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The Saved Cottage: Site Dodged Demolition, Seen Years

“Welcome to the Little Yellow Cottage” was the theme of an open house held by the Santa Monica Conservancy on a warm November Sunday. The vintage Craftsman cottage at 2219 Ocean Avenue may be turned into a bed-and-breakfast facility by its owners, John and Donna Heidt (see The Mirror November 5-11), but the subject of the day was the history of how this little yellow house came to be saved.

Santa Monica City staff estimate that 2219 Ocean was built anywhere from 1898 to 1909. A common type of one-story beach cottage with its clapboard siding, enclosed front porch (to stave off beach winds), and extended and flaring eaves, the house was occupied for some 30 years by a man who passed away in 2005 and bequeathed the building to his alma mater, the University of Illinois.

When the University’s foundation applied for a demolition permit for the cottage in 2006, neighbor Scott Spell remembered: “The initial reaction of neighbors was ‘How can this happen?’ Their knee-jerk reaction was that this house had to be saved. But nobody knew what to do.”

Spell went on to tell visitors how he and his neighbors organized the “Save the Cottage” campaign, doing research, getting signatures for a petition to save the house, and attending meetings of the Landmarks Commission and City Council, following through a process of designation and fighting the University’s appeal of the designation, until the Council denied the appeal and upheld the cottage’s June 2006 designation.

The Heidts continued the story. In 2003 their Westwood home was flooded by a broken pipe. While staying at Santa Monica Shores temporarily, they fell in love with the Ocean Park area and noticed the little yellow cottage.

“I had to have this house,” Donna Heidt recalled. She and John kept track on the progress of the designation and eventually managed to buy the property. But the cottage was in need of considerable repair.

“The house was bowed,” said John Heidt. “The foundation was two bricks and two bricks with mortar in between the bricks.” The interior floors “tilt” and the foundation is still in need of being shored up, but the interiors have been painted, and new floors of oak and Douglas fir have been added. John Heidt said that he visits demolition sites to salvage boards and other materials to recycle for his cottage.

Visitors wandered through the rooms that have been refurnished by the Heidts. There’s a living room with an oak floor, a faux fireplace, and a stained-glass window over the mantle; a dining room, two kitchens, four bedrooms, and three baths. The walls are painted gentle shades of pale blue or white, enhancing the natural light from the many bay-style windows, some of which have an ocean view.

As of June 2009, the Heidts had spent approximately $90,000 to restore 2219 Ocean. While they expect to spend more on future renovation, they have received the 2009 Preservation Award from the Santa Monica Conservancy for their efforts.

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