Seeley's Building is labeled a historic resource

SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — The Seeley’s Furniture building has for the past 62 years dominated the southernmost entryway in the city, a track record that will continue for decades more after the City Council last week put it on the registry of historic resources.

Placement on the registry comes as Los Angeles-based Creative Environments of Hollywood prepares to rework the site for tenancy after sitting vacant for more than 10 years at the corner of San Fernando Road and Brand Boulevard.

As a designated city historic resource, the building will retain its architectural significance even with the planned site additions and exterior alterations — physical changes that have found a welcome audience in local preservationists who say prolonged vacancy can make historic sites exponentially harder to refurbish.

“You can’t have it be frozen in time,” said Arlene Vidor, president of the Glendale Historical Society, which is supporting the modified use of the former furniture warehouse.

“It has to be usable.”

One of the most iconic sights on this gateway to Glendale from Atwater Village, the old building was the former home of the George Seeley Furniture Co., which took over the site in 1931.

It was built in 1925 in the Spanish Baroque style by prolific architect Alfred Priest, who according to city reports oversaw the construction of Security Trust and Savings Bank, which is also on the city’s Register of Historic Resources.

It then underwent several phases of construction that, in the 1940s, bore the Art Deco/Moderne style of the current building.

Its prominent location at a busy intersection, combined with its rooftop neon-red “Seeley’s” sign and stoic look, has put the building among a select few properties — especially along the San Fernando Road corridor — that are instantly recognizable among Glendale residents, historic preservation advocates said.

The City Council on April 1 approved a recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission to add the building to the historic resource registry — a move that planners say will require property owners and future tenants to preserve existing facades and architecture in their new plans. The Seeley Family Trust applied for the historic designation.

The site is already being marketed as “1800 Brand” on a Creative Environments of Hollywood website for its “extensive restoration” of its “much loved exterior facade.”

The development firm will construct a new two-story building on the south parking lot that, in addition to a remodel of the existing building’s interior, will be capable of housing 40 commercial units, according to a report to the Historic Preservation Commission in January.

Among the proposed exterior changes to the Seeley’s Building are seven new windows to be cut into the San Fernando Road facade at the second-story level and a rooftop penthouse structure that would be set back far enough from existing walls to not affect the overall historic significance of the structure, city planners said.

Representatives for Creative Environments of Hollywood could not be reached for comment, and they have not submitted a complete development application to the city, Development Services Director Philip Lanzafame said.

Even when the project is officially proposed, it must still undergo design review during a public hearing before the Redevelopment Agency.

Vrej Mardian, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said when the project as proposed is fully realized, it should help a prominent corner that is “kind of run down right now.”

“I think it’s a great thing to keep the building and bring it to life,” he said.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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