OCEAN PARK — This Saturday, get a glimpse of history as the Shotgun House will be moved to its (hopefully) final resting place in Ocean Park, where it will serve as the headquarters for the Santa Monica Conservancy and as a preservation resource center for those who want to know about the benefits of preserving historic structures.
Officials with the conservancy have been waiting for years to move the historic structure. The move will take place at approximately 8 a.m. The permanent location is on Second Street across from the Ocean Park Library. The home will take its place among a cluster of other historic buildings, including the California Heritage Museum, Merle Norman Cosmetics office, the Carnegie branch library, and the Third Street Neighborhood Historic District.
The public is invited to watch as the house, built in the 1890s, is towed on a flatbed trailer from 16th Street and Colorado Avenue down Pico Boulevard and along Main Street. The trip is expected to take 30 minutes.
Fourteen years ago a largely unaltered shotgun house was nearly demolished and with it an important part of Santa Monica history. Due to the combined efforts of concerned residents, the former Ocean Park Community Organization, the Santa Monica Conservancy, and City Hall, the house was saved and designated a landmark.
Originally located at 2712 Second St. in Ocean Park, the 468-square-foot structure is a classic “shotgun” house, members of the conservancy said. Architectural historians believe this type of house was first seen in the Caribbean (resulting from a blend of African and European influences). By the early 19th century this modest type of structure had spread into much of the American South, via New Orleans. Over time, shotgun houses became ubiquitous in the rural South and were particularly common as dwellings for African-Americans.
Inexpensive to build, easy to transport and adaptable to diverse purposes, the shotgun style spread across the country. Shotgun houses found use during the Civil War as field housing, sprung up in mining towns across the West, sheltered railroad workers laying tracks across the nation, and offered economical shelter for people of limited means in many communities.
In Santa Monica and other resort areas, shotgun homes were also useful as vacation cottages, Lemlein said.
Historians debate the origins of the name “shotgun.” Some believe the word is a version of the Yoruba (African) word for house — “togun.” Others cite the simple floor plan of these dwellings. Shotgun houses are typically one-room wide and two or three rooms deep. Lacking a hallway, the rooms are aligned with connecting doorways so that a bullet fired through the front door would exit cleanly through the back door, according to the conservancy.
This house is also important for its links to local history, harking back to the early days of Santa Monica’s Ocean Park neighborhood. In the 1890s, Ocean Park was being subdivided and settled and was growing fast as a resort area. In Ocean Park’s first phase of development, shotgun houses were built or brought in by rail to serve as vacation cottages near the beach, according to the conservancy. This house was originally located just two blocks from the Santa Fe railroad depot in Ocean Park and within easy reach of the area’s tourist attractions. As such it is linked with one of Santa Monica’s oldest and most important industries — tourism.
The now-defunct Ocean Park Community Organization originally purchased the home and saved it from demolition. But when that neighborhood group folded after its chairman was accused of mishandling funds, the house was left without an owner at the Santa Monica Airport. City Hall took ownership and moved it a second time to a storage facility adjacent to Memorial Park to make way for construction of Airport Park.
In 2007, city officials settled on a permanent location, a parking lot next to the Ocean Park Library, also an historic structure. The conservancy was selected in 2010 by the City Council to manage it, agreeing to a 20-year lease.
The transformation of the Shotgun House into a Preservation Resource Center is supported by a $1.6 million fundraising campaign that includes hiring the conservancy’s first executive director and expanding programming and community education.
The conservancy still needs donations to reach its fundraising goal and is asking for those with building materials like sheetrock to consider donating them so that as much cash as possible can be saved and spent on programming and hiring staff. Skilled labor is also needed.
Those interested can learn more by visiting www.smconservancy.org