Agreeing to a request from residents who want to preserve a slice of Redondo Beach history, the City Council unanimously approved a study into the relocation of two turn-of-the-century houses that are slated to be razed in November for a condominium project.
The $5,000 study by a structural engineer into the cost and feasibility of moving the 88-year-old Morrell house and the 83-year-old Venable house from the 200 block of N. Catalina Street was approved Tuesday and will begin immediately.
Jonathan Eubanks, president of the Redondo Beach Historical Society, said that after several months of searching, the society has a few possible sites for the homes but “nothing is guaranteed” as yet. The society would like to keep the houses in the city, he said.
“Because of the makeup of Redondo Beach, there’s not a lot of open space. But I try to keep myself optimistic,” he said.
The two Colonial revival-style homes were bought by Simon Chang of Redondo Beach separately in November, 1987, and February, 1988. The city’s Planning Commission approved his application for a 16-unit condominium project in August but imposed a 90-day stay on demolition. The stay expires Nov. 16.
“Time is of the essence,” said Eubanks.
Chang, who has agreed to donate the two buildings if they can be moved before then, said Wednesday that after that he will try to sell them for salvage, and if there are no buyers they will be razed.
“Each month we wait costs us more money . . . " Chang said.
The city has no land on which to relocate the houses, said Patricia Dreizler, director of the city Community Resources Department.
The homes are significant because of their age, architectural style and the contribution their original owners made to Redondo Beach, Eubanks said.
The two are among the city’s oldest houses and represent a style unique to older buildings in the city, Eubanks said. The Venable house is a 2 1/2-story rectangular clapboard and wood shingle building with a gabled front end. Most of the original windows, with single and double sashes, are in good condition.
The Morrell house, which is in worse condition than the Venable house, is a two-story clapboard building with a large front bay window and wrap-around front porch.
The houses “reflect a style of the turn of the century,” Eubanks said. But the owners also “took a bit of what they liked from a lot of different styles.”
The homes were originally occupied by J. Edward Morrell and Pierce S. Venable, two major figures from Redondo Beach’s formative years, Eubanks said.
According to Gloria Snyder, a historian and vice president of the historical society, Morrell had the home at 200 N. Catalina built in 1906 and lived there with his family. From 1923 to 1935 he was chief of the city Fire Department. He and his neighbor, Venable, were partners in the Venable & Morrell Grading Co. and the Redondo Realty Co. The construction company provided concrete and grading for many of the city’s major houses and buildings.
“They paved most of Redondo and half of Hermosa,” Eubanks said.
Venable also established the Redondo Milling Co., the Redondo Hardware Co. and was among the organizers of the Farmers & Merchants Bank. In 1905, he had the house at 204 N. Catalina built and moved in with his family. Venable owned several ranches elsewhere in Los Angeles County and served as one of the first trustees for Redondo Beach High School, Snyder said.
Venable also financed an automobile manufacturing company in Redondo Beach in 1908. It was a financial disappointment and closed after producing one car, the “Redondo Coyote,” she said.