Posts tagged ‘historic preservation’

April 19, 2013

Happy Record Store Day

“Certain beautiful experiences can only happen in the environment of a record store.” — Jack White


February 19, 2012

Cultural tourism: a thing of the past?

Some years back, cultural tourism was the on-trend catch phrase du jour for bureaucrats seeking ways to draw consumers to their fair cities. Predictably, Ventura glommed on to it, if for a brief moment, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was right around the time the San Buenaventura Conservancy was born and there was some great energy swirling around historic preservation.

At a time when Ventura was seeking identifying factors in order to brand itself for tourists (the beaches and weather weren’t quite enough) it seemed to make perfect sense to spotlight our other great resource: history and architecture. Unfortunately, the city’s vision began to plummet in tandem with a failing economy and all that sort of went poof!

Since then the city has reorganized and begun seeking new, creative ways to get people excited about visiting Ventura and doing business here, but cultural tourism seems to have gone the way of most trends, despite being a solid foundation to build something lasting upon.

An article in the L.A. Times about a neat event in Palm Springs, a city which knows what it is and how to market itself, made me nostalgic not only for mid-century whimsy and practicality (a personal interest) but also for the days when the folks working for the city of Ventura had some heart and vigor.

August 5, 2010

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.

September 3, 2009

E.P. Foster Day

E.P. Foster's once grand estate lies in shameful state of decay. Photo by Jake Sommer

E.P. Foster's once grand estate lies in shameful state of decay. Photo by Jake Sommer

Sunday Sept. 5,  is E.P. Foster Day. For those of you who don’t know who he was, Foster was one of Ventura’s pioneers, a generous man who donated huge amounts of land to the city for public use. The fairgrounds, beautiful Foster Park, Dennison Park, Camp Comfort and E.P. Foster Library as well as the trees at Hobo Jungle and other gifts countywide are just part of his legacy.

As  I reported in today’s VC Reporter, a new organization is forming with the intent to finally restore the house.

That we allowed the unofficially historic house to fall into such a state of disrepair does not reflect well on a city with such a rich past and a cultural tourism agenda. It’s also not surprising. We’ve already lost many of our great treasures due to ignorance and greed.

The Mayfair Theater, replaced by condos, it’s marquee left to rot in an abandoned motel parking lot. The Ban-Dar, hastily demolished in favor of a “mixed use” project that more than 6 years later has yet to materialize.

The list goes on. Let’s not add to it.

Visit the San Buenaventura Conservancy and to learn more.

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