Documentary filmmaker, historic preservationist, writer, interior designer: Margaret Bach wove her interest in film, history, architecture, and the built environment into the pattern of her life work. In the 1970’s she worked on the restoration and historic designation of the Horatio West Court, made the documentary film, Landscape With Angels, received her MFA from UCLA, worked at KCET on the LA History Film Series, and worked at LACMA producing a film series showing how movies have portrayed Los Angeles.
Margaret and her husband, screenwriter Danilo Bach, a young couple in 1973, were house hunting when they learned the Horatio West Court designed by renowned architect Irving Gill was up for sale. In spite of the terrible condition of the buildings and its frightening occupancy by drug addicts, the Bachs and three other couples decided to restore the buildings as a place to live. On the day escrow closed, City police, who were all too well aware of the problems on the site, showed up to oversee the safe transfer of the property from the squatting drug addicts to the proud and hopeful new owners.
When the City of Los Angeles planned to sell the Bertram Goodhue- designed Los Angeles Central Library, Margaret worked on the LA AIA report, “The Light of Learning,” a history and defense of the Library. Out of the effort to save the Library, the Los Angeles Conservancy was founded. Margaret was both a founding member and, in 1978, its first president. An interesting historical footnote is that Ruthann Lehrer was the first Executive Director of the LA Conservancy and both Margaret and Ruthann now sit on the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission.
The first time Margaret sat on the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, Clo Hoover was Mayor. Margaret turned her attention and support to the South Beach Tract, the General Telephone building on Barnard (now the Eli Broad Art Foundation building), and the Third Street Development Corporation. That work contributed to the preservation of the South Beach bungalow neighborhood, the stopping of the faux facelift planned for the old telephone switching station, and the renewal of the Third Street Promenade.
The Bachs moved from the Horatio West Court in the 1980’s and looked for another “fixer upper” that could accommodate their growing family. They bought the house of the early 1900’s Santa Monica developer and realtor, Frank Bundy. Over the years they restored and added to the old house.
With two sons, Margaret focused on contributing to the schools, including serving as PTA President at Roosevelt and, after her sons went to college, working on the renovation of Barnum Hall. Margaret wrote grant applications, including the application for the restoration of the Barnum Hall fire curtain designed by the well-respected Southern California artist, Stanton McDonald-Wright, as part of the WPA artists program.
Continuing her interest in the built environment, Margaret agreed to be a grant writer for St. Johns Hospital after it was damaged in the 1994 earthquake. She also used her knowledge of architecture and her writing skills at the office of Santa Monica architects Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg.
She is the author of Cottages in the Sun, publication date March 2010, and now has her own design studio. “I have a clear, childhood memory of the Santa Fe Super Chief. Although I wasn’t old enough to know the train I was riding on was in the Streamline Moderne Style, I knew the train was beautiful and I was captivated by the colors of the train, the colors of the southwest. Being on the train I felt a complete sense of wellbeing and balance, which is what I try to accomplish through my work.”
Margaret names Palisades Park as “one of the great places in the world. It is a place that matters and the places that matter will only be preserved when people care.” And it’s just like “Maggie,” as her long time friends call her, that her favorite tableware, from the vintage Edwin Knowles China Company, is named the “Santa Monica” pattern.