A sad week for Ventura preservationists

The sudden and shocking losses of both Suzanne Lawrence and the Foster House this week were especially painful for the historic preservation community.  Lawrence, a longtime historian and living history actor was very involved in the arts in Ventura County and many friends and colleagues are mourning her departure, among them, her daughter Gwendolyn Alley and preservation consultant/San Buenaventura Conservancy co-founder Cynthia Thompson. According to the Star, Lawrence passed away from a heart attack.  Her contribution to preserving Ventura County’s rich history and cultural legacy was well-known and her absence will be felt. She was in the process of cultivating an oral history library at the county museum. A memorial for Lawrence will be held at the Museum of Ventura County on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m.

While unfortunately there was nothing we could have done to prevent Lawrence’s passing, the complete destruction of the Foster House due to fire, was entirely avoidable. Despite valiant and tireless efforts by preservationists over the years, both the city and the school district (which owns the property where the Foster House stood) failed to take any steps toward restoring the home of pioneer E.P. Foster, despite the potential value to the community.

Perhaps an eyesore to the casual onlooker, the boarded-up and fenced-in 130 year-old house was a gathering place for many of early Ventura’s most notable citizens and a treasure to be cherished.  I toured the exterior and a tiny bit of the interior many times, but never had the opportunity to really explore it as i would have liked to. There was no shortage of ideas for restoration and resuse of the home for educational and tourism purposes, yet for whatever reason, no one with authority was ever able to make anything happen–and now it’s gone forever.

Of course the city never seems to have money to put into such a project,  but shame on the school district for allowing a structure of great historical importance to fall into obscurity, disrepair and the hands of vandals, eventually leading to its destruction. I don’t know when this city will truly grasp the significance of our historical structures, but if we don’t take seriously our roots as a city and the economic/educational potential of preserving our treasures, they will all go the way of the Foster House, the Ban-Dar, the Mayfair Theatre etc. etc. …

R.I.P Suzanne Lawrence–someone who understood–and goodbye Foster House: may your ghosts find their way.

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One Comment to “A sad week for Ventura preservationists”

  1. Thank you Michel, very beautifully and thoughtfully written. It truly has been shocking to lose my mother for me and for many of her friends; to also lose in the same week the Foster house (which my mom was so excited about saving) is hard to fathom.

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