With a listing in the National Register of Historic Places expected in the next 45 days, Friends of Rockhaven hope another of protection for the property has been added.
By Mary O’KEEFE
This week Rockhaven Sanitarium’s nomination by the State Historical Resources Commission was approved. This means the approval will be forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register for review and, once approved, Rockhaven will be formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places. To complete the process takes about 45 days.
To say the Friends of Rockhaven are overjoyed by the listing is an understatement.
“We filed in January,” said Emily Lanigan, Friends of Rockhaven.
The group worked with the Historic Resources Group and worried they would not be heard by the Commission until July. They were very happy that their chance for review happened so quickly.
Rockhaven Sanitarium is located in the 2700 block of Honolulu Avenue. It was purchased by the City of Glendale in 2008. At that time there were talks of the property’s becoming a park and library; however, the economy took a downturn and the property has sat in limbo.
In 2014 the City established a committee composed of community members, the historical societies in the area and the Crescenta Valley Community Association. The committee’s function was to review the RFQs (request for quotation) that had been submitted to the City. The committee, in part due to the concern the historical integrity would not be maintained, rejected those offers.
The Friends of Rockhaven have dedicated themselves to protecting and sharing the history of this once remarkable sanitarium for women.
Rockhaven Sanitarium was founded in 1923 by psychiatric nurse Agnes Richards as a place where women suffering “mild mental and nervous disorders” could be treated with dignity and respect rather than suffer the atrocities of the state-run insane asylums of the time. Richards believed that graceful surroundings in nature helped influence quiet in the mind.
As a private institution run exclusively for women and owned by a woman (a rarity at the time) Rockhaven became popular among the Hollywood elite. Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys Eley called it home as did Billie Burke and many other actresses and entertainers, according to the Friends of Rockhaven.
It is this rich history that inspired the organization to apply to the State Historical Resources Commission. Their application included music from Babe Egan and her Hollywood Redheads – Florence Egan was a resident at Rockhaven.
Lanigan said the designation may not completely protect the property from an overzealous developer and that the City could still approve changes outside of the registration; however, it is still a good layer of protection.
The City of Glendale recently requested more RFQs from developers for another round of reviews. Phillip Lanzafame, director of the city’s community development, said the new designation should not affect the RFQs.
“It has always been our intention to have Rockhaven designated,” Lanzafame said.
He explained the developers knew the city’s desire to have a historical designation and feels their vision for the property would be compatible with that designation.
“It won’t affect the [developers] at all,” he said.
It may place specific development restrictions, or hurdles, to surmount but Lanzafame said the developers are aware of that possibility. Lanigan said she felt that the listing could clear the field for those who are serious about keeping the historical integrity of the property and might deter some developers.
Joanna Linkchorst, a Friends of Rockhaven member, said she hopes the designation will bring more recognition to the plight of the historical sanitarium and to encourage people to get involved in helping to save it.
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites and districts worthy of preservation because of their significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U. S. Dept. of the Interior, according to the National Register of Historical Places website.
“The Friends of Rockhaven are really excited about this. We feel this has been a win for us,” said Lanigan. “We put a lot of eggs in the [National Register] basket.”