Preserving MCM – Recent Steps in a SoCal Tradition

Southern California was a popular location for mid-century modern builders to make a name for themselves through enchanting, iconic residential and commercial constructions. There have been advocates for the protection and preservation of these beautiful architectural gems for decades, though many MCM structures have been lost due to neglect or redevelopment. Preserving MCM legacy sites proves to be very difficult, yet hope is renewed as a result of the current revival in modern design.

In recent years, coinciding with the aging, nostalgic baby boomer population and renewed popularity of mid-century modern design, architectural preservationist groups have gathered strength, taking action to save many historical MCM properties. For example, we’ve seen great effort towards preserving Neutra designs in Orange County amongst other campaigns. Here are some heart-warming stories of communities working hard to save other MCM landmarks in Southern California.

Eichler in Orange

Historic District Designation for Eichlers in Orange

In June 2015 the City of Orange received a petition signed by 80% of the city’s Eichler property owners in support of establishing a historic district designation for the neighborhoods. Accordingly, the city recently announced that it would hire a historic preservation consultant to oversee the historic designation of the city’s Eichler homes.

Eichler patio

The designation will set forth design guidelines formed with considerable help from the community. These standards will limit and regulate exterior changes as well as provide instructions on permissible methods of such changes, including additions and solar panel installation. The city has already conducted a historic resources survey and will next develop a historic district overlay zone and adopt these design standards, under the supervision of the historic preservation consultant.

The Eichler tracts in Orange include a total of 350 properties constructed in the 1960s. City officials and residents feel strongly that the preservation measures will benefit both the owners and community due to increased property values as well as pride in where they live.

Beautiful Case Study House 23C from the front

Keeping Case Study Homes Safe in La Jolla

La Jolla residents are well aware of their city’s historical significance as the area boasts carefully preserved landmarks and residences throughout. This is due to the fact that owners are required to abide by strict regulations to preserve older buildings. The San Diego Historical Resources Board designates historical sites in the area and regulates large-scale renovations on older structures. Owners looking to make significant changes to buildings over 45 years old must go through a review with the board in order to get approval.

The city of La Jolla recognizes the multitude of unique architectural design styles and encourages residents to study the style of their home in order to maintain the aesthetic in a remodel, while adding any expected creature comforts.

Dining Room in Case Study House

In July of 2013 the city celebrated the historical designation of Case Study 23C on Mt. Soledad, in La Jolla. The Case Study houses were a collection of Mid-Century Modern homes designed by different notable architects of the era and commission by Art & Architecture from 1945 to 1966.

The goal of the Case Study homes was to bring about models for low-cost housing in a modernist style. 35 homes were commissioned but only 25 were built. The homes became well known as true gems in architecture, despite using inexpensive materials and building techniques. Case Study 23C was one of the Triad, a 3-home construction by Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc. dating back to 1960. The other 2 homes did not achieve historic designation.

La Jolla residents are passionate about protecting their historical buildings with remarkable efforts for preserving MCM structures in the city. The La Jolla Historical Society even features self-guided tours of the Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods of the area, amongst other historic sites.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences

Preserving MCM in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home a great many MCM sites built by various architects. Since 2013, eight Los Angeles Case Study Homes have been listed in or recognized as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Activists continue to gain strength as they advocate for preserving MCM structures throughout the area.

Neutra VDL Interior preserving MCM

In January of 2017 Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, approved 24 new sites to the National Historic Landmarks list, including the Silver Lake, Los Angeles Neutra VDL Studio and Residences. Celebrated modernist architect Richard Neutra constructed the buildings to serve as his home and design studio and is now a resource for Cal Poly Pamona’s College of Environmental Design and the community.


Looking to help the preservation efforts by getting involved or buying your own historical MCM home? Contact us today! We’d love to help get you started.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.