Consideration of Children’s Pool’s proposed historical designation will be an action item on La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc.’s Aug. 27 agenda.
Architectural historian Diane Kane has teamed with the La Jolla Historical Society to initiate the process for pool historical designation. She has since been canvassing La Jolla civic groups, lobbying them to back historical designation for the pool, created by the construction of a concrete breakwater in 1931 by famed La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Scripps paid for breakwater construction to create a safe and protected children’s wading pool.
“The Children’s Pool has been ‘deemed historic’ for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but isn’t formally designated,” said Kane. “If it were formally designated, it would be rehabilitated or reconstructed using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and the State Historic Building Code.
These do not require bringing historic properties up to current safety codes, which would be very expensive and result in a beefier facility with high chain-link safety fencing that won’t look at all like the current one.”
She noted Children’s Pool’s historical designation “would also make the facility eligible for both public and private grant money to fix it up. Rebuilding it to current standards would come out of the city’s Capital Improvement Program where there is a long waiting list. So, hopefully, this strategy would result in a quicker upgrade with outside funds to keep the property in service, looking like it was originally designed.”
Kane and associates are working on creating a Children’s Pool historic district. They will be submitting a formal proposal to the State Office of Historic Preservation that reviews National Register nominations at its quarterly meetings, before submitting them to Washington, D.C. for final review.
Only elements at the pool present from 1920-1931 that have “integrity,” will be considered contributors to the historical district according to Kane. She added the historical designation process entails establishing boundaries “to include elements associated with the pool’s original setting, design and construction.”
This would mean everything from the curb on Prospect Street out to the break wall is part of the historical project. Other features in and around Children’s Pool, like the concrete walkways, have been altered disqualifying them from inclusion as “contributing” historical elements.
For years, Children’s Pool has been a battleground between seal supporters and local beach-access advocates, who have contended over the existing harbor seal rookery there and human access to it.
Kane told LJPB previously the proposed Children’s Pool historic district will be evaluated for its association with engineer Hiram Newton Savage and architect William Templeton Johnson. She said the pool’s historicity will be judged for its innovative engineering and site-specific architecture, influenced by both the Beaux Arts tradition and its organic design. The property will be nominated for historic designation at the local level of significance for the time period 1920-1931.
LJPB president Ann Parode Dynes and Kane met recently with Andy Field, Meredith Dawson and Paul Jacobs of City Park & Rec to brief them on plans by the La Jolla Historical Society and La Jolla Parks & Beaches Inc. to submit an application to the National Registry to have Children's Pool designated as a historical site.
“I believe that they were enthusiastic that this step, if successful, would enable the City to move forward with a clear need to repair the wall, and ultimately the breakwater, consistent with CEQA and other mandates, and hopefully using grant funding available to historical restorations like this,” said Parode Dynes. “We advised them that we are unaware of any negative consequences of this action since the pool is already ‘deemed eligible’ to be so designated, so it lives in a never-never land, as we discovered when we met with the City engineers a year and a half ago at the site.”
Dynes said arrangements are being made to bring District 1 Councilwoman Barbara Bry “up to speed on this project.”
At a recent LJPB meeting, longtime La Jolla parks planner Melinda Merryweather cited Kane for her work delineating the historical significance of Children’s Pool calling her efforts, “the biggest gift we could ever get. We’ve been talking about this for 30 years.”
“The nomination of the Children’s Pool to the National Register of Historic Places and the California Historic Landmarks register is important for La Jolla because of the site’s association with engineer Hiram Newton Savage and architect William Templeton Johnson, its innovative engineering and site-specific architecture, and its association with philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps,” said La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox. “Listing on the National and State Registers will ensure the rehabilitation of the Children’s Pool can be accomplished in accordance with the Secretary of Interior Standards and the State Historic Building Code, and will provide an avenue for private funding and the opportunity for the community to participate in the preservation of this important historic site.”
LJPB, which makes recommendations to the City on coastal parks in the Jewel, meets at Monda, Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. at La Jolla Rec. Center Auditorium, 615 Prospect St.