By Nicole Possert
Cypress Park and Richard Henry Dana? What does the neighborhood built near railroad tracks have in common with the 19th Century author and sailor? It goes back to 1926, when the community’s library was built in the Georgian Revival style and named after this literary icon. The property, vacant since the new larger library opened in 2008, is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And now, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has started the process to consider local designation and protection as a city Historic-Cultural Monument. Earlier today, the commission voted to take under consideration a monument nomination for the library prepared by the Highland Park Heritage Trust (author is a board member).
The 85-year-old Richard Henry Dana Library on Pepper Avenue “was built in 1926 by the firm of Henry Sims Bent … as part of a twelve branch expansion of the Los Angeles branch library system” according to a Cultural Heritage Commission’s staff report. “It was given the name of Richard Henry Dana as a part of an effort to have the public submit name ideas after famous literary icons and pioneers related to California.”
Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir “Two Years Before the Mast.” Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves.
Charles J. Fisher, volunteer board member and the historian who prepared the nomination for the Highland Park Heritage Trust stated “the nomination is part of the Heritage Trust’s long-term plan to protect historic resources in the communities we serve.” Since 1982 when the organization was founded, it has been responsible for successfully nominating over 75 properties to the city’s Historic-Cultural Monument program. The local designation gives the strongest protections for historic properties, preventing wholesale loss from unnecessary demolition. Although the name references one community, Highland Park Heritage Trust serves the interests of the broader Arroyo Seco communities in Los Angeles from Garvanza to Cypress Park.
The modest one-story former library is a “cross –gabled building is L-shaped with an off-centered entrance … with two fixed round windows symmetrically framing the entryway door,” explains the staff report.
Winning monument status for the library requires three actions by the Cultural Heritage Commission. The first was today’s hearing, which was to review the application and decide whether or not to take the property under consideration. After the Commission agreed the application merited further exploration, a visual inspection tour will scheduled to allow the Commission to see and experience the proposed property first hand. Then a final hearing is scheduled where the Commission will officially determine whether or not monument status will be recommended for adoption by the City Council.
Nicole Possert is a contributor writing about home and history. Questions or ideas? just email her at [email protected]