Santa Monica’s historic Shotgun House at last has a home. The 1890s structure, a City Landmark, will be permanently sited on the public parking lot at 2nd Street and Norman Place.
The Department of Community and Cultural Services recommended to the City Council that the Norman Place site be considered for a permanent location for the Shotgun House. Across the street from the lot is another historic landmark, the Ocean Park Branch Library, built in a Classic Revival style. Next door to the lot is the 1938 Streamline Moderne building (in the shape of an ocean liner) that once housed Merle Norman cosmetics. With Heritage Square on the other side of Main Street, and the Third Street Historic District nearby, the Shotgun House “will offer a visible history of our city as seen through its architecture,” noted Karen Ginsberg, assistant director of the Community and Cultural Services Department.
The Shotgun House takes its name from the fact that it has a front and back door positioned so that a shotgun blast fired through the front door would exit through the back door. Such houses were often manufactured as “pre-fab” structures and were purchased and erected on lots in the early days of Santa Monica’s heyday as a beach resort. The house has been through a long search for a permanent site since it was removed from its original location at 2712 2nd Street. Saved from demolition by its designation in 1999, it was then purchased by the Ocean Park Community Organization (OPCO). While a permanent site was being sought for it, the house was moved, in July 2002, to the Santa Monica Airport. Construction at the Airport necessitated that the house be moved again, to the former Fisher Lumber site at 1601 Olympic Boulevard in December 2005. For a while, some supporters of the house sought to relocate it at the community garden on Main Street, a plan that met with opposition from other supporters and from most of the gardeners.
Site preparation for the Shotgun House will improve the appearance of the existing parking lot, which has long been an eyesore and a source of complaints from nearby retail stores and residential neighbors. The trash bins will be enclosed, and new lighting and landscaping will be installed. The current site plan shows that only one parking space will be forfeited, although architect Mario Fonda-Bonardi, a community leader and advocate for preserving the structure, has proposed a way to keep the current parking spaces intact.
Community and Cultural Services’ staff report also recommended a list of criteria to be met by a prospective tenant. The tenant who is ultimately selected must use the house for public benefit, and among other requirements, must raise the funds and oversee the work to rehabilitate the structure, estimated to cost approximately $250,000. In the coming months the City staff will publicize a request for proposals (RFP) for nonprofit organizations.
“This house is a survivor,” commented Sherrill Kushner, Santa Monica Conservancy’s Shotgun House committee chair. “It’s been saved twice from demolition, been moved twice to different storage sites, and now it will return to 2nd Street, the same street and same orientation as its original location, among other historic landmarks.”