Architectural commission reviews plans for moving Renwick House

The Architectural Commission pored over the site plans for the new location of Renwick House on November 30. The house is scheduled to be moved across the street to make room for the Pomona College Museum of Art.

The plan, presented by Principal Planner Chris Veirs, is to place the house along the southern edge of a fire road on the southeast corner of Second Street and College Avenue. The setbacks from the street will remain similar—the proposed setbacks at the new location of 24.5 feet from the street to the front porch is about two feet shorter than the current setbacks of 26 feet, according to the site plan.

Jen Dunbar of Architectural Resources Group (ARG) went into more detail on the interior plans for the house, which include restoring the original hardwood flooring, taking out carpet and restoring the original finishes. Ms. Dunbar explained the existing stairs on the outside of the house will be moved and placed in their original settings.

The proposed site was selected in part due to its proximity to the current Renwick site and its perpetuation of the “Victorian look” on that end of College Avenue, according to Mr. Veirs.

Part of the relocation plans are to add new shrubbery in addition to the existing trees, including installing a memorial garden dedicated to Helen Renwick around the outer perimeter and an oak tree on the northern end of the house. A plaque memorializing Ms. Renwick will also be placed on the new grounds.

“We’re trying to create a garden that hearkens back to an era where we weren’t as worried about our water bill or irrigation efficiencies,” Ben McCoy of EPT Designs, a landscape architect and former member of the architectural commission, said during his presentation.

Commissioner Bob Perry wondered if the canopy from the oak tree as it matured would cause a problem with the fire department, should an emergency happen at or near the house.

“Have you checked them with the fire department prior to submitting this plan?” Mr. Perry asked. Mr. McCoy said he had not.

The commission was also concerned with the placement of the house, saying they felt it will sit too snugly against the existing fire lane and won’t be aligned with the Baldwin House across the street.

“I don’t understand the need to confine this location so tight to the fire lane and put the landscape at risk,” Mr. Perry said.

Ms. Dunbar noted the placement was due to a slight sloping south of the house, which could lead to a possible elevation issue, as well as the displacement of three existing palm trees.

“Aside from that, I think the other key feature is that we are trying to emphasize this relationship to the corner here,” she noted, referring to the potential view of the house from the city hall and library area.

Mr. Perry disagreed, noting that the life of the house outlasts the life of the palms. “I feel the location of the house supersedes the landscape,” he said.

Public comment was peppered with supporters and critics.

“I think of ‘Field of Dreams,’” Pomona College professor George Gorse said, referring to the popular Kevin Costner movie. “We’re not in an Iowa cornfield, but there’s something about Victorian architecture and baseball, I think it’s really kind of fun.”

Resident Mary Stoddard, who is a part of Citizens to Save College Avenue—which is in the middle of litigation over the proposed museum—brought up the possibility of a home-run ball hitting the house.

Doug Lyon, vice chair of the planning commission, brought up the possibility of the new location conforming to the Village Design Plan (VDP), but Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik said the new location was on the east side of College Avenue, out of the parameters of the VDP.

In the end, the commission was in favor of most of the site plan, but decided on creating a subcommittee—comprised of commissioners Bob Perry and Brian Worley—to look into the placement of the house and the oak tree that could serve as a fire hazard.

Commissioners Mark Schoeman and Maureen Wheeler were absent from the meeting.

—Matthew Bramlett


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