The Future of Rockhaven Sanitarium
Last week I wrote about the formation of the Friends of Rockhaven, a new and dynamic group that is preserving and celebrating the history of the 90-year-old sanitarium. As most of us know, the 3½ acre oak shaded piece of paradise located at 2713 Honolulu Ave. was purchased by the City of Glendale in 2008, just as it was about to be torn down and developed as apartments. Since then, the historical society and the Friends of Rockhaven have been taking care of the interiors of the 14 buildings, all built in the ’20s and ’30s. They have been teaching the community about Rockhaven’s unique history as a female-owned business for the care of mentally handicapped women – a business run “by women, for women.” I’ve helped out with several Friends of Rockhaven tours of the facility (sponsored by the City of Glendale), and the most asked question by tour-goers is, “What does the city have in mind for the future of Rockhaven?” My answer is always an enthusiastic, “That’s up to us as a community!”
When the property was first saved, some in the city talked about Rockhaven as a future site for an enlarged Montrose Library. The initial vision was this: The current Montrose Library (located across from Montrose Trader Joe’s) is overcrowded, as is the fire station next door. The proposal was that the library move to a larger new facility on the empty west side of Rockhaven (almost half the 3½ acre site is vacant), and the fire station would expand into the old library. Trader Joe’s is leasing the property it is on from the city, and that rent money would be dedicated to funding future development of Rockhaven as a community center of some sort. Of course when the economy crashed, this was all put on hold.
Since then, the community has been left to dream about future possibilities. The historic look of the buildings and the vast oak-covered landscaped grounds – as well as the empty lot to the west – make for pretty fertile ground for dreams. For my part, I’d like to see the historical societies of both Crescenta Valley and Glendale participate in a small museum space for display of their materials and old photos, and for outreach to the community. This could be a place to go to research the history of your home and to access old newspapers. They could oversee a restoration of a portion of one of the sanitarium buildings to what it was in the 1930s, with period furniture and ancient medical equipment. As well, the Southern California Genealogical Society has from the very beginning expressed strong interest in locating a genealogy research center and library at Rockhaven. Several people have put forth the idea of an arts center, much like the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. Imagine the various buildings as studios and galleries for local artists, with classes on painting, ceramics, and dance. Much of the grounds could be restored to their former lush landscaping for use as a park. Weddings could be held on the grounds and the existing kitchen and dining room could be utilized for small receptions.
I know the city would like to incorporate some sort of revenue producing venture such as retail space or offices. I can imagine an architect would love to have an office here, and CV Weekly, currently located right next door to Rockhaven, would enjoy having office space there. Imagine a small coffee shop, where one could purchase a cup coffee to savor in one of the secret gardens hidden around the property. As well, Rockhaven could be a lucrative location for filming, with its period buildings and ample parking.
It seems that every person that sees Rockhaven comes up with an idea of a use for the great resource that Rockhaven will be to the community. I think that soon the city will start having meetings with stakeholders and the community to determine its future.
We’re lucky to have such a good steward as Glendale for this valuable piece of our history.