May 032011
 



Looking to transform a grimy-looking stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council applied this week for city grants to help pay for what’s being called the Route 66 project. The proposed streetscape improvements would gussy up 22 blocks of the corridor between Hoover Street to the 101 Freeway.

Armen Makasjian of the Santa Monica Boulevard/Route 66 Task Force says his group hopes to capitalize on Route 66′s reputation as one of the nation’s best known highways. The effort would be modeled in part after West Hollywood’s own stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, he tells Curbed.

Granted, East Hollywood’s goals are more modest: The Task Force wants more trash cans, cleaner bus stops, and less tagging. Longer-term goals include adding Historic Route 66 marker signs, benches, bike racks, and decorative trash cans. Anything to lure more pedestrians and more shops, really. “We haven’t had any new businesses moving in,” says Makasjian of the area. “You have to have more services.”

About 50 people, including business owners, and City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents the area, attended a recent neighborhood meeting to talk up goals for the area. “Santa Monica, like Melrose, is one of those great streets that have languished,” said Garcetti at the meeting, encouraging the group’s work.

Invoking Route 66, which at one point traversed eight states, and was disbanded in 1985, as a historic marker is often successful. The Cucamonga Service Station off Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga was designated a historical landmark two years ago because of its position as a pit stop on the highway.

Michael Wallis, author of the book Route 66: The Mother Road said he was pleased to hear about East Hollywood’s plans. “It’s music to my ears to hear about these grassroots efforts,” said Wallis, who said he has seen numerous examples of thoughtful preservation and commercial efforts along the highway.

And while East Hollywood may not be seeking tourists, Europeans — particularly the French and the Brits — “love to drive the entire route,” he said. Viva la Santa Monica!

Jan 162011
 

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – There were many reasons why Ed Dietl founded the Historical Preservation Association of Rancho Cucamonga in 2005.

But his main motive is to save the abandoned gas station on Foothill Boulevard west of Archibald Avenue, which in its heyday, served the migrants who left behind the Dust Bowl in hopes of a brighter future.

Dietl recently stood in front of the Mission-styled structure and weighed the future of the old gas station.

“I’m really kind of sad about it,” he said. “I sure would like to see this place saved.”

Dietl and many others invested in the preservation of Route 66 have been dealt a major blow. During the recent storms, the back building that once served as a service garage

Dietl, with the Historical Preservation Association, wants to preserve the old Cucamonga Service Station along Foothill Boulevard in Rancho Cucamonga as a possible Route 66 museum. But the property is owned by Lamar Advertising, which has requested permission from the city to demolish the rain-damaged structure. The sheet metal roof couldn’t hold the rainwater and collapsed.
“I’m really disappointed that this happened but I’m still excited about the opportunity to save it,” Dietl said.

The gas station, characterized by its signature square columns in front of the garage, was not damaged.

Planning Director James Troyer said with two walls of the service garage still standing, it’s possible to save the building.

The property is owned by Lamar Advertising, which also owns the two adjacent billboards at the intersection. The billboard company recently requested permission from the city to demolish the rain-damaged structure. The city is expected to make a decision this week.

Two years ago, the city gave the Cucamonga Service Station, also known as the Richfield Gas Station, historic landmark status. The move was opposed by Lamar Advertising because such a designation lowered the property’s value.

With the historic status in place, the property owner now must gain the city’s permission before tearing it down.

Dietl wants to buy the building. He wants the property and its neighboring lot on the west side be developed into a Route 66 attraction – with a local history museum, gift shop and a place where classic car enthusiasts can visit and have their pictures taken.

Through the years, Lamar Advertising has listed the price from as high as $600,000 to as low as $125,000, Dietl said. But the historical group doesn’t have the funds to purchase the property or fix up a structure that doesn’t have electricity or water.

Deputy City Manager Linda Daniels said the city is in negotiations with Lamar about acquiring the property.

“We’re interested in both the property and the building,” Daniels said.

These are shaky times for local fans of the nation’s famed highway.

Earlier this month, a Route 66 memorabilia store housed in an 110-year-old building, closed because of an unforgiving economy.

Jim Conkle, founder of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, said Foothill Boulevard stalwarts Magic Lamp and Sycamore Inn are fine additions to the historic thoroughfare but aren’t enough to draw tourists.

“That can’t happen with a restaurant or two. We need the gas station,” Conkle said.

The recently damaged garage was built in 1910, according to Dietl, and was moved back when the road was widened in 1914. That was the year when the gas station with an island of gas pumps framed by arches was built.

It served as a pit stop for travelers on the Chicago to Los Angeles route and was later a hub of old Cucamonga. It was a gas station in the midst of vineyards.

The station closed in the mid-1970s and served as various small shops until the 1980s. At that point, the once bustling station became a victim of neglect, weather and vandalism. Those three factors were damaging.

“One alone is severe, but when you add all of that, the place deteriorated to where most people look at it as blight, but there’s so much potential,” Conkle said.

For the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, saving the former gas station is one of five priorities for the Mother Road.

“We’re not trying to bring back outhouses and un-air conditioned cars. We’re trying to bring back something that exists nowhere else on the road,” Conkle said. “Rancho Cucamonga is sitting on a gold mine, and they don’t realize it.”

For more information, visit www.route66sos.org