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Saving the Barry Building:

Architect and Jungian psychotherapist Diane Caughey is on a mission to save the Barry Building in Brentwood, home to Dutton’s Books for 22 years and an excellent example of twentieth century California modern architecture. When Caughey learned about the building owner’s plan to demolish “The Barry” as she prefers to call the two-story commercial structure, she realized there was no time to lose. This is a personal cause for Caughey whose architect father Milton Caughey designed the Barry Building, located at 11973 San Vicente Boulevard, in 1950.

Caughey has been gathering support from Brentwood residents and longtime supporters of Dutton’s Books, a cultural institution. A 60-page document and photographic study about the building was submitted to Los Angeles City Historic planners in order to nominate the Barry Building as a landmark.

Discussion of the building’s potential landmark status was placed on the City’s hearing agenda at a once-a-year joint meeting on May 3 between Los Angeles City and State Historic commissioners as well as the California Preservation Council. This gives the building’s future status statewide exposure. This was the first of three commission hearings – including a walk-through of the Barry Building – and after all three hearings, a decision by the commission will be made to take the building under consideration. A site visit by the commission and a final hearing to vote on whether to make it a Cultural Monument is required. Then the building’s status must be approved by the Los Angeles City Council. Caughey said the process will take about six months.

At a hearing of the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission on May 4, commissioners voted to consider the Barry Building for Historic Monument status. The building cannot be demolished now until a final City Council decision is made.

Brentwood neighbors and supporters for making the Barry Building a Historic Monument have organized a group called “The Friends of the Barry Building.” Caughey said the group needs names of supporters to bring to the commission meetings and to Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office. According to Caughey, contacting Rosendahl’s office to express support for the building as a Historic-Cultural Monument is essential.

Caughey said the Barry Building is “an endangered species…there is an inherent value in preserving our cultural heritage and places of history and significance in the community for future generations. If we tear everything down we will have no history.” The unique features of the Barry Building are its stairs, railings and window grids, clearly influenced by artist Piet Mondrian’s paintings. The building’s sun-control, natural ventilation and its courtyard are key architectural elements. It is one of the rare commercial buildings remaining in West Los Angeles that exemplifies the period of great inspiration and ingenuity in California modern architecture.

At a May 6 “educational” event at the Barry Building, approximately 80 participants met to learn more about the building. Among the events was a tour of the building by local architect Ty Miller. Caughey said a number of ideas were offered about how to save the building and still develop around it. “From the beginning of this process of making the building a Historic Monument there has been the intention and hope, by me and many others, that the building could be saved and the owner could build an excellent development of mixed use and condos around it. The old Barry Building could give historic and symbolic identity to the new development. Many people, including myself, feel that such a solution would make the owner a real hero and provide a win, win, win solution. The building would be saved, the owner would have a unique and loved development, and Dutton’s could stay.”

There will be a Children’s Art and Architecture Day in the courtyard of Dutton’s Books on Saturday, May 19, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event is called: “Help Save the Barry Building: An Endangered Species.” Children from ages 6 years up and adults are invited to come for a fun afternoon of art and education “on the architecture of the charming mid-century California modern building that houses Dutton’s Books. The Barry Building is endangered by future development that would destroy it.”

All participants will be “invited to draw their favorite part of the building. As we draw we’ll be looking at the building with new eyes and putting words to what makes this space so special to us. We’ll learn about how ‘smart’ the building is – how certain elements of its design work with the natural and human environment…” Artists, architects and preservationists will work with the young people to “awaken understanding of buildings as endangered species.”

The organizers of the event will have pre-printed letters to sign and forward to Councilman Rosendahl. There is also a plan to write a group letter with the children’s words and illustrations to send to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission. Those attending the event are asked to bring their own art supplies if possible – some supplies will be available. Refreshments will be served.For more information contact Jilian at jcanyon@aol.com or Diane Caughey at Diane.caughey@gmail.com The Barry Building is located at 11973 San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood.

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