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Verdugo Views: Many volunteers helped make local districting effort a reality

Verdugo Views: Many volunteers helped make local districting effort a reality
In 2004, the Glendale Historical Society sponsored a restoration fair and home tour. The restoration fair was held at Ard Eevin, built in 1902 for Dan and Margaret Campbell. (Courtesy of Patricia Messina)

Many residents played a part in Glendale’s historic districting effort. It took several years and many volunteer hours to become effective.

This column is the story of one woman — Patricia Messina, who supported the effort at its beginning and later helped organize a restoration fair and historic home tour.

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It is also a brief overview of the historic districting effort, provided by community leader Arlene Vidor.

In the mid-1990s, Messina headed the makeup department on the hit television shows “Murphy Brown” and “Seinfeld.”

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One of her coworkers was a part-time real estate agent. When they weren’t working on their shows, the duo searched for Messina’s dream home: a vintage house — in Glendale — untouched by renovations.

After an exhaustive three-year search, Messina, who relishes old-world details, finally found the perfect home: one that was still in possession of all its details.

“Thankfully, every window latch, door knob and 1927 tiles, including the exterior Koi pond, are still intact,” Messina told me in the first of a series of emails.

She and her husband, talent manager Terrance Hines, moved here in 1997. They loved their house and their neighborhood and wanted to do their part to preserve both.

In 2001, when Messina heard of a community forum, sponsored by the Glendale Historical Society at Brand Library, to discuss preservation issues, she attended.

Arlene Vidor, a former president of local historical society, said over the course of several emails that the forum was initiated by Realtor Gerri Cragnotti, who had come to a society’s board meeting to ask its members to sponsor a community forum that would explore how the city could improve its controls over inappropriate remodeling of period homes.

“A large and very angry crowd came to the forum to vent frustration about the deterioration of northwest Glendale’s historic areas,” Vidor said. “The historic district committee of [the Glendale Historical Society] was launched from that meeting. TGHS asked for volunteers to join the committee and several people, including Patricia, stepped up to the plate to get the process started.”

Messina said she helped spread the word by hosting a tea party. Along with a neighbor, Helen Sipsas, she canvassed the neighborhood, inviting people to her home.

She polished the silver, washed the vintage china her mother (a former Pan Am stewardess) had collected from all over the world, and then opened her door to neighbors to discuss protecting their cultural and architectural heritage via a “historic districting” movement.

Messina later joined the historical society’s board and, in 2004, chaired a restoration fair and tour of historic homes. Committee members included Hines, Sally MacAller, John LoCascio, Mike Resnick, and Vidor, according to a tour brochure provided by Vidor.

The restoration fair, with vendors, was held at Ard Eevin, a landmark home then owned by MacAller, who later restored it and had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Attendees toured Ard Eevin and the vintage homes of Gary Nicholson, Dennis and Carin Greco, and Al Sophianopoulos and Jeff Trachta.

“Patricia and Terrance got young professional actors to be docents and some were so convincing that people thought they were architects,” Vidor wrote.

“The tour program bolstered community awareness of our historic residential housing stock and garnered support for an ordinance change in Glendale,” she added.

Messina eventually left the board because she had been elected to the board of governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. That commitment, “along with 12-16 hour film days on set, soon became all consuming,” she wrote.

The historic districting effort continued to build momentum.

“About 150 people showed up to voice their support at the first City Council presentation,” Vidor wrote.

It took “a huge grass-roots, community effort,” Vidor recalled in one of her emails. At the beginning, some City Council members, as well as some citizens, were “very resistant to the concept, but both the community and City Council ultimately were supportive, and Glendale joined the ranks of so many cities across the country that recognize and protect their historic neighborhoods.”

During that time, Elaine Wilkerson became the new city planner and, according to Vidor, “ was helpful in facilitating the laborious process of ordinance development. The tide began to turn as community involvement expanded.”

In 2007, the district design guidelines and ordinance were approved by the City Council, according to Jay Platt, senior urban designer with the Glendale Community Development Department.

And the final word on this comes from a Vidor email. “Both the Los Angeles Conservancy and the American Planning Assn. recognized Glendale for the work that was done to bring a robust historic preservation program to the community.”

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