Today we're asking the County Supervisors to save one of the oldest trees in Los Angeles, and launching a campaign to buy Monastery of the Angels... so how's your Friday going?
Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love. (We know we’ve been saying this for a long time: soon!)
It’s been one of those amazing days as two historic preservation projects we’ve been working on for many months suddenly jittered into focus and can be shared with the world.
This morning, the Friends of the Angels website went live, spelling out a modest proposal to ensure that the nearly 100-year-old Dominican monastery above Hollywood is maintained as sacred Catholic space, even if the dwindling community of nuns is no longer able to continue their work.
We came to the problem about a year ago as preservationists who treasure the Wallace Neff designed campus and the remnants of the 1912 landscaped gardens by Arthur E. Simpson, and as Angelenos who were concerned about the nuns who make everyone’s favorite pumpkin bread.
Joining us in advocacy was Rob Hollman, a longtime preservation pal who runs the Save LACMA and Bothwell Ranch Foundation boards on which we sit. It was when we met Brody Hale, whose life work is protecting sacred Catholic spaces from demolition or redevelopment, that a viable plan was hatched to look after the Monastery of the Angels—if indeed it turns out that the nuns are actually leaving, which is a big question mark—until another contemplative Catholic order can make it their home. And if that takes fifty years, so be it! The community will still be able to pray and feel peace on Carmen Avenue, as it has since 1934.
We hope you’ll explore the illustrated history of this remarkable spiritual site, and our plan for saving it. And if you’re a Friend of the Angels, too, sign up for the newsletter and we’ll make sure you know what’s new almost as soon as we do.
From the Hollywood Hills to the flats of South Los Angeles County, our shared cultural history needs champions. In recent months, we’ve been quietly working with the office of Supervisor Janice Hahn to advocate for saving some of the derelict buildings and landscapes at Rancho Los Amigos South Campus, the massive 19th century County Poor Farm that’s slated for a clear cut demolition due to vandals and arsonists.
Our work at Rancho Los Amigos dates back to a Richard’s Birthday Bus Tour visit in the before times, and more recently we’ve hosted historian Colleen Fliedner’s essay calling for the site to again be used to house the most needy Angelenos and asked the County to do so, presented an immersive webinar with Colleen exploring the Poor Farm’s rich and sweet history and debunked worrying news reports that the whole campus had burned down.
So yeah, we really care about Rancho Los Amigos and feel sick that so much of it is going to be demolished—anything we can help to save, we will. And so when we noticed that one of the oldest, tallest trees was turning brown, we sought guidance from Donald R. Hodel, environmental horticulturist, palm expert and author of Exceptional Trees of Los Angeles.
Here’s the skinny, which is also a petition to the Los Angeles County Supervisors:
In the central quad of Rancho Los Amigos South Campus in Downey stand two majestic ornamental Australian Bunya Bunya (Araucaria bidwillii) trees that date back to the founding of the County Poor Farm in the late 19th century.
Recently, the taller of the two trees (tag #379) was struck by lightning and briefly caught fire. Historian Colleen Fliedner, who wrote the official centennial history of Rancho Los Amigos, grew concerned about the health of this historic tree, and personally paid for an inspection by plant pathologist Paul F. Santos, M.S. (Waypoint Analytical) to determine the tree’s overall condition and what could be done to help it recover from the lightning strike.
Paul F. Santos’ report (read it here) states that the Bunya Bunya tree is ailing—but that if an effort is made to water, fertilize and treat insects and fungus, it could recover.
Work is currently underway to demolish many of the historic structures on Rancho Los Amigos South Campus, and Los Angeles County firefighters plan to chop down the historic Bunya Bunya, too. We think that’s wrong. This beautiful tree has watched over Angelenos and sheltered birds for many generations, and it deserves a chance to live.
Please join us in asking the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to direct the County's CEO's Office to take the Bunya Bunya tree off the removal short list and to follow the direction laid out in Paul F. Santos’ report to help it recover from the recent lightning strike.
We hope you will sign the petition, and please pass it on!
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Psst… If you’d like to support our efforts to be the voice of places worth preserving, we have a tip jar and a subscriber edition of this newsletter. Or just share this link with other people who care.