Tale of Two Cities: Arcadia and Bygone Arcadia

(Left to Right) Roger Chandler and Tom Beck at last week’s meeting. Chandler was the sole no vote of the Historic Preservation ordinance. – Photo by Terry Miller/Beacon Media News

Noted historians slighted by longtime councilman’s remarks

By Terry Miller

In many ways, one could describe the people of Arcadia by paraphrasing Charles Dickens. It was the best of times it was the worst of times, wisdom and foolishness, when discussing historic preservation last Tuesday at the council meeting.

During last week’s epic Arcadia City Council meeting on historic preservation, one councilman took great lengths to ridicule some highly respected local historians who have devoted their lives to preserving the history of Arcadia and when the councilman claimed the razing of Anoakia was due in part to an earthquake there was an audible gasp. “That place was destroyed by the Whittier earthquake. I don’t know if many of you remember the Whittier earthquake, it also took down the drive-in liquor store … it took down Anoakia big time,” Councilman Chandler said.

“I was taken [aback] by Roger’s tirade last night; so full of lies,” said Carol Libby of the Arcadia Historical Society and noted author of “Chronicles of Arcadia” in 2012 and “Faces and Footprints in Arcadia’s History” in 2014. “I thought of the report Martin Weil wrote on his review of the Anoakia Estate and wished I could have been able to force Roger to read it out loud to the audience there in the Council Chambers (Feb. 19).

“Roger must be a miserable man, historic preservation is right on the top of my list.”

Another author, equally stunned by Councilman Chandler’s comments is noted author Sandy Snider. “My stunned reaction at Roger’s tirade – It was, sadly, similar to what we heard during the Anoakia hearings. Carol [Libby] and I were just on the phone discussing this, and Carol thinks she may still have the report that a number of us collectively funded to counter the ‘house is falling down’ scare tactics employed at the time. We brought in Martin Weil, a noted preservation architect, and David Charlebois, a historic masonry expert, to conduct their own evaluation. As you can imagine, their findings were dramatically different than the story Roger related last night.

“As a side note, that Weil report was entirely funded by private citizens (Mary Dougherty, Carol, myself, among others) and given to the city for review. It was included in the final Anoakia report, a copy of which should be at Arcadia Library. My copy was left at the Arboretum when I retired, but not sure how carefully it has been curated since.

“What a wild show that was last night! Even without Roger’s dramatic rant,” concluded Snider.

Anita Baldwin’s Anoakia estate. – Courtesy photo

The following is a letter from Martin Eli Weil, restoration architect, addressed to Carol Libby dated Dec. 5, 1996:

“Dear Mrs. Libby,

“I have examined Anoakia on two different visits to the estate. My last journey to Anoakia was for [the] purpose of meeting with Mr. Lowry McCaslin and Ms. Sandy Snyder to discuss the future of the property.

“I believe that Anoakia is of great historical and cultural value for the community and the region. It is my opinion that there is an excellent possibility that the estate would be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I urge the Anoakia Committee to prepare and submit the nomination of Anoakia to the State Office of Historic Preservation.”

Here, in part, is what Chandler told a tired council and Arcadia citizens last Tuesday evening:

“This whole notion of Anoakia being taken away from us is just untrue. We had a tour by the McCaslin family, the owners of the property … City Council alone; not Carol Libby, not the Historical Society, but the City Council and the city manager went on a tour of this thing and they had unreinforced footings in the basement and there were offset as much as three inches where the earthquake had caused it to crack and break so there was hardly anything holding this place up. Parts of it were dipping. It was red tagged.

“McCaslin offered to sell it, it was in the multiple millions of dollars … people like you came up here, they made a big statement, they said let’s make a bed and breakfast out of it. I remember Mary Dougherty saying let’s make a bed and breakfast out of it. Who’s got the money?

“The McCaslin family offered to sell it. They offered to sell it to the County Arboretum; the Arboretum said no way, this place was destroyed. There was a notion they were just gonna pick up the bare frame of it and just drive it down the Baldwin underpass and drop it on the racetrack property. Who is good enough to say well we’ll do something there until we’re good enough to decide? And it wouldn’t fit under that bridge and they decided to go up over the 210 Freeway over the 605 and the thing would fall apart.

“Now none of these historians went on that tour. I don’t know what they want to tell you. That tour was an official inspection that showed that that place was demolished. We didn’t give [it] away. We allowed the permit to build. And this was like a huge, huge mistake. This was not chump change. And McCaslin offered anyone to buy it; nobody came up with the money. Nobody had that kind of money.”

February 28, 2019

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Terry Miller

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