The Theodore Pletsch-designed English Tudor Revival home at 1470 Virginia Rd. was found to be eligible as a local historic landmark, according to an eagerly-anticipated, city-financed historic resources assessment report.
The San Marino City Council commissioned the report at its Oct., 2016 meeting and received a final copy on Dec. 28.
The report, which was prepared by Arroyo Resources, is intended to help the council decide if it will designate the 1938 home as a local historic landmark. The council will be faced with that decision for a third time at its Jan. 11 meeting.
The report is also intended to help the council decide if it will support or reject an appeal of the San Marino Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the demolition of the Pletsch-designed home and the construction of a Spanish Colonial Revival home in its place.
According to San Marino Municipal Code, the council can designate a property a local historic landmark if it “has played a role in the formation and existence of the City.”
As the home relates to the formation of San Marino, the Arroyo report concluded that “the property is one of the best examples of the early garden estate homes that defined the formation of the City of San Marino…”
The report continued that the City of San Marino’s formation was “based on the founding principles of community building during City incorporation [in 1913] as set forth by George Patton, Sr., Henry E. Huntington, and other local land owners.”
As it relates to the City of San Marino’s existence, the Arroyo report stated, “As a part of the City’s pre-WWII history, the home exhibits the grand architectural style of the English Revival style.”
The English Revival style, the report added, was “important to defining the existence of the City of San Marino as a community of estate homes.”
Additionally, the report found the property “deserving of special recognition” for four “determining factors.”
“The home is an excellent example of English Tudor Revival Style Architecture in San Marino,” read the first determining factor, citing seven characteristics including a steeply pitched roof, and artful combination of stucco, stone and wood cladding, a prominent side exterior chimney, and other features.
A central location on the lot and a heavily landscaped garden are cited as part of the second determining factor. The report noted, “the estate’s grounds are integral to understanding the architectural significance of the property.”
The third determining factor, the report stated, is that “The home was designed by distinguished San Marino architect, Theodore Pletsch.”
Lastly, the report claimed, the final determining factor to be that “The Stathatos family, who bought the home in 1962, continued the tradition of ‘Garden Estate Home Building.’”
The report also referred to a ‘close tie’ between the Stathatos family and Armin Thurnher, the landscape designer of Lacy Park and Huntington Drive and the head gardener of the Huntington Estate. The Thurnher House, located at 1475 Virginia Road just inside the east gate of Lacy Park, is named for Armin Thurnher.
A dirt trail found on the property of 1470 Virginia Rd.—referred to as a Native American trail during city council meetings—did not contribute to the report’s determination due to inconclusive research. Instead, the report hypothesized, the trail may have connected the Patton home to Wilson Lake, now Lacy Park, in the late 19th century.
The Arroyo Resources report is the second historic resources assessment of 1470 Virginia Rd. The first report, prepared by the Historic Resources Group, was requested by the planning commission. It was paid for by the owner, William Chan, the CEO of a Hong Kong-based investment holding company, and concluded that the home was ineligible for any type of historic designation.
“I think it rather conclusory, short on evidence, and not altogether persuasive,” Mr. Chan’s attorney, Richard McDonald, said in a phone interview with The Tribune, noting that Peyton Hall of Historic Resources Group will prepare and submit a rebuttal to the Arroyo report.
Shirley Jagels, who appealed the planning commission’s decision and petitioned to designate 1470 Virginia Rd. as local historic landmark, also reacted to the new historic report in an email statement to The Tribune.
She wrote, “This new report by Juliet Arroyo is much more complete, and confirms our initial belief that this home would qualify as a local historical landmark, and that the loss of this home would have a major negative impact on a potential historical district within our city.”
Both individuals will almost certainly make more comments during the Jan. 11 city council meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall, when the city council will discuss the fate of 1470 Virginia Rd.