Cultural heritage groups are negotiating with Texas rancher Barton English to recover fixtures he had removed from the Blacker House and to find a new buyer for the landmark Craftsman-style residence.
English, a rancher from Stonewall, Tex., who collects turn-of-the-century decorative art pieces, purchased the house for $1.2 million on May 1, and a few days later removed all of its original light fixtures. The 78-year-old house, which sits on an acre in the exclusive Oak Knoll neighborhood, is the largest and one of the best works of Charles and Henry Greene, Pasadena architects who were pioneers of the Craftsman style, also known as the California bungalow style.
Pasadena Heritage, a nonprofit preservation group, plans to submit a proposal for an option on the property to English in the next few days, Executive Director Claire Bogaard said in an interview Wednesday. The option would permit the group to market the house through a real estate firm at a price acceptable to English, Bogaard said, adding that she would not release details until the proposal had been presented to English.
"I'm optimistic that somewhere out there is an agreement that's going to work," Bogaard said. "I just feel with the amount of publicity surrounding this house, there is going to be a buyer."
Bogaard said that she, Pasadena Heritage Chairman Alan Thompson and William Cathey, an attorney and chairman of the Preservation Fund of Pasadena Heritage, drew up the option. She said she plans to help organize a new group to raise funds to help market the house.
Removal of the fixtures--specially designed by the Greenes for the house and estimated to be worth at least $1 million--drew cries of outrage from cultural heritage groups in the community who charged that the house had been "raped," and aroused the ire of preservationists throughout the country.
Pasadena City Director Rick Cole, who met with English last week in Austin, Tex., said English expressed surprise at the strong reaction, but indicated he would consider an offer to resell the house--with all fixtures intact. Cole said that English also told him he believed he had the legal right to do what he wished with the house and its contents.
At a special meeting of preservationist groups on Monday, Cole said he had promised English that most of their four-hour conversation would remain confidential and he would not disclose details of their talk. Cole also offered his services as a go-between if additional talks with English are necessary.
English reiterated in a telephone interview Wednesday that he would consider an offer from a buyer approved by a legitimate preservationist organization. English would not disclose how much money he wants for the house.
"I'm just waiting to hear from them," English said, adding that he has imposed no deadline for negotiations.
Several people involved with the effort to recover the fixtures have voiced concern that some of the items may be sold to collectors before an agreement can be made with English. English, however, said he remains in control of the fixtures.
Meanwhile, the city has adopted an emergency measure to halt the removal of any more fixtures after it was rumored that English might remove the front door and leaded stained glass windows from the house. Cole said English has no plans to remove those items from the house.
Planning Commissioner Bill Ross suggested last week that the city use the "Oakland Raiders approach" and condemn the property if negotiations for the return of the fixtures and resale of the house to more friendly hands are unsuccessful. Ross was referring to the City of Oakland's attempt to use eminent domain to keep the Oakland Raiders football team in that city, which is still on appeal in the state courts.
But Mayor William Bogaard said condemnation would be an extreme measure. "I would be hesitant to consider using eminent domain for this kind of goal," he said.
Added Cole: "If we can reach an amicable agreement, that would be preferable."