Loretta Rooney Hess

Loretta Rooney Hess, a long-time resident at the Village Green, was a major participant in establishing the Village Green as an important historic site. She edited the nominations for the National Register (1990 to 1993) and the National Historic Landmark (1996 to 2000). These nominations were prepared by Dorothy Fue Wong, her Court 11 neighbor. In addition, Loretta served as editor of the Highlights when it was a monthly publication during the first part of the 1990s.

Loretta was a professional editor and writer for three decades, first in New York City and then in Los Angeles. Loretta’s professional involvement was particularly important in advancing the success of the Village Green’s Landmark nomination as the Department of Interior was unwilling to fund and prepare such an innovative and costly work. Later, this agency used the Village Green nomination (which reflected Loretta’s high standards as a professional editor) to fund and establish two related communities on the East coast as National Historic Landmarks. In addition, her editorial efforts with the Village Green nomination helped to establish Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice, California as a California State Landmark (2005 and 2006).

Biographical Notes
Loretta Rooney Hess was born in Boston and raised in New York City. She lived in Kenya, Africa for three years. Later, she graduated from Adelphi University with a B.A. in journalism.

During the 1970s, Loretta worked in New York City with various publications. In the late 1970s, she moved to Los Angeles to continue her publishing career. During the 1980s, Loretta became the co-editor of the Southern California newspaper of the National Organization for Women ( NOW ). Later, she was a field editor of several travel guides and also the editor of textbooks for a San Fernando Valley publisher. In addition, Loretta worked as an independent editor with writers on various projects. The Village Green Landmark nomination was Loretta’s final assignment as an editor.

Loretta moved to the Village Green in 1982. Her hobbies were the theater, classical music, opera, genealogy, and archeological digs. She also traveled extensively through Africa , Europe , Asia , Mexico , and the Middle East.

Loretta Rooney Hess is survived by her sons Rob and Brian Hess of New York City and four grandchildren.

Participation in the Village Green Landmark

Landmark Difficulties

During the turbulent years of the Village Green’s Landmark preparation, Loretta quietly and consistently demonstrated courage, loyalty, and a steadfast focus on what was important. These special qualities were demonstrated in 1997 when the Village Green Board eliminated the National Historic Landmark project in a closed meeting and without an explanation to the Landmark committee or the community. Two years previously, the community had voted unanimously in favor of the Landmark because of its important historic and economic benefits.

After the 1997 Village Green Board’s decision, Loretta volunteered to help Dorothy Fue Wong in the preparation of the Landmark nomination. These two Court 11 neighbors agreed on the vital importance of moving ahead on the Landmark nomination, even though not supported by the current Board. They also agreed that the completed work would be ready at a later date for the community when a more supportive leadership would be elected. At that time, the opponents, who earlier had fought unsuccessfully against the National Register nomination, controlled the Board.

During the next two years of independent work, Loretta’s loyal support and editing skills were particularly important to Wong as she started the arduous full-time process for preparing a comprehensive study which would prove Village Green’s national significance to the Department of Interior. The nomination’s research covered four hundred years of social and artistic history on two continents with the majority of the primary sources located on the East coast. Loretta significantly helped to edit this massive work in order that it can be submitted in a proper form for final acceptance by the Department of Interior.

The most important work was done during this period by the two Court 11 residents assisted by Cornell University at Ithaca, New York. Cornell had the largest archives relating to the history of the Village Green, and was in the position to help because of its outstanding work in the fields of urban planning and historic preservation.

With her remarkably steadfast focus, Loretta worked patiently and conscientiously through the numerous revisions required by the Department of Interior for a Landmark nomination. Long delays were experienced between each revision. Loretta insured that each revision written by Wong was concise, logical, and forceful with adherence to the highest editorial standards. Loretta was a gifted editor who did not intrude on a writer’s intent nor compromise the integrity of the content. In fact, her participation sharpened a writer’s thinking and enhanced the content’s importance.

Before the Village Green’s Landmark nomination was completed four years later in 2000, Loretta had edited seven revisions. The two Court 11 residents followed the same rigorous national standards and procedures as professionals in preparing a work which would serve as a permanent record for future generations of our nation’s history.

Landmark Reinstated
During 1999, at the mid-point of these Landmark preparations, Loretta discovered that she had a serious illness, which later claimed her life. Loretta again demonstrated her remarkable courage and steadfast focus. She decided to continue editing the Landmark nomination. Loretta understood, through her life-long interest in genealogy and archeology, that a community’s knowledge of its history was critical for its future survival. For a community without knowledge of its past is like an individual who has lost his memory and consequently his identity and the ability for self-preservation.

Also in 1999, the community was able to gather its strength to elect a more supportive Board that overcame the opposition. The prior Landmark work, completed by these two Court 11 neighbors with Cornell University ’s assistance, helped the leadership to move quickly toward Landmark status at the end of the following year.

The timing later proved to be fortuitous—the Village Green’s Landmark nomination was in the last group accepted by the Clinton administration (January 2001). It did not suffer the delay of a later Los Angeles ’ Landmark nomination (the Eames house), which was federally funded by the Clinton administration. At the present, the Charles and Ray Eames House’s Landmark status has been delayed indefinitely by policies of the current Presidential administration.

One of Loretta’s last assignments was in early 2000 when she edited an eleven-page defense written by Wong in support of the completed Landmark nomination. Although in failing health, Loretta continued to work conscientiously and promptly as previously with no comment about her life-threatening condition.

The Department of Interior accepted this document, and it directed that the Landmark’s description section be written. This was completed by an architect, a Village Green resident. In September 2000, the Village Green homeowners voted to approve the Landmark status after they were provided the opportunity to read the finished nomination.

Two months later, the Landmark nomination passed successfully at a Washington D.C. hearing. The Village Green nomination was part of a group in which twenty-five were prepared by experienced professionals who were funded by government agencies or institutions and only two prepared by non-professionals (one of which was the Village Green). This nomination represented the largest number of homeowners at the hearing. Later, the Department of Interior placed this work on its official National Historic Landmark website---a rare honor reserved only for a few exceptional Landmark nominations.

After the Landmark
By the time that the Village Green became a Landmark on January 2001, Loretta had turned her attention completely to overcoming her illness. She demonstrated the same remarkable qualities which contributed to the success of the Village Green Landmark—a quiet courage and steadfast focus on what was important. Loretta strongly believed that life itself, with all its challenges, was important and sacred. With this perspective, Loretta was able to extend her life span three years beyond what her doctors predicted.

Despite difficult circumstances, Loretta generously contributed to the lengthy preservation of this community's history as a professional editor and also as a friend to her Village Green neighbors. Consequently, Loretta’s efforts, along with many others, have enriched our nation’s history with what was learned from the Village Green’s sixty-four year history: the human rights of each individual must be protected in order for a community to be a viable and democratic force in the lives of all its members.

-- Dorothy Fue Wong
October 2006