Downey Council Votes to Save Historic Home

Times Staff Writer

Where grass and a picket fence once were, there is now a cement sidewalk; the road where horses once trotted is now lined with cars. But one of Downey's oldest homes, though weather-beaten, still stands.

The house, built in 1887, was to be demolished this summer to make room for a parking lot, but the City Council has voted unanimously to move the house to Apollo Park, where it will be restored to its original condition by the Downey Historical Society.

"This is really a great opportunity to teach our children about Downey history," said Joyce Lawrence, chairman of the Pioneer Cottage Committee and former president of the Historical Society.

The faded yellow house at Firestone and Paramount boulevards was once used as a doll hospital and now for storage by the cafe next door. Torn screens and broken windows provide a glimpse into the small, dusty rooms that were once occupied by the Dismukes family.

Edwin Price Dismukes, a nurseryman and one of Downey's pioneers, built the house for his wife and 11 children. One of the children, Margaret Dismukes, now an 83-year-old resident of Apple Valley, recently wrote a letter to the City Council supporting the relocation.

Lawrence said the Historical Society will offer public tours of the house, and Downey elementary schools will use it to teach students about the city's history.

Society to Pay Costs

The Historical Society will pay the $5,000 restoration costs from $10,000 the society raised to buy another house. The Rives Mansion, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1910 by Superior Court Judge James C. Rives. But the group was unable to raise enough money to buy the mansion on Paramount Boulevard and Third Street which was sold to a private party in 1984 for $440,000.

Moving costs, estimated at $5,000, will be paid for by the city with a $5,000 Community Development Block Grant, according to Laura Nash, a public works commissioner.

"This is the first time the city has helped move a historic house and we are really excited about it," Nash said. "This house is really representative of the pioneers that made Downey what it is.

Lawrence will use old photographs to guide the restoration of the 20-by-25-foot house. Old irons, lamps and other artifacts in the society's museum will be used to decorate the house, but Lawrence said most of the restoration will depend on donations.

"There is a lot to be done," Lawrence said. "But with the community's help, we could have this house back to its original state in time for its 100th birthday in 1987."

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