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Historic Commission to Consider Landmark Designation for Van de Kamp Home

Published on Monday, October 18, 2021 | 5:43 am
The John Van de Kamp House on San Rafael Avenue, at left, and John Van de Kamp, at right.

Pasadena’s Historic Preservation Commission will meet Tuesday, October 19, to discuss a recommendation to designate the John Van de Kamp House on San Rafael Avenue as a landmark, among other items on the agenda.

Meetings of the Commission are currently by video conference. Tuesday’s special meeting begins at 4:30 p.m.

 Van de Kamp purchased the house in 1987. The former California Attorney General died there on March 14, 2017 at the age of 81.

Van de Kamp was born in Huntington Hospital and raised in Altadena and Pasadena and attended John Muir High School. He was an icon in local and state politics.

In 1966, Van de Kamp was appointed US Attorney in Los Angeles by President Lyndon Johnson, and later served as LA County District Attorney.

In 1982, he was elected California Attorney General. Eight years later he ran for governor, but lost the Democratic nomination to Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein lost to Republican Pete Wilson.

In May 2015, just two years before he died, Van de Kamp wrote an article for Pasadena Now in which he compared the Pasadena of his boyhood to the Pasadena of his later years. He wrote of the schools, the local culture, smog, transportation, architecture, restaurants, grocery stores, and so on. He ended the article by sharing his hope for Pasadena’s future.

“Going forward, I would personally put emphasis on preserving our historic neighborhoods, protecting against mansionization, and improving our housing stock for middle and lower income earning families,” Van de Kamp wrote.

In June 2017, the Pasadena City Council  renamed La Loma Bridge as the John K. Van de Kamp Bridge in the former attorney general’s honor.

Pasadena Heritage applied for the landmark designation of his home on San Rafael Avenue., supported by historic records, as well as by statements from people who knew and worked with Van de Kamp and his family, including former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and broadcast executive and lawyer C. Douglas Kranwinkle.

“When my family and I moved to Pasadena in 1970, one of the first families we met were Harry and Georgie Van de Kamp and their son, John, who were neighbors three doors away,” Bogaard wrote in a letter to Pasadena Heritage. “From that point on, we had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and socializing with John Van de Kamp and his family, and standing in awe of his many talents, energy and accomplishments. His interests and activities, his responsibilities and relationships, his good judgment and positive impact were truly extraordinary. In a word, he was a classic ‘Renaissance man.’”

The property, a Monterey Colonial style house, was built in 1947 and was first the residence of Holmes P. Tuttle and his family. Tuttle worked in the parts department of a Ford dealership, then came to start and own 14 automobile dealerships across Arizona and California.

Tuttle’s son, Robert Holmes Tuttle, who grew up in Pasadena, was U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom from July 2005 to February 2009.

Immediately before the Van de Kamp family, James Griffin “Jim” Boswell II owned the property and lived there. Boswell was also a person significant in the history of Pasadena, the region and the state. As his biographers wrote, Jim Boswell was “the biggest farmer in America and the last land baron of California”.

Boswell’s family firm, J.G. Boswell Co., is still headquartered in Pasadena on Walnut Street across the former Parsons headquarters.

“Upon review of the application, staff determined that the provided information is sufficient to demonstrate that the house is eligible for designation as a landmark under Criterion B for its association with former resident John Van de Kamp, a well-known politician and attorney,” the Planning Department said.

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