A Salute to Old House Societies

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, House Styles, Old House History
Can I Picture Myself on This Front Porch? Oh Yeah!

Can I Picture Myself on This Front Porch? Oh Yeah!

I have become fascinated with an area in California I mentioned in my last blog post, Bungalow Heaven. When I first saw the name, I figured it was a nickname or perhaps even a joke, but the more I read about it, the more fascinated I have become. One reason is that I can definitely see myself as a bungalow person. I really like the architectural style, it seems simple and cozy, almost cottage-like. But the idea that a group of people concerned about saving their old houses and neighborhood, could get together and cause an area containing over 800 old houses to be granted landmark status is pretty amazing.

Bungalow Heaven

Bungalow Heaven came about during the early 1900s, when Pasadena’s population grew from 10,000 to about 45,000 in a matter of 20 years. The Arts and Crafts architectural movement was in full swing at the time, and a lot of people felt the bungalow was the perfect home for California. Ready Cut Bungalow Company shipped over 40,000 bungalow kits to the area during the time period.

Jumping forward to the 1980s, developers began moving in with plans of tearing down bungalows in the Pasadena area, and building apartment buildings. Bungalow Heaven residents took matters into their own hands, and got a majority of homeowners in the area to agree with having the locality designated a landmark neighborhood. This was not exactly an easy endeavor. It meant going door to door to over 800 homes and getting the owners to agree to give up some of their rights as homeowners–for example, having to get government permission before they could make certain changes to their homes. But the homeowners’ determination paid off; the developers were stopped and Bungalow Heaven continues to thrive.

Old House Societies

I have often mentioned the efforts people make to save old houses, and the families working to restore the old houses they live in and love, but I think I have failed to give adequate recognition to the old house societies that work to preserve the old houses and buildings in their town, county, or city. Everybody I know is busy; we all seem to lead lives where there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Yet there are people, just like the people who saved Bungalow Heaven, who belong to these old house societies and work to preserve the old houses and buildings of their neighborhoods.

The Old House Societies of Denver, Colorado and Bloomington, Illinois are two of the most well known, but these types of organizations exist all over our country. California seems to be very active with old house preservation organizations. In addition to the group at Bungalow Heaven, two other prominent California preservation groups are the Victorian Preservation Association of the Santa Clara Valley, and the Redlands Area Historical Society of Redlands, California. As an old house enthusiast, I would like to salute all of these organizations which work to preserve our history and our old houses.