A 1961 office building in the Wrigley neighborhood that was designed by famed architect Edward Killingsworth could be designated as a historic landmark by the City Council after the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission recommended it Tuesday night.
The building at 822 W. Willow Street was built as an office space for Wallace G. Berg, who ran an accounting practice out of it until moving to another building, which he also commissioned Killingsworth to help design. It’s known as the “Berg Office.”
It was one of the earliest works of Killingsworth’s firm, KBS, and includes some of the hallmarks of its design features like an elongated entry door that gives the impression that the door is much larger than it is, vertical windows and an enclosed planter in the building’s entryway.
Katie Rispoli Keaotamai, a consultant hired by the building’s owner for the landmark designation process, said the building would be the first midcentury building in the Wrigley Neighborhood to be designated, and if it is, it would help raise awareness of Killingsworth’s work across the city instead of just in the areas where it’s concentrated, such as Naples and Bixby Knolls, where his old office is.
Rispoli Keaotamai said the owner, Keiro Koga, also owns the Opdahl House in Naples, a home designed by Killingsworth and built in 1957, which is already designated as a historic landmark. The office building on Willow is currently a nail salon, but Koga intends to use it as office space for his import and export business.
Killingsworth and his firm worked on a few commercial projects before transitioning into hotel projects in the 1960s, but there are several local examples of his work. He helped design the student union building on the campus of Cal State Long Beach and worked on the old Long Beach Civic Center, which was demolished after the city moved into the current City Hall campus on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.
Under the city’s rules for historic designation, the Berg Office qualifies under two criteria, according to city staff. It’s associated with the life of a person important to the city’s past and it embodies distinctive characteristics of a period or method of construction or “represents the work of a master.”
In order to be eligible for landmark designation, a building needs to meet at least one of the four criteria included in the city’s cultural heritage ordinance, which also includes buildings “associated with events that made a significant contribution to broad patterns of city history” and sites that “have yielded or had the potential to yield information important in prehistory or history.”
The designation of the building as a historic site will now be forwarded to the City Council after the commission voted unanimously to recommend that the council approve its historic status.