RSABG, Webb win preservation awards

Two longtime Claremont institutions are getting awards for contributions to the city’s history.

The Webb Schools will be given the Bess Garner Historic Preservation Award “in recognition of their stewardship shown in the preservation of the significant architecture and physical history of their campus,” according to Claremont Heritage’s David Shearer.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will be given the Cultural Heritage Award for its dedication to California native plants and their educational programs, exhibitions, publications and events.

The awards will be handed out on May 19 at the Padua Hills Theater.

The Bess Garner award is presented to the person or institution “whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation in the city of Claremont,” according to Mr. Shearer.

Past winners of the award include such Claremont institutions as Pilgrim Place, Scripps College, Ginger Elliott and Judy Wright.

The Webb Schools has been intrinsically linked to Claremont for generations. It was founded in 1922 by Thompson Webb and houses a number of beautiful and historic buildings, including the Vivian Webb Chapel—which according to Mr. Shearer was designed and built by Thompson Webb himself—and the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.

Associate Head of Schools Theresa Smith noted that the school’s dedication to preservation has a long tradition. This includes restoring old buildings on campus and thinking about the placement and design of newer buildings to fit the overall sense of place at the school. The school’s architecture, she said, “reflects Claremont and Southern California’s best traditions.”

“Receiving the award is a validation of our own pride,” she added.

The school boasts buildings that have been designed by a litany of notable artists with Claremont ties—Myron Hunt built the Webb House and the Thomas Jackson Library in the 1920s and 1930s and Millard Sheets designed the famous mosaic. With this kind of pedigree, historical preservation factors heavily into the desire to maintain the natural beauty of the campus.

The chapel was built in the style of Mission San Juan Capistrano, Ms. Smith said, and in looking at renovations the school is working with preservation experts to make sure it’s done right.

Even when the school constructs new buildings, they have an eye for the preservation of the style and character of the campus.

An example Ms. Smith offered is the recently built Copeland Donahue Theater. The new state-of-the-art performing arts space’s placement on campus was created, in part, to preserve two trees.

It’s Webb’s way of thinking not just about buildings, but also about the landscape and the sense of place.

The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is receiving the Cultural Heritage Award, which “celebrates individuals and organizations whose work demonstrates outstanding contributions to the cultural heritage of the city of Claremont and beyond,” according to Mr. Shearer. 

Past winners of this award include Wolfe’s Market, the Folk Music Center, Karl Benjamin and Harrison and Marguerite McIntosh.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Executive Director Lucinda McDade said it was a “terrific honor” to be receiving the award.

The botanic garden boasts 85 acres of open space in the middle of suburban Claremont, with thousands of California native plants prominently featured on the grounds. 

While the garden is a longstanding jewel in Claremont, Ms. McDade noted that it is also internationally recognized among the botanical community for the research that goes on there.

“We bring a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t come to Claremont because of our research,” she said.

Part of that research is serving as the seed bank for the state of California. The garden has millions of seeds of California native plants—totaling over 6,000 species, roughly a third of all plant species in North America—in storage to save them in perpetuity.

“It’s an amazing facility, with millions and millions of seeds in storage,” Ms. McDade said.

The awards will be given out at the annual Claremont Heritage gala on May 19. Tickets are available at or by calling (909) 621-0848.

—Matthew Bramlett


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