By Jason KUROSU
Construction of a three story apartment complex in Montrose is currently underway, occurring on the same land as the last Storybook-style house in the Crescenta Valley, preserved only because of its historical import. The style is known by other names – Fairy Tale or Hansel and Gretel or Provincial Revivalism – and reflects a whimsical architectural style. It was made popular in the 1920s-30s.
The site at 2700 Piedmont Ave. contained both the Storybook house, built in 1929, and a Craftsman-style duplex, which has since been demolished. In its place will be a four unit, multi-family apartment complex, set to complete construction in a year’s time. The apartment complex will also feature a subterranean parking lot.
The City of Glendale’s Design Review Board approved the preservation of the Storybook house at 2690 Piedmont Ave. in 2012, deeming it historically significant as one of the last examples of Storybook architecture within Glendale.
“We found it to be a unique specimen and the community was concerned about losing the house,” said Jay Platt, Glendale Historic Preservation planner.
The duplex, built in 1934, was not so lucky. According to Glendale senior planner Vilia Zemaitaitis, “A building permit to demo the existing duplex was issued on July 23, 2014. The existing Storybook house at 2690 Piedmont has to be maintained and preserved as part of the project.”
“The Craftsman was massively altered over the years,” said Platt. “As such, it lost its ability to maintain its sense of history.”
Grant Michals, a member of the Glendale Planning Process Task Force, an advisory committee of the Planning Commission, described this alteration as stemming from damage sustained during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
“Repairs changed the historic nature of the duplex,” said Michals.
Along with the Storybook house, the four coast live oak trees surrounding the property will be retained. Originally, one of the trees was slated to be removed but this was changed during the 2012 Design Review Board meeting. Most of the rock wall bordering the property will also be retained, with some portions removed for walkways.
But it is history that keeps the Storybook house in place, as the North Glendale Community Plan, a guide for development within La Crescenta/Montrose, calls for the preservation of historic buildings.
The historic elements of the Storybook house were “intact for the most part” according to Michals, allowing it to fall under the protections of the North Glendale Community Plan.
The Plan states, “The City of Glendale is committed to the preservation of its historic buildings, neighborhoods, and sites as part of its overall goal of planning for the future. By looking back and preserving key places that contribute to the shared history of all city residents – past, present and future – we establish a framework that allows the city to develop, grow and prosper without erasing the heritage that helps define Glendale and its people.”
Though some community members argued that the proposed apartment complex did not fit in with the surrounding single family one and two story homes, construction has commenced.
“The construction caught a number of residents, myself included, by surprise,” said Michals.