Plummer Park’s Great Hall-Long Hall received historic designation in Anaheim Wednesday morning as the California Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously to approve the 75-year-old West Hollywood buildings to the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is a very exciting moment in recognizing our history,” said West Hollywood Preservation Alliance president Jen Dunbar, who wrote the nomination papers for the buildings. “I think this is something that the people of West Hollywood, the people of Los Angeles County and the state of California should be proud of.”
After hearing opposing arguments from West Hollywood Planning Manager John Keho and members of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, the nine-member commission went straight to vote without a discussion, closing the latest chapter in the ongoing battle over proposed renovations to Plummer Park.
The commission approved the nomination on the grounds the buildings are strong examples of Spanish Colonial revival architecture and because they were built by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the Depression-era government-funded department that constructed many highways, parks and public buildings across the nation.
Jay Correia, a supervisor with the state’s Office of Historic Preservation, told the commission the Great Hall-Long Hall buildings still have a “high degree of integrity.”
The commission received 73 letters of support for the nomination and two different petitions supporting it (one with 90 signatures, the other with 61).
The approval comes despite opposition from West Hollywood. The City Council’s plan to renovate the park and demolish Great Hall-Long Hall stalled earlier this year when redevelopment funds were denied from the state. On April 1, the council voted 4-1 to oppose the Historic Register nomination.
It is highly unusual for a city to oppose a National Register nomination. Out of the roughly 50 state nominations made each year, only one will be opposed by a city, according to Correia.
Speaking briefly for the city, planning manager John Keho told the commission West Hollywood was committed to historic preservation but decided that additional green space in Plummer Park was a higher priority. Following the meeting, Keho declined to comment.
“I am elated,” said resident Stephanie Harker, who co-founded Protect Plummer Park, the group leading protests against renovation. “The commission did the proper thing for the buildings. It’s one step toward protecting all of Plummer Park.”
“It’s an incredible honor,” said resident Cathy Blaivas, the other founder of Protect Plummer Park. “It took an outside force to recognize what we have right now in the city. Thank goodness for the commission.”
The honor, however, does not guarantee protection from the wrecking ball. The City Council could still take a vote of “overriding consideration” to demolish the building.
At an April 1 meeting, Councilmember John Heilman called for their immediate demolition.
Because West Hollywood opposed the nomination, the commission automatically pulled the Great Hall-Long Hall nomination from its consent calendar and allowed both sides to make presentations.
Dunbar, who spent almost a year researching the history of the buildings to write her nomination papers, was one of five people who spoke in support of the nomination.
Dunbar said the Plummer Park Community Clubhouse (as the Great Hall-Long Hall buildings were originally known) was built with a sense of “pride” as it was intended to be the centerpiece for the park.
The Great Hall-Long Hall buildings were where organizational meetings were held in 1984 to incorporate the city.
It was also the place where the Los Angeles chapter of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was formed and met weekly for 10 years from 1987-1996. ACT UP is an international advocacy group instrumental in pushing the United States government to act on the AIDS crisis and find effective treatment medication in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Longtime ACT UP member Kevin Farrell took the day off from work to attend the meeting. Great Hall was the “perfect location” for the group’s meetings as West Hollywood was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Farrell said.
“The building has earned a critical place in West Hollywood history and in LGBT history,” he said.
To make the designation official, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places in Washington D.C. must approve the addition of Great Hall-Long Hall to the list of approximately 80,000 places nationwide.
Despite the honor of the designation, it doesn’t automatically come with a plaque for the building.
“If the city wants to put a plaque on the building, they’ll have to approve it and pay for it,” said Correia.
The commission also approved the nomination of the Stahl House, the iconic “Case Study House #22” located in the Hollywood Hills above the Chateau Marmont. Built in 1960, the house became famous because of a photograph taken by Julius Shulman showing two women in flowing skirts sitting in the corner of the house with a panoramic view of LA through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls at night.
Designed by Pierre Koenig, the modernist-styled house was declared a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1999.