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[whitespace] New site proposed for historic building

Los Gatos--The Los Gatos Museum Association passed its first major hurdle last week in the effort to save a historic building from the wrecking ball, but the LGMA still has many more obstacles to clear.

The county Historic Heritage Commission allocated $212,500 to the association, which wants to save the nearly 100-year-old Oriental Building in the Santa Cruz Mountains by dismantling it and bringing it down to the town. But that allocation, which is less than half of the $500,000 the LGMA applied for, is just a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, and will be considered sometime in March.

LGMA Executive Director Beverly Pevarnick says she's also going to apply for funding from federal and state preservation grants and private donors to cover the rest of the costs. Pevarnick says an estimate by a house mover put the price of moving the building about $750,000.

The Sisters of Presentation, who own and operate the Preservation Conference Center where the house has sat damaged and unused for almost 10 years, have a permit to demolish the house, but have agreed to give the LGMA a reprieve until they can come up with a way to get the house off the property. Sr. Virgina Pflueger, the center's executive director, has said that renovating the building would be too expensive. It was knocked off its foundation in the Loma Prieta earthquake.

But even if the association gets all the money it needs to cover the costs of moving the house, there still isn't a place to put it.

Pevarnick says the LGMA's first tentative plan, to put the building behind the Forbes Mill Museum, isn't being seriously considered anymore because of concerns about flood control, accessibility and visibility.

Instead, she's eyeing an empty one-acre parcel at the intersection of Winchester Boulevard and Lark Avenue that's owned by the town. The parcel isn't used for anything except parking for a Goodwill collection trailer and seasonal uses as a pumpkin patch and Christmas tree lot.

"It would be an ideal spot for us if we can get the town to go along with it," Pevarnick said. Pevarnick says the site would allow room for parking.

One of the main reasons preservationists are determined to save the house, which was built in approximately 1906 or 1907, is that they believe it was designed by architect Julia Morgan. But this is yet to be proven, and whether or not it's true, the house unquestionably benefits from being set in an open space where it can be viewed from different angles--which is also the main reason officials don't want it to be tucked away behind the Forbes Mill building.

The town proposed putting a compressed natural gas fueling station for government vehicles at the Winchester and Lark site in 1997, but the plan was dropped after a storm of protest from some residents in the Newhall Avenue neighborhood. Since then, town officials have floated the idea of selling the lot, which is zoned for office use.

But Pevarnick hasn't given up on getting permission to put the house in Vasona Park. The idea isn't very popular with the county parks department, but Pevarnick says she's still planning to approach the county putting the house in the park.

After rebuilding and restoring the building at its new location, the LGMA wants to use it for exhibits and programs, or possibly as meeting space for neighborhood groups.

"We feel it would be great for almost anything we would do," Pevarnick said. The LGMA would still use its buildings at Forbes Mill and Tait Avenue.
Jeff Kearns

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Web extra to the March 4-10, 1999 issue of Metro.

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