out the ceremony. “You’ve enriched our historic buildings, parks and streetscapes; our rare artifacts; our housing options; and our knowledge, through archives and journalism. By restoring and preserving our treasured historic resources, you’ve made a lasting contribution to San Diego’s authentic character and quality of life.”
Watch these pages for more on these people in preservation. For more information about SOHO, visit sohosandiego.org.