Letters to the Editor
July 1, 2020

To the Editor:
Respecting Preserved Art History and Historic Buildings
As a Architectural Historian, It has been disheartening to see all the disregard and disrespect going on over the nation right now, either the tearing down or defacing of statues or monuments of our forefathers. Statues represent a living history to teach history. Otherwise, there is a big chuckhole in the progression of accurate history. So a big gap in our history is not soothed over/erased as is intended by some short sighted thinkers.
Frenzy causes lack of reason so in tearing down and rioting, they can’t relate to what the statue and its background represents. This is senseless. But if they had realized that even the Teddy Roosevelt statue, in contemporary times, was represented by Robin Williams in the movie, “Night at the Museum”, and somebody they could relate to, maybe they would be sorry for being so hasty.
To make statues like those ruined in the rip down, is now almost a lost art. It takes a long, meticulous process to run the liquid bronzing down inside copper tubes to form the image in the statue mold. If a tube clogs, the entire statue has to be done over. But the statue was lovingly crafted in the first place by masters and generously donated at the time, to commemorate a momentous occasion, for that time in our history. So Statues are works of art besides representing history and pride.
The executive order the President declared for consequences of ruining statues and desecrating statues and historic buildings, et al, reaffirms the laws already in the law books of the National Preservation Act, under the Department of the Interior. In the National Register of Historic Places, every documented official landmark is listed by State and City.
Did you know that Preservation Act affects the officially declared landmarks, historic buildings, places and appointments in our own City? It does!
With this spirit of interest and with a Preservation grant, in 1982-83, a group of Fillmore volunteers took the time to go around in Fillmore’s core area of historic buildings to record, document, photograph, and make up a Survey Book of 398 pages! Any building listed in this book is considered significant and should be preserved and protected, whether it is officially declared a landmark or not. In conjunction with that, a cultural heritage history program was formed and the City Council approved having the Cultural Heritage Board serve as an advisory board and review activity and status of the structures listed in the Survey Book, and other newly found historic sites not located within the core area. The Advisory Board did meet in Fillmore.
Just for reference, the City of Santa Paula does not allow demolition of historic buildings; and citizens of Ventura recently pushed back a mob’s intent to tear down the Father Junipero Serra statue in front of Ventura City Hall (formerly the Ventura County Courthouse). That statue was designed by a Ventura citizen.
Our Community should be taking notice of what is happening even in Fillmore
Mostly the current officials of Fillmore did not grow up in Fillmore. So the urge to remake Fillmore’s ambiance and history is met with less conscience. So the planning and other untrained officials have set aside the historic preservation program including careful reading of the Survey Book, ignoring the signed agreement with the Cultural Heritage Board advisors, “they’re not needed and have to wait to be called in”. The City officials profess to know all. So they have blundered through ever since and have not allowed having guidelines, steps, proper reviews by trained historic preservation experts. Matters are rushed through and experts only have 5 minutes to convince officials to overturn their wrong pathway or conclusion.
If citizens would look to Central Avenue and changes, right now, to the Presbyterian Church, (aka later known as Bible Church; Faith Community Church), listed in the Survey Book and which was built in1929 with gift monies from a former Fillmore mayor, William and wife Carrie King Price, they will see that the Church was mistakenly considered by the City not to be “historically significant”! This building was one of 3 of the most attractive period buildings in town. So it was okay? to covert the church from Mediterranean to Mission-looking style with black trim and take out the significantly attractive priceless stained glass window, a cultural art piece of rarity in Fillmore! Also, inside contained carved wood panels and appointments with open colored stenciled beams. The building was designed locally by Hastings & Yeakle and built by local contractor, Ed Rice. So it was okay? for buildings to become apartments and offices and also displace and end the Sonshine School, run by local citizens, with no City interest in helping that school relocate in town? Was that okay? How does that promote local cultural programs?
The 2 other most attractive Fillmore buildings, the Arts and Science Buildings, on the Fillmore Union High School grounds, represent a pure example of Mediterranean Architecture for the 1930s. That is, until the School District, who did not know its own buildings’ history or that they were officially declared historical landmarks, decided to let State Engineers come in and yank out all the attractive airy grill covered windows—9 windows to each building side—and replace with Non Period, modern dark brown tinted windows (tinted windows were unknown in 1930s). Quite an impact to the buildings! This was done with no City or local input or review. It has jeopardized the buildings’ declared landmark status!
Now the School District is wanting to expand and improve its vocational education. That is a good thing. But with a completely different building style? So this was done without regard for the proposed building to look compatible in architectural style with the overall Fillmore High School complex! The School District is not aware of the history of the area and/or knows that the 500 Block of First Street is a proposed Historic District. The City should know. So the School District brought in the State Engineers and they created a design that is ultra modern and they demolished the other well known memorable building. The new design is not compatible with the proposed historic district nor the residential houses across the street from this stark new building, and will have the view of the distracting building. It is an interrupter for the Block. Also the sight of this stark building will be seen before the landmarks, Arts and Science Buildings, facing Central Avenue, and will loom up behind the Science Building. There should have been some kind of 4-way corner view test from the nearby Central Avenue intersection. This action is expanding the “commercial” look farther north of the intended business district.
The City has enacted the provision, “Adaptive Reuse”, which will dilute the usage and historical? design aspects of the homogeneous 200 to 400 blocks of Central Avenue Business District. This is in another proposed Historic District.
Now the City wants to sell the Fillmore Theatre, which was carefully historically restored after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, because the Theatre is “Surplus”. Is this okay? What absentee owner will recognize its significance?
Also of concern is the advanced speed by which all of the above projects has occurred! Are enough research and results being conducted? Not with the above projects=all in 1 year!
It also has been seen City approval of eliminating “Old or Obsolete” provisions of the Ordinance Code. What are they? It is to the advantage of the Community, not just one person, to check out the proposed and deleted provisions. Look at all the upcoming Public Hearing Notices and their subjects listed in the Fillmore Gazette, the local newspaper of record, to make sure our town has and does not eliminate the provisions in operating for the ambiance and goals of the Community, and not by a few officials geared to get the job done. Without thinking, City decisions could be made that do not consider how the side affects and after-affects could be irreparable to the history, look of City, today and future. Or Fillmore will not look like the Community expects and the City declares Fillmore to be “the Last and Best Small Town”. Or be “Fortune Favored”. Where will those beliefs be found?
Kathleen Briggs
Architectectural Historian
Member, National Trust For Historic Preservation