The Santa Monica Conservancy will take people back in time this weekend when the nonprofit organization presents a tour of six historic sites in the Ocean Park neighborhood.
The walking tour will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, January 30th, in Santa Monica.
Five homes and a church are featured in Ocean Park’s Third Street Historic District tour, which the Conservancy says is Santa Monica’s first historic district.
“All the sites on the tour are some of the oldest in Santa Monica,” said Ruthann Lehrer, a member of the Conservancy’s board of directors.
The Santa Monica Conservancy and its volunteers work to preserve cultural and architectural heritages unique to Santa Monica.
Lehrer trained the volunteer docents who will be present at each location to provide visitors with historical information.
“The sites share the same quality, in that they have all been successfully remodeled and renovated for contemporary use, but their historical styles have remained intact,” Lehrer said.
In Ocean Park, buildings commonly feature architectural styles popular in 1875 through 1935.
The Ocean Park area of Santa Monica was originally called South Santa Monica.
The Vawter family settled South Santa Monica in 1884 and established the neighborhood’s first bank, water company, carnation farm, Presbyterian church and horse car line.
The Crystal Springs Bathhouse and Plunge was also built as a beach attraction.
Soon after, developer Abbot Kinney helped transform South Santa Monica into a beach resort and the neighborhood became Ocean Park, eventually populated with year-round residents.
“Ocean Park has always been a vibrant beach community,” said Joel Brand, president of the Conservancy.
Brand said areas around Main Street, the library and the beach feature homes and commercial buildings that have been in original condition for more than 100 years.
“In Ocean Park, there are pockets of streets where 80 percent of the homes and buildings are historic,” Brand said.
The Third Street Historic District in Ocean Park was formally designated a historic district in 1990 by the City of Santa Monica.
TOUR SITES — Lehrer said the five homes on the tour were heavily used as rental units and some of them were in deteriorating condition.
She said that since the early 1980s, there has been a movement in Santa Monica to preserve the city’s historical sites.
Since the early 1990s, people have been purchasing historic homes that were used as rentals to restore them as single-family homes.
Brand said the City of Santa Monica has done a “fantastic job” in the last five years of encouraging preservation.
“A lot of steps have been taken by the city to provide incentives to homeowners to preserve their historic homes,” Brand said.
The oldest site on the tour is a Carpenter Gothic structure at 2621 Second St., originally built in 1875 as a one-room Methodist Episcopal church.
In 1923, the church moved to another location and a Civil War society used the site as a meeting hall.
In 1972, artist Helen Taylor Sheats saved the meeting hall from demolition and used it as a combination home and art studio.
Sheats designed two stained glass windows for the home before local architect Anne Troutman bought the property in 2003.
Troutman restored the original one-room hall and redesigned the residential interior.
“We call this an adaptive reuse project because it was once a church, then a meeting hall and now a home. This is a fascinating home,” Lehrer said.
Methodist Episcopal church congregants moved to 225 Hill St. to worship in a new church called The Church in Ocean Park, which is also on the tour.
The new church was built in 1923 and features revival architecture styles such as Gothic, Italianate and American Colonial.
Lehrer said the church’s best features are its stained glass windows, two of which feature Biblical narratives of “Christ the Good Shepherd” and “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
Some restoration work was done on the church, which is still one room. The room is also used for children’s classes and secular performances.
The other homes on the tour are a 1910 classic Craftsman bungalow, 1912 airplane Craftsman bungalow, a 1912 triplex that combines Transitional Victorian and Craftsman styles, and a 1915 bungalow that combines Victorian and Craftsman styles.
Homeowners and hired contractors spent years working by hand to restore these homes to original conditions.
Lehrer said some of the homeowners did the restoration work themselves.
“Restoration is a process of discovery that is very labor-intensive because all the work has to be done by hand,” Lehrer said. “Some of these people have previous construction or carpentry experience, but most of them have no experience and are just smart at figuring out new challenges.”
Admission is $35 per person, $25 for Conservancy members, and $45 for people who want to buy tickets and also join the Conservancy.
Parking is available at Muir Elementary School at Fifth Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, on beach lots, and on Main Street.
Tickets for the tour are limited and the Conservancy requires that reservations be made by phone, (310) 485-0399, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets will be held at the Ocean Park Branch Library, 2601 Main St., Santa Monica.