Sunday, July 25, 2010

Endangered Building No. 6

Back in 2007, the Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) considered the nomination as a Class 1 Historic Site the "Casa de Rancho" a Morongo Street compound built in the 1940s for Dr. William Scholl. He was the inventor of those famous foot treatment products that are a staple to the retirement-age citizenry of Palm Springs. Dr Scholl might have joined the ranks of the town’s prominent (part-time) residents to be honored by the designation, but it was not to be. When built, the Spanish Colonial style property was a mini-estate containing ten buildable lots; such parcels are extremely rare in Palm Springs today. Struggling with the concepts of Setting and Context, the HSPB lost its courage and recommended protecting only the main house, which was centered on two lots facing Morongo; the remainder of the fully landscaped site which contained a swimming pool and pool house, tennis courts and gardens was not included in the recommendation to the City Council. Predictably, the owner opposed the designation, and, while owner consent is not required by the designating ordinance, the City Council deferred to the owner’s wishes and declined the recommendation, resulting in a property that had no protection. With the City’s failure to protect the property, the owner immediately walled off the main house, demolished the outbuildings, filled in the pool, stripped the mature landscape and prepared to sell off the lots for development.

Needless to say, the owner did not predict the global financial melt-down that subsequently occurred, and the empty lots remain undeveloped and available. The appearance of the property today is that of a forlorn, blighted site, littered with unfinished construction debris; it retains little of its original charm or value, an impact on the neighborhood that will not be easily overcome. Among the lessons to be learned here is the understanding of the value to an historic property of its setting and historic landscape. As these few surviving larger parcels start being subdivided, the character of the neighborhoods, and ultimately the town itself will be diminished….

No comments:

Post a Comment