Structural dampness has permeated the walls of the Michael White Adobe. Boxed in between the football and baseball fields and the swimming pool at San Marino High School, the Michael White Adobe is currently undergoing restoration work to remove the buildup of moisture within the walls.
Mark Sauer Construction is performing the job, which involves removing plaster and adobe blocks up to 3 feet high from the bottom of the wall and replacing the existing materials with new adobe blocks and cement.
Workers have also collected six buckets of original adobe material, intended for an archeological procedure known as flotation. The procedure separates organic material from the adobe that can then be analyzed for more information about the surrounding natural environment.
Many changes have been made to the Adobe and the surrounding area since its construction in the 1840s. Entire wings have been added then removed; families have moved in and out, but the San Marino School District’s impact has left the most prominent mark.
Ever since the Friends of the Michael White Adobe—a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the building—and the San Marino USD opened a line of communication about the fate of the building, community awareness, restoration, and a plan for incorporating the building with the rest of the campus have taken priority.
The Friends of the Michael White Adobe have received grant funds from the National Parks Service, current Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, and a donation of adobe blocks from The San Tan Adobe Company.
Despite the funding and donations, Marla Felber—board president of The Friends of the Michael White Adobe—warned that the community shouldn’t expect to see major changes overnight.
“It’s about a culture,” she said, “it requires the community to care.”
William Ellinger III, a historic architect and member of the Pasadena Heritage Advisory Council, feels that more people in the community are “on board” with the restoration plans.
“We’ll always work to turn it around,” he said of the anti-preservation attitude, “and engage faculty and the students.”
When it comes to the business of revitalization “you’re probably never done,” Felber added.
“There’s no restoration that doesn’t take a long time,” she continued, drawing an analogy to Old Town Pasadena’s transformation from a declining area in the 1980s to a popular shopping and entertainment district today.
Moving forward, the Friends of the Michael White Adobe want to see the building – once used as a storage facility for cheerleaders – transformed into a useable space. As a next step, they would need to structurally retrofit the building for earthquakes. In particular, Felber said, “the ultimate goal is for a hall of fame for the 4 A’s: Academics, Athletics, Arts, and Alumni.”
The nonprofit has already published a museum designer’s rendering of the possible hall of fame, which includes the eventual removal of the 6-foot gate surrounding the building.