I got a couple of calls last week from concerned locals about the disappearance of the little decorative well at the entrance to the Indian Springs Shopping Center on Verdugo Road, just east of Montrose. Man, I love that kind of vigilance! The first sign of a community in peril is the unchallenged demolition of its landmarks. A huge thank you to all who sounded the alarm.
Fortunately, thanks to the property manager of that shopping center, the issue of the well had been pretty well vetted by the time of its demolition last week.
The Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, despite its amateur status, is often asked to weigh in on what is “historic” and what isn’t. Over a year ago, the shopping center’s property manager called me to show me the plans for a proposed remodel of the aging buildings there. The idea was to renew it in a theme that would resonate with the community. They had settled on a Craftsman theme, with a rock base and new landscaping for the parking lot. I was thrilled that a developer would take such pains to be thoughtful about the architectural heritage of the Crescenta Valley, and that he was reaching out to the community for input. We supported his choice of style, and it’s a good thing we did. When the project went before Glendale’s Design Review Board, they pushed for a modern design, and it was largely due to public pressure that they agreed to the Craftsman style.
But the property manager was also worried about the community’s reaction to removing the well. I had, from the beginning, assured him that the well was not historic from the Historical Society’s perspective. It wasn’t a real well; it didn’t represent a well that had been there in the past. In fact, it had nothing to do with the real history of that site. It had been built at the same time as the shopping center, so it was maybe 40 years old. So was it historic? In a word, no.
The real history of that site is the natural spring that once flowed there, and the public pool that from the ’20s through the ’60s was the social and recreational center of the Crescenta Valley. The big archway that cars drove through to enter the parking lot of the pool was the true icon of Indian Springs, and if we were talking about its demolition, I’d be writing this column on my laptop while chained to the arch to stop the bulldozers.
I feel that some history is worth fighting for, and some must be let go. I’m always ready to compromise if something of value to our community is being offered. I guess my guiding philosophy is, “Will demolition of this house/tree/decorative well negatively affect the quality of our community?” followed by “What is being offered to improve our community?”
Did the demolition of the well negatively affect our community? I don’t think so. I am disappointed with the larger lighted sign that will replace it, but I’m also aware the businesses in the shopping center will benefit from the added advertising. The remodel of the buildings is beautiful, and it fits our area’s heritage.
What is being offered to improve our community? Here’s where the story gets good! The shopping center has built a monument for the Historical Society to commemorate the history of the site. That large stone wall that you see to your left as you enter Vons will soon be covered with photos of the site as it once was, first as a wooded canyon and then as a swimming pool. You’ll learn the story of Vicki Draves, La Crescenta’s own Olympic gold medalist in diving, and see photos of generations of laughing happy kids. It will be – much more than the decorative well was – a fitting historical tribute to Indian Springs.