LandmarkWatch.org is a result of Dorothy Fue Wong's twenty-five year involvement with the certification and preservation of Clarence Stein's National Historic Landmark Garden cities. A large part of this work was done by Wong under the guidance of Cornell University's Clarence S. Stein Institute and the federal government.

These continuing collaborations have two major objectives. The first is to further Clarence Stein and his colleagues' Garden cities as a major legacy to the nation. The second is to protect this legacy for future generations by developing long-term preservation strategies in an environment of climate change and increased disasters.

Baldwin Hills Village (now known as the Village Green) provided the foundation for the above projects. During three decades, Wong was a resident in this Los Angeles planned community, which was Clarence Stein's final American Garden city.




Preparing a National Landmark Nomination
Wong first began documenting Baldwin Hills Village's history by preparing its National Register nomination (1990 to 1993). She was assisted by state historian Cynthia Howse and Robert Alexander, the last of the Baldwin Hills Village's four founding architects. Later, Wong prepared the community's National Historic Landmark nomination (1994 to 2001). This work contained the historical context statement for the early American Garden City movement based on Clarence Stein's Toward New Towns for America (1957). Cornell University's Clarence Stein Institute and the National Park Service provided invaluable assistance.

During six years, Wong worked full-time on completing the Baldwin Hills Village Landmark nomination. She first studied the historical roots of the Garden city movement, which covered three hundred years of American and English history. Her research also involved traveling a total of 30,000 miles for visits to the east coast where eight other Stein Garden cities were located and also to related archives in Washington D.C., New York City, and Cornell University. She also visited Kitimat, British Columbia---Stein's final Garden city.

The Baldwin Hills Village nomination's historic context statement helped two other Stein communities to be designated as National Historic Landmarks in 2005---Chatham Village (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) and Radburn (Fairlawn, New Jersey). In addition, three more Stein Garden cities in New York city are eligible to be listed as National Historic Landmarks based on this historic context statement (Sunnyside Gardens, Phipps Garden Apartments, and Hillside Homes).

Wong personally funded this nomination, which listed Baldwin Hills Village as the largest National Historic Landmark in Los Angeles city. Her preparation costs were approximately the same as that for the Los Angeles City's Little Tokyo Historical District, the second largest National Historic Landmark in Los Angeles City. Both cost over $200,000 during a six year-preparation period. Because of the high expense, government agencies have funded National Historic Landmark nominations for five other related Stein Garden cities.

Currently, Baldwin Hills Village is the largest of the twelve National Historic Landmarks in the City of Los Angeles and also the largest of twenty-two National Historic Landmarks in Los Angeles County.

The research in Wong's National Landmark nomination helped to save two Los Angeles Garden cities from demolition (2001 and 2007). It also contributed to Los Angeles City's historic context statement for Garden cities (Los Angeles Conservancy) in 2012.

The Los Angeles City Council in 2002 presented a special award to Wong for her work, and recorded her cfforts for the City Archives. In addition, the National Park Service has selected Wong's nomination as one of ten exemplary National Historic Landmark nominations from California, and placed it on this agency's official National Historic Landmark website.

From 1997 to 2000, many people contributed to the successful completion of the Baldwin Hills Village National Historic Landmark nomination. They are listed in "Acknowledgments" .

At present, Wong is conducting preliminary work for the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District's proposed National Historic Landmark nomination. This first Stein Garden City is located in Queens, New York

Preserving a National Historic Landmark
While preparing the Landmark nomination, Wong also began laying the long-term preservation foundation for Baldwin Hills Village through the Los Angeles city's Mills Act program. The Mills Act is a state/city program that provides substantial property tax reductions for owners of historic properties. The savings would be used for the site's preservation activities.

At that time, it was thought that the Mills Act's mandatory ten year-preservation plan would be important in preserving Baldwin Hills Village's historic integrity and thus maintaining its National Historic Landmark status on a permanent basis. According to federal regulations, a National Historic Landmarks can lose its designation if the site's historic integrity is compromised.

In 1994, Wong and a board member met with City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was sponsoring this program (later completed in 1997). However, Baldwin Hills Village was not eligible for the Mills Act because its property valuation was too high. As a result of this meeting, Councilman Ridley-Thomas later provided a special provision in the Mills Act for Baldwin Hills Village to be eligible when it became a National Historic Landmark (which was achieved in 2001).

In 2010, the Baldwin Hills Village's leadership was able to submit a successful application for the Los Angeles' Mills Act program (a decade after the Landmark designation was achieved). The community gained $6,000,000 from the Mills Act during a period of ten years (2010 to 2020) for the purpose of funding the community's preservation projects. It is renewable at the end of a decade. Wong's nomination (historic research and successful designation) contributed sustantially to this application.

Baldwin Hills Village's first decade as a National Historic Landmark has been documented as formative (see Wong's Stein Institute fellowships). Best preservation practices for National Historic Landmarks were not followed.

As a result, this community lost several millions of dollars in outside funding. Also, this important historic site is not currently in a strong position to meet the growing challenges of climate change and disasters that are peculiar to California.

Wong had several opportunities to travel to other east coast Garden cities after she completed the Landmark nomination for her community. She discovered that the lack of best preservation practicies at Baldwin Hills Village was indicative of other Stein Landmark Garden cities in varying degrees. This situation could eventually result in the loss of the National Historic Landmark status, with its potential benefits, for some of the Stein Garden cities.

Based on the above concerns, the Clarence S. Stein Institute awarded Wong a fellowship (2008 to 2010) that would establish preservation standards for the Stein Garden cities in order to maintain their National Historic Landmark status and also attract outside funding. The description of Wong's research can be viewed on LandmarkWatch.org's "Preservation Standards for National Landmarks".

Later, the Stein Institute awarded a second fellowship to Wong for disaster planning of Baldwin Hills Village and the other major Stein Garden cities to further protect these communities in an environment of increasing natural disasters and terrorism (2010 to 2012). Baldwin Hills Village is particularly vulnerable because it is located in an earthquake prone area. The results of this fellowship can be viewed on LandmarkWatch.org 's "Preservation Standards for National Landmarks".

In 2015, the Stein Institute awarded its most recent fellowship to Wong. It involves organizing preliminary acitivities that would implement the National Park Service's HABS, HALS, and CRGIS programs for the Stein Landmark Garden cities. (See LandmarkWatch.org's "Preservation Standards for National Landmarks" for more information about HABS, HALS, and CRGIS). The major intent of this fellowship is to provide a digital solution for the long-term preservation of these exceptional historic communities during climate change and disasters.

Recently, Wong has been appointed to an advisory board in New Orleans to preserve a future city monument relating to Hurricane Katrina. This involvement will further increase her preservation work with the Stein Garden cities in disaster/climate change planning.

In addition, Wong has expanded her preservation activities to include the federal government's Asian American/Pacific Islander Initiative.

Wong's academic background provided the foundation for the above work. This include an advanced Masters and PhD in Instructional Technology from the University of Southern California; Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of California, Los Angeles; and a Masters from Columbia Teachers. Currently, Wong is participating in FEMA's Independent Study Program for professionals and volunteers. This program presents the fundamentals of disaster planning and recovery in the United States.

Prepared by Dorothy Fue Wong
October 2017