A 40-year-old program for abused and neglected children in Highland Park has been dismantled, prompting concern among neighborhood residents about the future of the 83-year-old estate that was its home.
Hathaway Children's Services, a private, nonprofit child welfare agency, closed its residential treatment center Sept. 30 and transferred its remaining eight children, ages 6 to 13, to the agency's facilities in Little Tujunga Canyon.
Since learning of the closure, residents eager to preserve the estate's Craftsman-style main house and forestall development on the site have asked the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission to designate the building as a historical-cultural monument. Any changes to the house will require approval of the heritage board if it receives the designation.
Brian Cahill, Hathaway president, said that although the former program will not be reinstated, he hopes that the agency will resume operations at the site. Cahill said he will try to persuade the agency's board of directors to sell about 2 acres of the 2.8-acre property but keep the main house and reopen it as an outpatient and family counseling center.
The house was built in 1905 by Los Angeles architect Robert E. Williams. He and his partner, Robert Train, were the only architects associated with the Arroyo Guild of Craftsmen, a turn-of-the-century group that advocated handcrafted work over mass-produced design.
The house features a stained-glass window from Judson Studios, one of the leading stained-glass studios on the West Coast. Judson Studios' work adorns such buildings as the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Chapel of All Creeds in Washington.
Cahill and members of the agency's board said concerns about development of the property are premature.
"The facility is not going to close," said Brian Johnston, board vice chairman. "Some of the buildings are going to be knocked down and other facilities will take their place. Those facilities will do a different job. . . . Hathaway wants to reach into homes that are troubled and prevent kids from ever having to go to a residential facility."
The center, which is in a quiet neighborhood overlooking the Arroyo Seco, had housed 35 children in barracks-like dormitory and classroom buildings that Hathaway built in the 1940s. The children were generally referred by court order from various Los Angeles County social service agencies and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Cahill said he urged the agency's board to close the home because the dormitory buildings had deteriorated. He said a contractor's estimate showed that the cost of renovation would be too high. They were "just a little too run-down. The place no longer had the right feel for the kids."
Cahill said he would like to raze the dormitory and classroom buildings and sell the about 2 acres on which they sit for development as single-family homes. The issue is scheduled for discussion by the agency board next month, he said.
Signs of Wear
On a recent tour, the property showed signs of wear. Paint in the three dormitory cottages was peeling, the orange carpets were worn, and windows and door frames were sagging. A small pool to one side of the complex was filled with stagnant water and a classroom building was shut. The stairways and carpets of the main house were worn and the building was dark--what little light there was came through the large stained-glass window in the lobby.
"It's depressing to shut any program down," Cahill said, walking past the cottages with such names as Astros, Blazers and Pioneers. "It was clearly a very warm and nurturing place for the kids to be."
The 40 staff positions at the Highland Park center were phased out, and most of the therapists and counselors who worked there have resigned, Cahill said.
Hathaway has two other Los Angeles facilities, the one in Little Tujunga Canyon, which includes a residential treatment center housing 126 children, and an outpatient services center in Lake View Terrace.