About

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 Garden city, which was Clarence Stein's final American Garden city. She began documenting this community's history by first preparing its National Register nomination (1990 to 1993) . Later, Wong prepared the National Historic Landmark nomination with the assistance of the Clarence S. Stein Institute and the federal government (1994 to 2001).

For this Landmark nomination, Wong wrote a theme study that evaluated the major Stein Garden cities (eight in all) as highly significant in the nation's lengthy history of more than 10,000 years (The federal government includes prehistoric and recorded history as the nation's entire historic legacy). Because of this nomination, two other Stein communities were designated in 2005 as National Historic Landmarks---Chatham Village (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) and Radburn (Fairlawn, New Jersey). Three more Stein Garden cities are eligible to be listed as National Historic Landmarks based on Wong's theme study (Sunnyside Gardens, Phipps Garden Apartments, and Hillside Homes).

Wong's nomination also has an impact on the City of Los Angeles. Its designation and content helped save two related Garden cities from demolition (2000 and 2005). Currently, Baldwin Hills Village is the largest of the ten National Historic Landmarks in the City of Los Angeles and the largest of twenty National Historic Landmarks in Los Angeles County

Wong's National Historic Landmark nomination played a critical role in Baldwin Hills Village's successful application for the City of Los Angeles' Mills Act (completed in 2010). The Mills Act is a state/city program that provides substantial tax reductions for owners of historic properties. Baldwin Hills Village will gain $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.

The preparation for the Mills Act began in 1994--the same year when Wong started the preparation of the National Historic Landmark. She 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 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 (achieved in 2001).

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.

Baldwin Hills Village's first decade as a National Historic Landmark has been documented as formative. Those early years indicated that best preservation practices for National Historic Landmarks were not followed. As a result, this community lost several millions of dollars in outside funding and was not in a strong positon to meet the growing challenges of climate change (California is entering its fifth year of severe drought with a significant impact on the Baldwin Hills Village's extensive landscape.)

Finally after a decade, Baldwin Hills Village became part of the Mills Act after the leadership submitted a long-term preservation plan to the City of Los Angeles (2010). However, further evaluations are needed of this plan (and other preservation documents) in its effectiveness to meet future funding opportunities and climate change requirements.

Wong discovered that the situation at Baldwin Hills Village was indicative of other Stein Landmark Garden cities in varying degrees. The National Historic Landmark status with its potential benefits was new to the Stein Garden cities. Also, the federal government had not developed preservation guidelines that were specific to National Landmark Garden cities. Wong came to this conclusion after several trips to the east coast Garden cities beginning in 2003.

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 attract outside funding. The results of Wong's research can be viewed on LandmarkWatch.org's "Preservation Standards for National Landmarks".

Then, 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 CGIS programs for the Stein Landmark Garden cities. (See LandmarkWatch.org's "Preservation Standards for National Landmarks" for more information about HABS, HALS, and CGIS). 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.

Wong's academic background provides the foundation for the above fellowship---this includes a PhD in Instructional Technology from the University of Southern California and a MLS from the University of California, Los Angeles. At present, Wong is participating in FEMA's Independent Study Program for professionals and volunteers, which presents the fundamentals of disaster planning and recovery in the United States. She also is involved with the California Preservation Foundation's several webinars on the use of digital tools in preserving historic properties.

The Stein fellowships provided Wong an invaluable and lengthy opportunity to document the complex process for Baldwin Hills Village's historic certifications (1977 to 2001) and the community's long standing efforts in historic preservation (2000 to 2015). As a case study, Baldwin Hills Village provides lessons learned that can assist other Stein Garden cities and National Historic Landmark properties.

 

 

Prepared by Dorothy Fue Wong
August 2016