Rock solid

Owners of a historic home in Burbank with old Glendale ties have taken steps to make sure it remains a showcase for years to come.

Known as the Rock House, the home was built in 1922 at 902 E. Olive Ave. in Burbank, and recently became the first residence in the city to be designated as a landmark.

The original owner, Orlando C. Lane, whose family moved to Burbank in 1889 and later to Glendale, attended schools in both cities, according to the "Burbank Community Book."

Lane became a prominent businessman who acquired a dealership called the Ford Agency in 1912. He sold the company and retired in 1923.

The home was sold to the second owners in 1968, and in 2004 Gregory Rehner and Kirk Solomon bought it. The kitchen and two bathrooms were renovated, and the landscape was replanted with drought-tolerant California natives.

The outside walls — the hallmark architectural element of the house — are made of river rock from Tujunga Creek.

One of their major goals with the landscaping was to soften the rocks of the structure and walls surrounding it, Solomon said.

No changes were made to the original structure, but additions made by former owners were removed, he added. Gone are the enclosed patio and wood shed built in 1952.

"We actually brought the property back to its original footprint," he said.

The interior, which is just short of 1,500 square feet, has been restored using a combination of new materials and refurbishing some of the original features, Solomon said.

"We don't have a lot of information about what it looked like so we tried to figure out how to stylize it to be reflective of the architectural period without drawings or photographs of what the original house looked like," he said.

In November, the Burbank City Council declared it the first residential landmark in the city.

"We have other buildings like City Hall and the Post Office, which are on the National Register of Public Places," said city planner Michael Forbes. "The Rock House is considered a Historical Structure of Merit because of the river rock architecture. This house is one of only a handful of buildings in the city that uses that unique river rock."

It's also one of the few remaining homes from the 1920s that is in its original condition, he added.

"That designation stays with that property even if it's sold, and any future modifications to the house would have to be reviewed by the Heritage Commission," Forbes said.

Although the Burbank City Council adopted the City Historic Preservation Ordinance in 1994, no residential properties have gone through the landmarking process.

Rehner and Solomon came to city officials asking how they could achieve the designation, said Joy Forbes, deputy city manager.

"I can understand the apprehension of applying for landmark designation because people are unaware of what that means can be done to their property," she said. "But once they have all the facts, they understand modifications can be made to a property that is designated. We're excited that these owners wanted to make sure that the home was properly cared for in the future."

Only the exterior is considered for landmarking, Rehner said. And the designation is a real plus for homeowners because over time it will increase property values, he added.

"With the potential of historically designated homes and preservation districts available to a home buyer, Burbank is now able to compete in a real estate market that typically went to Pasadena and Glendale," he said.

Solomon and Rehner are now applying for a designation under the Mills Act, a state law, which would allow them a reduction on their property tax, providing they use the savings on maintaining the Rock House.

For more information on the landmark process, call (818) 238-5250.

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