In 1975 Santa Monica established a Landmarks Ordinance and Commission. The concern for designating features of the local landscape grew out of the successful crusade to save Santa Monica Pier, which became the first of many landmarks and was among the points of interest sighted during the Santa Monica Conservancy’s annual Landmarks Bus Tour on October 5.
Our group of tour-goers spent the three-plus hours riding in a Big Blue chartered bus, while our tour guide, Marcelo Vavala of the Conservancy, provided commentary about the landmarks and explained the legal process by which a landscape feature is designated. Santa Monica’ s landmarks are office buildings, retail store spaces, private residences, apartment buildings, hotels, a few trees, and one piece of a historic sidewalk.
Here are some of the highlights:
Niemeyer-Strick House, 1911 La Mesa Drive.
This house was completed in 1964 by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer for film director Joseph Strick, who admired Niemeyer’s work. Since Niemeyer, for political reasons, was forbidden to enter the United States, his designs had to be sent through the mail. The modern single-story home has a T-shaped floor plan and a frieze-work screen known as a “brise-soleil” on the front façade, an addition made in 2004 with the Landmarks Commission’s approval.
The Teriton Apartments, 130 San Vicente Boulevard.
This recently designated apartment complex dates from the late 1940s and is an example of Modern Vernacular style, fusing post-1930s modernism with the basic garden apartment style. The complex has a unique “pinwheel” footprint that gives each building outdoor space in front and back. The Landmarks Commission has considered the possibility of designating the area as a historic district.
John Byers Adobe Residence, 404 Georgina Avenue.
Architect John Byers traveled frequently in Central and South America and later brought his love of Spanish and Mexican Colonial architecture to the many homes he designed in Santa Monica. This 1923 one-story house has typical features, including a low-pitched gable roof with red tiles, adobe brick walls with stucco sheathing, a deeply recessed entrance, and an interior courtyard.
Santa Monica Professional Building, 710 Wilshire Boulevard.
This six-story office building dates from the late 1920s. Its unusual “Y-shaped” form allows for light and air flow and its design is a variant of the Spanish Colonial style, with what are known as “Plateresque” elements, such as ornamentation in relief around the entrance. Currently the building is slated to be remodeled as a hotel.
Moreton Bay Fig Tree at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
The second largest fig tree in California, the Moreton Bay Fig was planted before 1900 and has grown to 80 feet high with a branch spread of 120 feet. The original sapling was said to be a sailor’s attempt to pay a debt to a bartender (the bartender gave the sapling to the wife of Santa Monica founder John P. Jones, whose mansion stood on the present-day Miramar grounds).
Merle Norman Building, 2525 Main Street.
In 1936, Merle Norman had this building remodeled to serve as headquarters for her cosmetic business. The style is both Streamline Moderne and Art Deco, with an “ocean-liner” tower and a wave motif in its ornamental trim.
Horatio West Court, 140 Hollister Avenue.
Dating back to 1919, this courtyard complex is one of those “hidden” treasures that turn up on Conservancy Tours.
More information on the Santa Monica Conservancy can be obtained at smconservancy.org.