In a city that has a bit of a reputation for knocking things down (Rainbow Pier, Municipal Auditorium, a handful of City Halls, the Pacific Coast Club, the Jergins Trust), Long Beach Heritage is a heroic organization that heavily promotes the preservation and rehabilitation of notable and beautiful structures in the city. And, despite the fact that over the past couple of decades there’s been an untoward enthusiasm for buying perfectly good and charming houses and razing them to make room for some frequently spectacularly gaudy oversize homes.

For three decades, Long Beach Heritage has given its Preservation of the Year awards to deserving homeowners, architects, builders, writers and designers who have shown a respect for the history of the city and its architecture.

This year’s 31st Annual Preservation Awards will be held on Thursday, March 14, aboard the Queen Mary.

A trio of remarkable homes are among this year’s winners. Both the Edward and Laura Killingsworth Residence and the John McWilliams Residence are frequently honored examples of mid-century modern architecture and were both featured in last year’s Modern Architecture Tour put on by Cal State Long Beach’s University Art Museum.

Heritage is honoring the Killingsworth family, Ed’s widow, Laura, now 95 years old, and the couple’s children with a Preservation Award for carefully maintaining the family home, built in 1961, on Virginia Road in Los Cerritos.

Architect Ed Killingsworth’s family members laid some 9,000 bricks in the entry to their home on Virginia Road. Courtesy photo

“A house like that is always going to need work; it’s an aspect of the architecture,” said Steffie Hands, a real estate agent and a co-chair of Heritage’s nominating committee. “The entire family, including Laura and their two sons, worked on the house while it was being built, and they have continued to preserve it for more than 50 years, so we wanted to honor the family more than the actual house.”

The John McWilliams Residence is another famed example of mid-century modern architecture, designed as a tribute to the Case Study houses built between 1945 and 1966 when Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned famous architects (including Killingsworth) to create inexpensive homes to supply the post-war housing boom, spawning the mid-century design that exploded in popularity in Southern California and is now enjoying a renaissance in the market. The home is now owned by the Nicolai family which has had to modernize the house, “but is committed to preserving it,” said Hands.

“We appreciate families being sensitive to upgrades and consulting experts when it comes to making decisions,” she said.

A lesser-known residence, a Craftsman bungalow built by Miner Smith in 1921, will be honored with a Rehabilitation Award, thanks to its owner Dominique Hohman’s meticulous work on the house in the year since she’s owned it.

Interior of the Miner Smith Craftsman bungalow on Mira Mar Avenue. Courtesy photo

While most basic bungalow-style homes sold for less than $5,000 in the 1920s, Smith-built homes, which he described as “bungalow mansions,” went for more than $10,000 because of their many expensive features, including built-in cabinetry, leaded glass windows and faux concrete logs adorning the front porches and fireplaces. Hands said there are at least 25 Miner Smith bungalows in Long Beach, mostly in Belmont Heights.

Among other award-winners to be honored at the March 14 banquet will be:

  • Preservationist of the Year: Louise Ivers, author of two books on Long Beach architecture and a former Cultural Heritage commissioner.
  • Preservation Technology Award: Rancho Los Alamitos for the seismic stabilization of its historic ranch house.
  • Rehabilitation Award: George’s ‘50s Diner, for its rebuild following a fire in 2016.
  • Cultural Resource Study Award: Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau for digitizing Harvy Keller’s film “Long Beach Treasures.”
  • Restoration Award: Rockwell Properties for restoring the mosaic at International City Bank.
  • Rehabilitation Award: Summerjax, for its work on the Clock, Waestman, Clock Law Offices designed by Killingsworth, Brady and Smith in 1957.

A cocktail reception and silent auction begins at 5:30 p.m.; dinner is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $120, and can be purchased through March 13 by clicking here.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.

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