Exemplary Post-and-Beam, Mid-Century Modern Sitting Atop Arroyo Goes Up for Landmark Designation

Published : Monday, August 19, 2019 | 4:40 AM

Pasadena’s Historic Preservation Commission will conduct a viewing of the property at 180 South San Rafael Avenue on the west bank of the Arroyo Seco, which is being recommended for designation as a landmark in the City, as part of a special meeting of the Commission on Tuesday, August 20.

The single-story single-family residence consists of two primary building volumes and a detached carport with a small enclosed storage area.

A description by the Department of Planning and Community Development said the property embodies the character-defining features of expressed post-and-beam mid-century modern architecture – a building method that relies on heavy timbers rather than dimensional lumber. The residence features exterior panels of wood and stucco, rectilinear concrete blocks, full-height and clerestory windows, fixed and jalousie windows, flat roofs, a dramatic oversized double-height central volume with a pitched roof with exposed wood beams, covered outdoor walkways and little to no exterior ornamentation.

On the property to the south of the house is a pool and a pool house.

Built in 1959 for R.A. Crowell, the original owner, the building volumes occupy 3,087 square feet of the 90,590 square-foot property.

An application for landmark designation was submitted by the present owne in May 2016. The report said City staff evaluated the property according to criteria in the Pasadena Municipal Code and found that the house qualifies for designation because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a local significant property type, architectural style and period, and represents the work of an architect whose work is of significance to the City.

The original architect was the South Pasadena firm Whitney Smith and Wayne Williams, according to the original building permit in 1959.

The firm produced many award-winning projects in the area, including private residences, schools, community buildings and recreational facilities. Smith and Williams were both trained at the USC School of Architecture. The firm’s work is renowned for its use of wood, which inspired architectural historian Esther McCoy to identify and write about a “Pasadena School” of architecture.

Smith and Williams designed the Community Facility Planners Building at 1414 S. Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena, which received an Award of Excellence from the Pasadena and Foothills Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1959 and is listed by the Southern California Chapter of the AIA as “one of the most significant examples of Los Angeles architecture” constructed between 1947 and 1967.

Residential projects in Pasadena include the house at 945 Hillcrest Place, the house at 1049 La Loma Road, the Lavenant Residence at 300 S. Holliston Avenue and the Salet House, according to records.

The Historic Preservation Commission will visit the site at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Before that, members of the Commission will visit 873 N. Hill Avenue, also being recommended for landmark designation.

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