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December 2019 – LB Architecture Week

Month: December 2019

An Obscure Building Remains From Roosevelt Naval Base on the Boundary of Long Beach

Written by Katie Rispoli Keaotamai

The next time you travel west along the Gerald Desmond Bridge, you might notice a subtly Modernist building near Navy Way, which almost blends into its highway. The building remains from the former Roosevelt Naval Base, an impressive campus designed by the “Allied Engineers” and constructed in 1943. Architecture firms led by Paul Revere Williams, Adrian Wilson, and Donald R. Warren completed the design of the buildings. Built in the International Style, the base secured Long Beach’s identity as a Navy town.

The base served Long Beach and the nation well for over 50 years, but was closed along with 34 others nationally in 1993 following the end of the Cold War. After evaluating bids for the location, the City of Long Beach granted jurisdiction over the base and the neighboring Naval Shipyard to the Port of Long Beach in 1995. Immediately after, the Port of Long Beach entered into an agreement with the Chinese government to allow their commercial shipping corporation, COSCO, to build a large-scale terminal on the site. Their plan required demolition of Roosevelt Naval Base.

The base was demolished, to the dismay of the preservation community in Long Beach, in 1998. As an example of early Modernism in Southern California, its loss was a great one for Long Beach preservation. When demolished, residents came together to mourn the base and its role in Long Beach’s community. What those residents did not know, however, is that a building near Navy Way quietly escaped the wrecking ball.

If you’re wondering, “how?,” the answer is, “obscurity.” The building, having formerly been owned by the military, sits on unincorporated territory, which has no parcel number, on the boundaries of the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Since no jurisdiction has ownership over the building’s land, no agency has laid claim to it.

The original use of the building is unknown, though based upon its location and similarity to guard stations documented within the former base, it likely served a security-related purpose. What is known is that the building was given to Caltrans in the late 1960s for use as an office when the Vincent Thomas Bridge was converted to a toll bridge. It was then that the building was officially decommissioned by the military. In the hands of Caltrans, the building has served a useful life. Though the bridge ceased to require tolls in 2000, Caltrans operates in the area for other maintenance and infrastructure work. As the building is near the intersection of both bridges and has parking for staff, it continues to be used for storage, occasional workspace, and a break area for Caltrans workers.

Grounds at Roosevelt Naval Base looking West to San Pedro. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey: Roosevelt Base. Library of Congress

When Roosevelt Naval Base was demolished in 1998 and its buildings were catalogued and documented, this building was omitted as it was no longer part of the base. It is unknown whether anyone involved in the documentation at the time realized that it had previously been so. Because the building has no address, parcel number, or jurisdiction, its preservation is difficult. It is undeniably eligible for historic designation, but any level of protection would likely have to be attained at the national level and would require consent from Caltrans.

If such protection were pursued, it is clear that the building retains sufficient integrity to be eligible for historic designation. The simplicity of the building leaves few decorative elements to be lost, and in this instance has made it easier for the building to remain intact. In sharing this research and findings, it is hoped that the existence of this building can help to ease the loss of such a substantial historic resource and cultural anchor to Southern California. As one of just a few buildings in the Long Beach area that recall the great Navy presence that once existed in the community, the building holds great potential for education and interpretation.

Downtown Long Beach’s Gradual and Rapid Change

Written by Brian Ulaszewski, LEED AP

Photo by Elizabeth Martinez

This past month, downtown Long Beach celebrates its continued economic and physical growth with Downtown Celebrates, rolling out another bright annual report, with honors to those who contribute to this success, highlighting the diverse food and entertainment the downtown has to offer. This year’s report and previous ones have emphasized the economic shifts within this community as average household incomes increase, and investments in downtown rise as high as the cranes building the thousands of new residential units.

The optimist sees the new buildings and enhanced bike and transit facilities as progress, while the pessimists see these improvements for a new population that is forcing out the residents that the now-cool downtown had been built from. Despite the glossy collateral marketing the downtown, and the war cries from those fighting displacement, many community leaders recognize the nuance of Long Beach’s gentrification.

The Great Recession of 2007-2008 and beyond hit Long Beach hard, though not as much as rapid growth communities like Miami, Las Vegas, or  Fresno. While some local governments went bankrupt from lost property taxes, others like Long Beach made deep cuts to public services and maintenance responsibilities. Most development ground to a screeching halt with all but previously funded public projects (including subsidized affordable development) and private development serving basic necessities (hospitals, Walmarts, grocery stores, etc.) being built within the intervening years.

Right as the economic downturn was beginning, the City of Long Beach was adopting the groundbreaking Downtown Plan , a transition from the rigid Planned Development Zones that city officials were applying across Long Beach, which would also serve as the basis for future Specific Plans that have since been authored and adopted. The Downtown Plan  provides greater flexibility to meet the Guiding Principles  established by residents, stakeholders, and community leaders, while streamlining the process for infill projects that emulate that vision.

Due to tightening lending practices both for homebuyers and real estate developers, and a surplus of housing stock due to foreclosures, the impacts of the Downtown Plan  did not become obvious for a decade. Like the recovery of recessions before, investment generally began incrementally with lower risk projects like adaptive reuse, building rehabs, and modest urban infill projects. The first wave was most often local, from developers like Urbana, CORE Holdings, Maverick Investments, and Ratkovich Properties.

Gradually, the landscape began to change as new businesses—many locally owned—opened up shops, and formerly vacant homes and condos began to find new residents

While some of these projects rejuvenated derelict properties, bringing new life to our existing neighborhoods, other investors began seeing a reinvigorated housing market, this one oriented more toward rental housing versus the previous housing boom, which had a larger proportion of sales.

As has been typical in Long Beach, new construction had been slower than other local communities to respond to emerging markets. To fill the growing demand for quality housing in downtown Long Beach and surrounding neighborhoods, more modest incremental investments were made by renovating existing housing stock to varying degrees of quality.

Unlike most of those commercial buildings that sat vacant before their respective rebirths, these apartment buildings were always filled with life, with residents many of whom have lived for decades in the vibrant neighborhoods of East Village, Alamitos Beach, Drake Park, and North Pine. Early-Century (1920’s) fourplexes, mid-Century garden-style apartments, and even late-Century recent podium-type buildings were given a bright coat of paint inside and out, with new cabinets and windows and occasionally fresh landscape.

These cosmetic improvements have been and still are typically precipitated by the removal of the existing residents. Through consistent and/or extreme rent hikes, or evictions (with or without cause) entire apartment buildings—from two homes to two dozen—are vacated of residents. The upheaval has damaged people, families, friends, and entire neighborhoods, though those buildings have often never looked so pretty. The complexion of these neighborhoods has changed building by building, block by block, street by street. Only now is the City seeking resident tenant protections—Long Beach is the largest West Coast city without them.

Over the past year, there has been a rapid change in the physical character of Downtown Long Beach. From flipping the protected cycle-tracks on Broadway and Third Street, to the complete redevelopment of the Civic Center, the public realm is changing. Private development is enveloping most every blacktop parking lot with thousands of new homes—mostly rental—with ground floors activated with lobbies and common areas, as well as new restaurants and stores.

Hundreds of parking stalls—most utilized for providing a home for an automobile just portions of the day or week—are making way for thousands of homes, filling the missing teeth of the downtown fabric. Nonetheless, parking capacity will dramatically increase as each one of these new buildings accommodate parking multilevel garages that go below and above the street level. Like many of our urban communities across the globe, our ways of moving are changing, while walking, transit, and biking are experiencing their respective renaissance as new means of moving virtually and physically are rapidly changing distance and place. The space for parking cars in a lot or a structure might become obsolete in a decade, or not.

Most of those new apartment buildings being constructed will only serve the wealthiest residents choosing to live in the downtown. So the City of Long Beach is finally considering the concept of inclusionary housing where new development would be required to set aside a certain percentage of their new housing stock (often 20%) below market-rate for income-qualified households. From Ventura to Santa Ana to Los Angeles, inclusionary housing generates hundreds, even thousands of quality, obtainable homes for the most vulnerable families across the region. Adopting inclusionary housing two years ago would have resulted in hundreds of new affordable housing units coming online over this next year.

While much of the new downtown development will likely host the highest residential and commercial rates, this will likely influence the local real estate market as thousands of new units come online. Those recently refurbished but older apartment buildings with few amenities will find competition from buildings providing amenities like gyms, pools, theaters, doggy spas, and secured parking. The local market will fluctuate, influenced by the actual pressures of supply and demand, but perceptions of grandeur (still powerful) will hopefully not escalate further to the point of affordability.

Changes within downtown Long Beach and the surrounding neighborhoods physically began as mild but are escalating quickly, though appropriately as guided by previous planning initiatives. But at the same time, the composition of the community and the people have been changing rapidly. The question going forward is will our city be able to retain what remains of the culture in these neighborhoods—through inclusionary housing and tenant protections—and will the new development support these efforts or impede them?

Building a Balanced Long Beach

Written and Photos by Sarah Locke

Long Beach Heritage is a proud partner of the first annual Long Beach Architecture Week not only to celebrate our past, but to inspire possibilities for our city’s future. A powerful toolbox of historic preservation incentives has revitalized dozens of older buildings throughout our city and the benefits are apparent in our vibrant business corridors and charming neighborhoods. Compatible new development is necessary, but continuity of character is essential for authentic experiences. Architecture Week is the perfect opportunity to explore both old and new for a better understanding of the balance necessary to achieve a sustainable 21st century city.

The impossibility of predicting the future has never tamed our desire to dream of what can be built to achieve healthier, more productive societies. There are times during this quest when the damage can be brutal. We learned that the urban renewal strategies of the mid-20th century, which demolished entire neighborhoods to make way for new development, deeply scarred our cities. Not only did we lose significant buildings, but entire communities of people, primarily people of color, were displaced from their homes. Long Beach did not emerge unscathed and the historic districts of Bluff Park and Willmore City would have been lost had historic preservation advocates not stepped in. Long Beach Heritage was founded out of this effort. Nearly 40 years, later our member-supported nonprofit organization continues to help connect our past with the present to make informed decisions about our future. We have worked with lawmakers and united community leaders to develop historic preservation incentives and connect people with places to be revitalized. While it might be easier to wipe the slate clean and start over, a complex mix of old and new ultimately results in healthier cities and Long Beach Heritage has played an integral role in keeping older buildings in active use. Our 18th historic district was just added and we have more than one hundred local landmarks that contribute to our city’s economic vitality and unique character.

The most vibrant parts of our city are those with building diversity—a mix of older and smaller buildings integrated with compatible, new development. Pause to think about some of your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and retail. I bet many that come to mind are in older buildings. Maybe not a landmark, but an older building that has stood the test of time and has provided an affordable option.

for a new business to bloom. Rose Park Roasters is a great example, whose first location is in an older building in the Rose Park Historic District. Their success resulted in a second location in the recently rehabilitated Professional Building, a local landmark that is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Areas that include older buildings attract and retain more new businesses and skilled workers than neighborhoods without building diversity and the majority of our women and minority-owned businesses are in these neighborhoods. Insert compatible new buildings within these areas and the result is a variety of housing and commercial spaces that provide options for everyone.

Most of our buildings were constructed between 1920 and 1967, which makes many eligible for historic preservation incentives that produce economic, social, and environmental benefits. The Mills Act Program has assisted dozens of historic property owners who receive a tax reduction by signing a contract to direct those savings into building improvements. The future is more secure for one of the most notable buildings of our skyline, the Villa Riviera, because of its enrollment in the program and the commitment to historic preservation it ensures. These benefits reach far beyond our most iconic buildings to smaller buildings, too. The positive impact of this program has been felt since its inception in 1972 and valuation limits were changed this year to make the program even more successful. At the federal level, the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program has resulted in more than 2.5 million local jobs and leveraged $144.6 billion in private investment nationwide. Income-producing residential and commercial buildings that are individually landmarked or part of a historic district can benefit. It boosts the potential for buildings, such as the Breakers Hotel to be reimagined as an exciting new project. Long Beach’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance has been another boon for the revitalization of older properties. There are countless examples of unique spaces inspired by this ordinance, including Long Beach Rising climbing gym in the former Packard Showroom. It has also provided an infusion of housing, such as Temple Lofts and the senior community of Immanuel Place. Not only do each of these projects inject character into their respective neighborhoods, but each time we choose adaptive reuse over demolition we demonstrate our commitment to sustainability. We must stop sending useful buildings to the landfill.

Any property built before 1970 meets the age criteria for landmark consideration and the field widens every year with new possibilities for adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of buildings from our more recent past. This has been tricky territory for preservation advocates who saved places like Bluff Park Historic District. The dream to transform the bluff into high-rise apartment living resulted in the completion of only one Modern addition, the Galaxy Tower, in 1966 by local architects Gibbs & Gibbs. The building is now unquestionably significant, as are many of the firm’s buildings across the city. In the shadow of Galaxy Towers sits the Marina Tower Model that was a model home for another high-rise.

planned for the shoreline. Long Beach-based architect Edward Killingsworth, famous for his contributions to the Case Study House Program, was behind the abandoned project. Killingsworth was among the most celebrated modern architects of his era and our built landscape is dotted with homes and office buildings he designed. The Long Beach Boulevard corridor in Bixby Knolls has a high concentration of his work, including the architect’s former office. It is being restored by its current owner, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod FAIA, and at least a half dozen other Killingsworth buildings are occupied by those who appreciate the significance of their properties.

Not as lucky as their Killingsworth counterparts, the former Hof’s Hut (demolished) and Combs Office Building (drastically altered) were neighbors on the northern end of this stretch of Bixby Knolls. Currently at risk for the same fate is the Petroleum Club, a distinctive Modern building by local architect J. Richard Shelley. While the many losses of Modernism are felt deeply among architecture enthusiasts, there is also an undeniable void left in the communities these places served. Both the Petroleum Club, which closed on March 31st of this year, and the Hof’s Hut had been popular social gathering spots for more than half a century. Cultural significance carries as much weight as architectural significance. After all, we live our lives in these buildings and create memories that shape our identity, but they can also provide a tangible connection to powerful figures and events from our past that inspire change for our future. A modest bungalow on Lemon Avenue owned by civil rights leader Ernest McBride is a local landmark for this reason and adding more places of cultural significance needs to be a focus of preservation efforts. Long Beach has such an important story to tell, including historic places associated with the LGBTQ community and people of color, and it is not enough to capture those stories as words on paper. Not only would the addition of more inclusive landmarks reflect our diversity, but these places would also be eligible for incentives that historic preservation has to offer. It could make a difference for a legacy business trying to thrive in the face of increasing rent or prevent the displacement of a population that feels the pressure of the current development boom.

Long Beach is a community that values diversity and creates opportunities for people to come together and make good things happen. Consider Long Beach Heritage your partner in utilizing historic preservation benefits that can ignite positive change in your community. Decades of growth and change have shaped our distinctive character and together we will build upon our story. Connect with us during Architecture Week to learn more about the work we do and join us for the 18th Annual Great Homes Tour or other exciting events during this celebration of Long Beach.

The Architectural Vision of Miner Smith

Written by Dr. Nobert Schurer

Photography by Elizabeth Martinez

Even a casual observer can usually identify some of the main architectural styles popular in Long Beach, including Victorian, Colonial, Craftsman (a.k.a. Arts and Crafts, California Bungalow), Mission or Spanish Revival, Italian Renaissance, Tudor, Art Deco, Ranch, and Mid-Century Modern. In contrast, it is much more difficult to identify individual architects. As a matter of fact, the only Long Beach architect most locals could probably name is Mid-Century Modern designer Edward Killingsworth.

However, there is one more builder whose houses are immediately recognizable, at least for residents of Belmont Heights: Miner Robert Smith. Miner Smith homes are unmistakable for their imitation tree-trunk planters, which are either set in ogee arches in porches or separately against the exterior walls. In a combination of Victorian and Arts and Crafts elements, Smith embodied in his buildings his unique vision of the connection between architecture and nature, practical living, and modern luxury. For that reason, his architecture should be much better known.


Miner Smith was hardly the kind of individual you would expect to produce distinctive architecture. He was born in Uhrichsville, Ohio in 1877 to Richard Louis Smith and his wife Sarah, née Cushing. During Miner’s childhood and youth, the working class family moved to Tennessee and then to Philadelphia. Richard Louis was a stonecutter, and Miner followed him into that profession. A stonecutter was perhaps the lowliest of the jobs associated with the building trade: the stonecutter received rough lumps of stone from the quarry and shaped them into smooth blocks for construction. A stonecutter, then, would hardly be expected to have a unique vision of architecture.

Miner Smith probably received no education beyond an apprenticeship as a stonecutter, maybe with his father. He worked in Philadelphia, Newark, Schenectady, and New York, and according to family lore, he was responsible for some of the stonework on the Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. In 1896, he married Elizabeth W. Brown, a first-generation immigrant from Scotland (some of her siblings were still born in Europe); the couple eventually had five children.

Los Angeles

In 1904, Miner and Elizabeth decided that they no longer wanted to deal with East Coast winters and moved to Los Angeles. There, Miner’s vision began to take shape as the stonecutter transformed into a designer with his M.R. Smith Stone and Mantel Company. It is unclear when exactly this company was founded, but it was incorporated in 1909. As advertisements for Smith’s products at this time show, he was already developing his characteristic nature-inspired look for fireplaces and porches, but he was not yet building entire houses.

For a few years, the M.R. Smith Stone and Mantel Company was quite successful, and Smith probably contributed dozens if not hundreds of fireplaces and porches to homes in the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to track down these specific design elements, and of course many houses have disappeared over the course of the past century, so we will probably never know how many there were.

Sadly, tragedy struck the Smith family in the early 1910s in several forms. First, as court documents and newspaper articles show, his company went bankrupt in 1910. Then, in December 1911, Miner and Elizabeth’s oldest son tragically died in a street car accident on Pico Street in Los Angeles, leaving the parents in a deep depression. For several years after that, the family’s movements are hard to trace, and it remains unclear how or whether Miner participated in World War I.

Long Beach

However, he resurfaced in 1918 in Long Beach, where he went on to realize his idiosyncratic architectural vision when he built entire houses. Since he lacked formal education, he could never become a registered architect, but as a builder and contractor mostly building on spec (i.e. not for clients) he was able to shape these houses in any way he saw fit. In other words, the unique homes you might recognize in Belmont Heights today were the creations of a fertile, creative, and self-taught mind.

Long Beach in the 1910s and 1920s was a growing town, first because of the building boom associated with World War I and then because of the local oil boom. As a sign of their new importance, many citizens of Long Beach built large Victorian houses in the Wilmore City and downtown areas. On the other hand, Long Beach was a kind of vacation community for wealthy Angeleños: there was a street car that went directly from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach, so many Los Angeles residents came down for the weekend. This promoted a simple Craftsman architecture with little need for ornamentation or ostentation and little storage space.

“Bungalow Mansions”

In a way, Miner Smith took these two impulses and fused them into one: he advertised the houses he built in Long Beach as “bungalow mansions.” He went along with the contemporary Craftsman style of “California bungalows,” but he also turned them into what, at the time, were considered luxurious “mansions.” He numbered his “bungalow mansions,” and his last advertisement promoted “Bungalow Mansion #21,” so he built quite a few of them between about 1920 and 1925.


The luxury showed in several aspects of these buildings, which were all single-family residences. Many Miner Smith homes are notable for their high ceilings and high roofs with fake second-story windows, features that seem to have no structural significance, but make a statement in the neighborhood. A few houses have real second stories, and several of these have luxurious features such as rooms painted all around with classical or pastoral scenes or large ‘ballrooms.’ Apparently, one of these “ballrooms” was used during World War II for officers’ parties.

In addition, the quality of the workmanship was excellent: the homes Smith built easily survived the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, and most of them still stand 100 years later. In a Victorian rather than a Craftsman feature, the crown molding in many of Smith’s living and dining rooms was highly ornamental, with floral, agricultural, or military motifs. He advertised the use of electricity in his houses, which was a new and exciting feature in Long Beach. Most front doors have beveled glass, and the carving in some doors can be interpreted as an M for the builder’s first name.


In addition to luxury, Miner Smith’s vision included attention to practicality. Typically for Craftsman houses, he offered many built-in features such as hutches in living rooms and ironing boards in kitchens. He was not content with these simple amenities, however, but took them up a notch: the ironing boards might include sleeve ironing boards, and there might be built-in ladders in hallways to get to the attic. One particularly adorable feature in several houses was the built-in shoe-shine stand at the back door, where you could clean your footwear before leaving or entering the house.

Practical items extended beyond built-ins as well. In several houses, Smith included a small safe where residents could secure their valuables. In others, he incorporated a pass-through at chest level so that items could be passed from the kitchen and hallway into a bedroom. One house contains a switch in the upstairs master bedroom that turns off all the lights in the house, which even today causes electricians to marvel.

More generally, Miner Smith designed his homes as true living spaces with an excellent work flow. For instance, public and private spaces (living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms) are separated from each other, and the seemingly unnecessary hallway between the two actually allows for movement without those two domains impinging on each other. The high ceilings and roofs allow for air flow, which combined with the vicinity to the ocean keeps the houses fairly cool. Until recent climate change, most of these houses did not even need air conditioning.

Architecture and Nature

But perhaps most interestingly, you can still recognize Miner Smith’s vision today by his integration of architecture and nature. In the traditional scholarly narrative, California architecture experienced a gradual opening of previously closed spaces. In the Victorian home of the late nineteenth century, rooms were closed and dark, each room with its own door and small windows. In Craftsman architecture of the 1910s and 1920s, at least the living and dining rooms were opened into one, and the low construction implied a connection to nature. Finally, in the Ranch style developing from the 1930s, the buildings themselves became smaller, but had large sliding glass windows that opened into private outside spaces in what became known as indoor-outdoor living.

The journey described in this narrative is certainly true in general, but Miner Smith offered a unique detour. In his Long Beach architecture—informed by his experience as a stonecutter on the East Coast and his experiments with porches in Los Angeles—exterior ornaments, fireplaces, and interior decorations brought nature into the house and tied the inside of the home to the outside.

In the clearest expression of this combination of architecture and nature, the distinctive and extravagant fireplaces of Miner Smith’s “bungalow mansions,” each of which is different from all others, are designed to look like they are made of tree trunks and branches. In other words, they imitate a fire at a campsite in the forest—in one case, down to a mockingbird’s nest for matches.

Most of the fireplaces have an ogee arch, which echoes the ogee arches Smith set into many of his porches. In these arches, there are imitation tree trunk planters, so the interior fireplace and the exterior porch elements are based on the same geometrical design. Both were made from artificial stone, a kind of cement that could be shaped in molds or by hand. The planters are the epitome of Smith’s design vision because they had practical use for flowers,

expressed luxury because each was made by hand, and combined architecture and nature in a unique fashion. Similarly, Smith often used door plates with motifs such as twigs and acorns.

Architectural Vision

At the same time, the combination of practicality, luxury, and artistic vision was ultimately Miner Smith’s downfall, at least in financial terms. He tried to sell his last three “bungalow mansions” in Long Beach from 1924 for $50,000, which at the time was an astronomical sum. Since he mostly built on spec (i.e. had to front the investment for these luxurious homes), he went bankrupt when they did not sell. He built a few smaller houses and tried a development in the Long Beach neighborhood of Naples in a completely different Spanish Mission style, but ultimately failed.

Already 55 years old, Smith tried to set up business in San Jose for a year in 1932, but that business folded and he returned to the Los Angeles area where he spent the rest of his life in Montebello. He still had a business card as “State Licensed Contractor,” but there is no evidence that he tried to build any more homes. Instead, he focused on smaller projects such as artificial stone fountains (still in his characteristic tree-trunk style), exterior remodeling, and outside ovens. He also spent a lot of time with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who remember him fondly to this day.

When Miner Smith passed away in 1965 at the age of 88, his family eventually disposed of most of his personal effects, including molds for some of his design elements. Fortunately, they kept three picture albums he had used to promote his business. These albums, which document his architectural vision, are now preserved at the Historical Society of Long Beach. Like today’s residents of Belmont Heights, you will easily recognize this vision in the houses he built. In the future you will hopefully also remember the name of our unique builder and contractor Miner Smith.

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod: Advocate for Community and Preservation

Written by Brian Trimble

Photography by Julius Shulman

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA, is the founder and principal architect at KSMA Architecture, Inc. (KSMA). Her firm provides full architectural services from concept design through construction and oversight. KSMA is located here in Long Beach, in Edward A. Killingsworth’s original architectural offices, a building that was recognized by the National AIA with the Award of Merit in 1956. As a long-term Long Beach resident, Kelly has served on a number of city commissions and is committed to serving our community. An adamant supporter of arts and education, Kelly continuously gives her time and expertise, especially here in Long Beach.

In fact, I know Kelly through her participation and support of arts programming at California State University, Long Beach. I’ve worked with Kelly on several events and programs where I have asked her to give talks, help support educational programming and open her offices for visitors, as she is doing for Long Beach Architecture Week. She loves our city and continuously gives back in so many different ways. In some sense, her commitment to community and her work in architecture are related, as much of her professional accomplishments are in the field of historic preservation and the protection of our community’s cultural assets.

Her list of accomplishments is extraordinary and her nationally recognized work has had an enormous impact on the architecture field. Kelly was the first female recipient of the prestigious Gamble House Scholar-In-Residence Program when she was an architecture student at the University of Southern California. She was also the first female recipient of the University of Southern California School of Architecture Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015, one of the most prestigious architectural honors in the United States. Her work and advocacy in heritage conservation and historic preservation has helped integrate the art and science of conservation of place, culture and tradition into mainstream architecture and planning. Kelly has helped set new national standards for best practices in architectural preservation.

Most notably, Kelly is recognized for her award-winning preservation work on Charles and Henry Greene’s iconic Gamble House in Pasadena. The Gamble House is considered to be one of the most important works of domestic architecture in the country, right up there with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. She has become the expert in the preservation of the two brothers’ distinctive Arts & Crafts-period homes. Not long ago, I was watching an episode of the PBS series Craft in America that was focused on the work of Greene and Greene, and there on my screen appeared Kelly, talking about the Gamble House. Other notable Greene and Greene properties her firm has worked on include the Robert Pitcairn Jr. House and the Caroline de Forest House, as well as the Jennie Reeve and Adelaide Tichenor homes, respectively, with the last two located right here in Long Beach. Kelly’s firm also oversaw the preservation of the Japanese house at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The Greene brothers looked to the architecture of Japan to inspire their own wooden structure, and Kelly has had a long-standing interest in the art and architecture of Japan. She was a natural choice to oversee the project. In 2013, her work for the Huntington received six major preservation awards.

Kelly’s preservation work isn’t limited to premodern wooden structures. She has a keen interest in building materials from different periods, including premodern and postwar construction materials. On a recent visit to her offices, I asked about a large set of meticulously organized and labeled terra-cotta roof tiles that were laid out on a table. Kelly explained that she and her staff had been analyzing the different roof tiles for a current project. I am an avowed architectural-preservation lover and I had a little architecture geek-out moment when she explained what they were doing. I’ve actually had several of those moments talking to Kelly over the years.

Her dedication to “getting the details right” extends to all projects, including  the conservation-based restoration of her offices, originally designed and occupied by the celebrated Long Beach architect Edward A. Killingsworth, FAIA. This project is a true labor of love, as Kelly was a longtime colleague, friend, and protégé of Killingsworth. Kelly and her team completed phase one of the restoration master plan in 2012.

If you have driven by the property lately, you can see that Kelly and her team are currently implementing phase two of the preservation plan for the building and landscape. This didn’t happen over night, as Kelly has been planning this for a long time. Three years ago, when I was working with a fantastic community committee to organize the first Long Beach Modern Home Tour for the University Art Museum, Kelly took me on a tour of her offices and talked about her plans. She is honored to be the steward of this landmark structure. We talked specifically about the large sliding glass doors, which are one of the signature elements in many Killingsworth buildings, and the difficulty she was having finding a craftsperson who had the knowledge and skill to do the necessary repair and restoration of the original  sliders, with their expansive panes of glass and slender steel frames. Three years later, that work is finally being completed.

Kelly utilized these skills when she completed the preservation work on Richard Neutra’s 1953 Hafley house in Park Estates, one of only a few Neutra houses in Long Beach. Luckily, she had access to Neutra’s original plans and original correspondence between the client and the architect. Like the Greenes, Neutra was an architect that Kelly can identify with, as he paid meticulous attention to details in his plans, providing Kelly with a fairly clear roadmap for restoration. This project was another lesson in materials, as the home had originally used Formica in the kitchen and bathrooms, fiberboard and Masonite. Who would have considered the preservation of Formica and Masonite? Kelly did. There were also missing light fixtures that Kelly could not source for a reasonable cost, so she had them fabricated to match the original lighting design. The results are beautiful and subtle. This project garnered no less than six preservation awards, including Modernism in America awards from Docomomo US and an American Architectural Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

While Kelly’s work takes her to many places around the country, she still calls Long Beach home and she is deeply rooted in this community. She continues involvement in civic projects and organizations around the city and you can see her work in several preservation projects. As a full-service architecture firm, her practice designs new construction and adaptive reuse projects. The KSMA team’s strong reputation is based on providing clients with creative and innovative design solutions. Luckily for Long Beach, our community gets to be the beneficiaries of Kelly’s commitment to community and preservation.

Long Beach, Deco, Destiny and Distinction

Written by John Thomas, Art Deco Expert

Photos by Chris Launi

At 5:54 p.m. on March 10, 1933, a massive 6.25 magnitude earthquake rocked Southern California. Wood-frame bungalows lost their chimneys and engineered concrete buildings had minimal damage, but unreinforced masonry buildings near the epicenter failed catastrophically. Long Beach was particularly hard-hit. People who had awakened in town with a variety of building styles fell asleep that night in a landscape that must have appeared to be decimated. The stage was set for Long Beach to arise from the rubble, developing with a new architectural style known as Modernistic. Commonly referred to as Art Deco or Art Moderne, the name is derived from the 1925 Paris Exposition. The exposition celebrated a new design influence that would be embraced throughout the world by designers, artists, and the public.

The structures that collapsed completely or were damaged beyond repair were mostly built of brick and not designed to resist lateral stresses, while others were constructed with inferior mortar. Many had elaborate towers and architectural ornamentation that provided additional hazards, such as raining down with bricks, plaster and decorative elements in every aftershock. The hospitals were overwhelmed with people with both minor and critical injuries, yet between 115 and 120 people lost lives amid falling debris and collapsing buildings. Navy personnel stationed just offshore were on hand to assist with disaster relief and policing.

If the earthquake had struck earlier when children were in school, the loss of life would have been tragically higher. Nearly three quarters of the city’s schools were destroyed. As a result, on April 10, 1933, the Field Act, named for the California Assembly member who was instrumental in its passage, was enacted. It stated, “Because schools are funded with public money…legislative statutes require children to attend schools, and the school buildings performed so poorly in the earthquake,” all future school construction must be earthquake-resistant.

In order for Long Beach to begin the recovery from the devastation of the earthquake, the Public Works Administration (PWA) purchased over $500,000 in school bonds to reconstruct new school buildings demolished in the earthquake. The Works Progress Administration sponsored murals and sculptures in civic buildings. From 1933 through 1940, Long Beach was the recipient of funding through the federal government to rebuild, replace and build new buildings that would serve the community. Today, many of our school buildings are fine examples of the PWA’s Modernistic style and contain wonderful examples of art murals, mosaics and paintings.

The Art Moderne, or Art  Deco style, in addition to being stylishly modern in 1933, also met criteria of earthquake safety. Most Art Deco buildings were built of reinforced concrete and decorations, such as bas-reliefs, and were integral to the architecture rather than separate pieces added on.

In 1927, the Long Beach Architectural Club was formed. Many club members embraced the new Modernistic style, and by 1933, were influencing the post-earthquake rebuilding efforts. Those architects were perfectly poised to accept work, both to build new buildings or to design new facades to buildings minimally impacted by the earthquake. These members included Ceil Schilling, Nat Piper and Hugh Robert Davies.

There were three primary Art Deco styles.  Zigzag, or Art Deco, which were most popular in the mid to late 1920s, featured straight lines with decorative towers and setbacks. Although lavish and expensive materials were often used, many buildings featured bas-reliefs on concrete, stone, or brightly colored terra-cotta that were carved, molded, or inset directly into the walls.

By the 1930s, the machine age was a fact of life, celebrated in art and architecture. Streamline Moderne was all the rage with simplified lines that emphasized the horizontal curves and speedlines punctuated by unexpected vertical height from pylons. Both styles were used throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, including residential, commercial, and civic buildings.

Also in the early 1930s, the PWA  was a design style found in our civic buildings and schools. This symmetrical design with monumental architectural verticality often featured central towers, bas-reliefs and used glazed polychrome terra-cotta ties as façade surface decoration. The use of glass blocks and metal railings were typical elements welcoming the public to main entrances of the buildings.

Although Long Beach has undergone a number of urban renewal efforts resulting in significant buildings being demolished, the city still hosts an impressive collection of buildings built during the late 1920s through 1939. Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and the PWA design styles remain part of the city’s architectural vocabulary and reminds onlookers of the impacts of the Great Depression, the 1933 earthquake and the passion and deliberateness to rebuild Long Beach into the community we enjoy today.

Take a Trip Back in Time (Without Leaving the City)

How a stay at the Hotel Royal in the East Village Arts District puts you right at the center of old-meets-new

By Rachel-Jean Firchau and Jacob Sigala @racheloffduy / @jacobsmedium

The East Village Arts District is known for its lively bars, funky shops, and tantalizing restaurants. In recent years, it’s become the place to be for unique inspiration and a charming art scene that invites people of all walks of life. And, floating just above the buzzy storefronts and sidewalks is something many notice but few fully understand. The near-100-year legacy of architecture that weaves this neighborhood together.

To really understand a place is to spend time there, right? So, despite having called downtown Long Beach our home for over 2 years now, we pack our bags for a weekend staycation in one of Long Beach’s most historic pockets of town to get a better understanding of where we are, and where we’ve been, as a city.

On an overcast yet promising Saturday morning, we check into the Hotel Royal on Broadway. The hotel’s 23 suites are nestled within a building that boasts over 90 years of legacy, and you notice from the moment you walk in to the lobby that there’s a real personality to the place. Built in 1923, Hotel Royal is a proud institution of the East Village, with signature Art Deco characteristics peppered throughout its exterior blue and white walls. This family-owned hotel is known for bringing a sense of family and home into every element of your stay, from the cheerful staff, to the pension-style rooms, to the communal kitchen and fresh cookies that greet you when you arrive on your floor. But nothing instills this sense of community more than its guests, which we encounter plenty of. On more than one occasion throughout the weekend, hotel guests excitedly chatter to me just how many times they’ve stayed with the Royal. “7 or 8 at least” seems like the number to beat. I start to imagine that this kind of fierce devotion has been a part of the building’s identity for as long as it’s been around.

Our room was in the Hotel Royal East, a brand new (5 weeks old, at the time of writing) annex of bigger, more modern accommodations that boast king size beds and a keyless entrance. A text-for-assistance concierge by the name of Ivy helps us remember what the code to our room is just moments after we were told, and promptly forgot, at check-in. The contrast of using Ivy on our Google Pixels while in a historic building turns out to be a really staggering and fascinating experience.

The moment you step outside Hotel Royal to explore the eclectic neighborhood, which you can do on foot or with one of the hotel’s bikes, you begin to notice the sheer number of other remarkable buildings lining the sidewalks in front of you. I find myself in a moment of strange contemplation – where these buildings always here? How have I not noticed before? Or have I? What else haven’t I paid attention to?

For instance, the Lafayette Complex on Linden is the kind of building that you can’t help but wonder about. I peer deep into the windows of the former hotel’s lobby, ornamented in gold with rich, dark carpets, trying to imagine its heydey. This Spanish Renaissance style series of buildings dates all the way back to 1928, so I can only pretend to grasp the stories it has to tell. After a few moments of being nosy, I shrug away my curiosity and go straight for the wine – District Wine, that is, which is located on the ground floor. This place is everything from a casual hangout spot to a meeting place of Long Beach’s working professionals, which, I think, seems fitting for the building that it’s located in. We are met with a couple wine flights and a selection of tapas – roasted bar nuts (quite honestly, the most sophisticated and delicious bar nuts I’ve ever had in my life) and jalapeno jam with goat cheese, and we drink up the buzzy energy of the space.

Across the street is the Broadlind (Broadway + Linden, get it?) Hotel building, also built in 1928. We have it on good authority that Thai District is the place to be, so that’s where we head. Now this is where I begin to get a little nervous. I hate Thai food. At least, I think I hate Thai food. I do, don’t I? I grew up repulsed by the idea of peanut sauces, and I smugly let that thought extend to become my definition of an entire country’s cuisine. But we go anyway, drawn by the brick building and the warm, lantern-lit space inside.

What happens next is a flurry of disorienting sensations. I’m happy. Everyone is happy, and friendly, and proud. So proud. The two-story restaurant is beautifully decorated and the smells that fill the air are inviting. We order a crab and ricotta-filled appetizer called Golden Bags, and they taste better than any other bag I’ve ever seen, or worn, in my life. Enjoying that, I get bolder, fueled by the tang of lychee sangria, and decide to go all-out and order drunken noodles. I find myself sitting back and questioning how I let 20+ years of my life go by assuming Thai food wasn’t for me. A nightcap of coconut panna cotta and a second lychee sangria reassure me that there was so much more life to be lived, now that Thai food is a part of it.

We leave, thanking the owners of the restaurant, Andre and Ty, profusely for converting me into a Thai food supporter, and grab a bottle of rose at the Village Market before heading back up to our room at the Hotel Royal to watch Netflix and pass out in a food-induced coma. I feel surprised at how unique my perspective of this city became after staying in a hotel not far from my own home. If you stay here, you’ll see for yourself exactly what I’m talking about.

Just before crawling into bed to go to sleep, I open the curtains to peek out at the beautiful buildings we just spent time in, and I wonder what kinds of evenings have been spent in these buildings over the past 90+ years. No Netflix, and no Golden Bags, sure, but I’d like to think there was dancing, and champagne, and ritzy business meetings, and romance, and friendships. 90 years from now, if these buildings still stand, I hope people think of us, and the new era of lives, and restaurants, and hang-out spots we’ve come to call home in the new, but also old, East Village.


Cocktails in Historic Places

Long Beach Architecture Week serves as a vibrant social, cultural and economic community partner in the city of Long Beach and celebrates architecture, design and art through exciting and entertaining architecture tours, educational programs and events that highlight the best of what Long Beach has to offer.

The Blind Donkey- 

The Blind Donkey can be easy to miss with its lowkey entrance, a set of stairs that lead underneath the Broadlind Hotel. The Broadlind itself gives off an air of mystery with its dramatic red brick arches and massive windows. The building is done in an Italian Renaissance style with some old school New Orleans vibes. But down in the basement is where you’ll find me. The building was built in 1928 making the basement prime real estate for a high-end speakeasy/gambling den, and the Blind Donkey does not forget its roots. They serve up some delicious whiskey cocktails and have over one-hundred different whiskeys on site. The whiskey sours are an eternally popular and equally refreshing drink concocted with their house-made sour mix, simple syrup, and most importantly whiskey.

District Wine-

Imagine this: you’re walking down the street in Long Beach, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all you’re missing is a drink in your hand. If you’re like many people in Long Beach’s history you’re headed for the Lafayette building. The Spanish Baroque style building has had a fun reputation since its inception; from secret basement speakeasy’s to the famous tiki-themed Outrigger Room in the 1950s, the Lafayette continues its march into drinking infamy with always trendy wine bar, District Wine. Plenty of natural light and a dark wood interior leave you feeling elegant sipping on your favorite glass of red or one of their signature wine cocktails in this historical hotspot! Can’t decide on one thing? Ask your bartender for help constructing a flight.


The 4th Horseman-

Beer, pizza, and Renaissance Revival architecture? Sounds like a party to me. Everything about the Walker Building on Pine Avenue is eye-catching. From the smooth concrete detailing to the large glass windows and extravagant pillars, you could see how for almost fifty years this was a place where people would come and spend money. Named after the department store it housed, the Walker Building now uses its beauty to house Long Beach residents, an architecture firm, and one very interesting bar/pizza parlor. The 4th Horseman is a horror lover’s paradise, equal parts kitschy and scary, but beyond the fun ambiance, you go to the 4th Horseman for beer. With a rotating selection of bottles, cans, and drafts there’s bound to be something for everyone, which may as well be Long Beach’s motto.


It can be difficult to appreciate your own city. It’s easy to become desensitized to the beautiful buildings with surprising histories we pass by every day. I hope during Architecture week you