Ebell Preservation Master Plan Project Commences

from Christy McAvoy, Director of House & Grounds

December 2, 2021

Ebell of Los Angeles Wilshire StreetIn 2018, as part of the discussion of the Strategic Plan, the club identified a need for a “master plan” to better understand the responsibilities of owning and maintaining an historic building.  Previous House committee chairs Amy Vuckovich and Caroline Moser were committed to developing an overall master plan and were able to get the goal into the Strategic Plan.  Based on that goal, the Preservation Master Plan is being developed to include 1) a general conditions assessment of the building and 2) a framework of priorities and guidelines that will provide a proactive approach to maintenance and rehabilitation.

Our home, a 1927 complex consisting of a campus, theatre, and gardens, is a designated historic structure, listed in the Los Angeles list of Historic Cultural Monuments and in the National Register of Historic Places. The building provides spaces which further the Club’s mission of service and education. Constructed of quality materials, the Club reflects state-of-the-art construction for its day.  The women of The Ebell have used those spaces to educate, entertain, and provide social service to the community ever since.  We have lovingly maintained the structure and grounds, upgrading where necessary for comfort and security, while preserving the architectural features and spaces which make the building unique.

The 75,000 square foot structure is complex. Behind the elegant meeting spaces lie dozens of functional spaces which are the places where the real work gets done.  There are dozens of closets to aid in organization of activities.  A full basement houses mechanical equipment for heating and cooling and miles of electrical wiring.  The theatre has dressing rooms and rigging for lighting.  A wing devoted to staff offices goes unseen by most members.

As a registered historic structure, The Ebell is committed to maintaining its complex with the guidance of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, guidelines written to assist owners maintain their facilities appropriately.

In 2014, the Club used a grant from the Saving America’s Treasures Program to produce an Historic Structures Report, which describes the building’s history and its primary spaces.  That identification allowed us to begin a discussion about maintenance and rehabilitation of the materials and systems which allow us to do our work and to provide event, filming, and meeting spaces for the community. In the intervening years, major work was done on the HVAC (air conditioning) system, the elevator, and third floor spaces such as the terrace and the Small Theatre as well as the exterior landscaping around the Theatre and the interior garden. Structural engineer Mel Green has been assisting the Club in complying with a city ordinance designed to strengthen non-ductile concrete buildings, a multi-year process. In 2020, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provided a grant to study the railings in the garden and accessibility issues.  This study was used as a “pilot” project to establish a format for decision-making and prioritization of projects. A team of preservation professionals, led by historic architects Peyton Hall of Historic Resources Group and Kaitlin Drisko of Drisko Architecture, worked with the House, Theatre, and Grounds (“House”) Committee, Ebell Friends, and staff to come up with the next steps for the garden’s railings and other repairs.

In October 2021 the Board committed funds to begin a comprehensive plan in a format that is both thorough and accessible to decision-makers, members, staff, and vendors.  Ebell Friends secured a second grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the first phase of the grant.  The first phase will include:

  1. Assembling all prior documentation on previous major projects and produce a project organization statement identifying purpose, scope, methodology and goals;
  2. Creating a format for using these documents and subsequently produced studies;
  3. Creating a set of “as built” drawings (a “measured building survey”) which augment the original Sumner Hunt drawings that can be used by contractors, events staff, and others to program the building. This project is set to begin mid-December 2021 and will be available for use by the master plan team in January;
  4. Initiating a space-planning or “programming” study to make recommendations for the most efficient use of the building spaces by members, staff, special events, filming, and the community. This will involve discussion with the House, Collections, and other Committees, and staff;
  5. Identifying “character-defining” features and materials of both the interior and exterior of the building and make preliminary recommendations on their condition;
  6. Conducting an analysis of fire and life safety systems and lighting.

The Ebell has again retained Historic Resources Group, Drisko Architecture, and Arup to produce the above documents.  Based on their findings, they will assess the attributes and deficiencies of the building to compile a prioritized matrix of recommendations for the Board. The first phase of the plan will take approximately five months. Based on the information acquired in the first phase, the Club may identify further phases based on the need for additional targeted studies. Cost estimates, needed for grants and fundraising, will also be acquired.

Our campus has served our mission well over its almost 100 years, and the master plan will allow it to continue to do so for the next century. I look forward to speaking with all of you about your ideas about this project.

Please direct any questions regarding this initiative to Christy McAvoy, Chair of House, Theater and Grounds, President Patty Lombard, or Executive Director Stacy Brightman.