A West Adams Heights Diamond in the Rough

Posted March 18, 2014
Sometimes a nondescript exterior hides a marvelous treasure inside. WAHA has quietly been working with West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill neighbors to save one such gem, a true diamond in the rough: the John L. Matheson/Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) California Mission Residence, designed by famed architect Fredrick Roehrig in 1909.
Located at 2067 Hobart in West Adams Heights, the house (pictured above left) was brought to everyone’s attention last year when it was advertised for sale as a teardown in favor of apartment units, and an estate sale offered not only belongings but also such house parts as the windows and light fixtures. The realtors to this date have yet to disclose to potential buyers that the property is located within the Harvard Heights HPOZ.
However, WAHA and the neighbors also learned that in the original 1998 historic survey for the HPOZ, the fact that the residence was designed by Roehrig was overlooked. As a result, the property was identified as a Non-Contributor to the HPOZ, which could mean its demolition would be more easily permitted (even though the zoning is relatively low density, another fact that the realtor seems not to be revealing to prospective buyers).
In October, concerned preservationists attended the Harvard Heights HPOZ board meeting to request that the status of the house be changed from Non-Contributor to Contributor, Altered, which would add significant protections. The interior of the residence is damaged from a previous fire, but most character-defining architectural elements—including exceptional brick work, exotic wood inlays, arched niches and windows and other Gothic Revival elements—are intact and restorable.
The original historic consultant had apparently not pulled building permits and did not realize that the primary changes to the exterior of the house took place during the HPOZ’s period of significance, and were done by a very significant later owner, the Mormon (LDS) Church, for which this residence was its California Mission and Western headquarters as well as the later home of the President of LDS’s California Mission, Henry H. Blood, the former Governor of Utah.
With a staff report still pending, the threat to the residence escalated in February, with would-be developers going to Building & Safety and the Planning Department to see how many units could be built inside the house (presumably by gutting it.)
Happily, Council District 10 staff and Council President Herb Wesson agreed that the community should not risk the loss of this historic gem. In mid-February, Council President Wesson nominated the Matheson/LDS Mission Residence as an Historic Cultural Monument. The Cultural Heritage Commission will tour the house later this spring, make a recommendation, and then the nomination will go to the full City Council for a final decision.