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Verdugo Views: Saving Doctors House took patience, tenacity and love

Verdugo Views: Saving Doctors House took patience, tenacity and love
This logo, designed for The Glendale Historical Society in 1979, represented the society's first project: moving the landmark Doctors House to Brand Park. The logo was retired in 2012. (Courtesy of the Glendale Historical Society)

In 1979, Carole Dougherty volunteered to help save the historic Doctors House from demolition. But first she formed a new group and brought a preservation movement to life.

The house that triggered this movement was built around 1888 at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Belmont Street and had been occupied by four successive doctors.

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One of two Queen Anne-Eastlake style Victorian homes remaining in Glendale, it was designated a historical landmark in 1977.

Two years later, the property was sold to make room for an apartment building. Despite its landmark designation, the City Council granted demolition approval, saying they had no funds to save it, according to Marie Luft, author of "Memories of Glendale's Doctors House, 1979-1984, A Labor of Love."

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In a recent email sent from her new home in San Clemente, Dougherty recalled what happened next.

"Gertrude Day, wife of council member Jack Day, persuaded her husband to invite anyone interested in saving the Doctors House to a special meeting at City Hall," she wrote. "It was surprising how many people showed up. He, along with Carroll Parcher and Eric Schneirsohn, played a crucial role in saving the Doctors House."

At the end of that meeting, Day formed an ad-hoc committee and appointed Dougherty as chair.

"Although it was a big job, and something out of character for me, I accepted because I had been involved in preservation activities with Pasadena Heritage and the L.A. Conservancy and had access to people to advise the committee," Dougherty wrote.

She credits the first board members for the success of the new organization.

Among them were attorney Bill Heyler, who wrote the original bylaws, and Joni Atkinson, who wrote press releases, descriptions for their first house tour and history articles for the newly established newsletter, edited by Robert Newcomb.

Vonnie Rossman was ambassador at-large and Audrey Hales raised "much needed money" with her garage sales.

"Patricia Messina was very generous with her time helping to establish a professional approach to our house tours," Dougherty wrote.

An artist developed a logo, and they named themselves the Glendale Historical Society with the hope of reviving the original society, which had been active in the 1940s and '50s.

"That strategy didn't work," Dougherty explained in her email. Members of the original organization didn't join in any large numbers.

"Plus, I think the name was off-putting to younger people who were getting involved in preservation with its hands-on attributes over what was perceived as static old-fashioned history," Dougherty wrote. "I often heard us referred to as the Hysterical Society. It was a struggle to recruit members."

Once organized, Dougherty searched for someone to oversee the Doctors House project. She regularly attended council meetings and met Marie Luft, who was there to speak on another issue.

"Her presentations showed an articulate woman who was thorough and prepared — someone who was a bulldog but in a charming way," according to Dougherty's email.

It took a lot of persuasion, but Luft eventually agreed to take on the huge task. Her engineer husband, Glenn, became involved after the house was moved to Brand Park.

"Without Marie and Glenn — there would be no historical society or Doctors House today. And that is not hyperbole," Dougherty wrote.

In 2009, the society honored its founding president with the Carol Dougherty Lifetime Achievement Award.

"She was the spirit and life force of the Glendale Historical Society, serving as vice president and president the first years,'' according to current president Greg Grammer.

"It's so good to see where the historical society is today," Dougherty wrote. "It was our dream in 1979 to see it thrive with membership, funding and influence. I feel so good about having been there in the beginning and having my dream come true."

To the Readers:

An email from Arlene Vidor, a frequent user of the Brand Lateral and many other Verdugo Mountains and San Raphael Hills trails, arrived regarding the Aug. 12 column about Brand Park trail maintenance.

"I want to extend kudos to Stephen Webber and Marc Stirdivant. To have so many scenic trail hikes available almost right at one's doorstep is a rare gift to us," she wrote.

"The Brand Lateral is exceptional due to the steep grade and various footing challenges — definitely a unique trail that needs tender loving care, and the work that has gone into it really shows. Special honors to these two gentlemen.''

KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at katherineyamada@gmail.com. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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