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San Buenaventura Conservancy

P.O Box 23263

Ventura, CA 93002

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"Historic Preservation is about managing change, not preventing it."
Linda Dishman, L.A. Conservancy, quoted from L.A. Times, 07.10.10

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Page Two -

These are formerly front-page items we thought we'd rather not lose but keep current - so we created a "page 2", just to keep us honest and you, dear surfer, up to date on all things SBC...


A MISSION STATEMENT! Historic San Buenaventura Mission District Architectural Tour

National Organization Announces 2011 Ten Most Endangered Roadside Places

Society for Commercial Archeology

National Organization Announces 10 Most Endangered Roadside Places                     

From a huge fiberglass Santa statue in Haubstadt, Indiana; to a neon diving lady in Mesa, Arizona; to perhaps the largest collection of mid-century motels in Wildwoods, New Jersey; to a sprawling Western-themed motel in Oxnard, California, bulldozed a month before being listed, many of America’s iconic roadside places are threatened.

The Society for Commercial Archeology announces its 2011 Falling by the Wayside, a list of the ten most endangered roadside places in the United States 

1.     Airplane Filling Station, Knoxville, Tennessee

2.     Bartles-Maguire/Wadhams Service Station, Waukesha, Wisconsin

3.     Boots Motel, Carthage, Missouri

4.     Buckhorn Baths, Mesa, Arizona

5.     Diving Lady, Mesa, Arizona

6.     Doo Wop Motels, the Wildwoods, New Jersey

7.     Giant Santa, Haubstadt, Indiana

8.     Premiere Lanes Sign, Santa Fe Springs, California

9.     Roundtop Filling Station, Sherwood, Arkansas

10.  Wagon Wheel Motel, Oxnard, California (destroyed)

These places are all marked by threats which can include natural weathering, economic hardship, neglect, abandonment, inappropriate zoning, lack of maintenance, demolition and even a setback to preserve a historic roadside place. The list showcases the diversity of roadside places and highlights the issues and challenges facing the preservation of these important resources.

The Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) established the Falling by the Wayside program in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of roadside places throughout the United States.

"Our goal is to focus public attention on the unique character and historical importance of our nation's roadside commercial architecture—and the factors that challenge their long-term preservation,” says Nancy Sturm, co-president of the organization. Along with the attention, SCA will help property owners connect with local, state and federal preservation programs. And for one place, the Diving Lady of Mesa, Arizona, SCA is making a $250 contribution to the help the sign’s restoration.

Established in 1977, the SCA is the oldest national organization devoted to the buildings, artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the 20th-century commercial landscape. The SCA offers publications, conferences, and tours to help preserve, document, and celebrate the structures and architecture of the 20th century: diners, highways, gas stations, drive-in theaters, bus stations, tourist courts, neon signs, and more.

For more information

Wagon Wheel Motel, 2751-2755 Wagon Wheel Road (U.S. 101), Oxnard, California


The Wagon Wheel Motel, a ranch house-like motel of turquoise board and batten board buildings and decorative wagon wheels, once sprawled across its site. The motel came about when Oxnard booster and real estate developer, Martin "Bud" Smith, bought an old hog farm and moved in surplus Seabee barracks from nearby Port Hueneme, arranging them in a “U” shape to create a motel court. To give the place a ranch look, Smith reportedly hired Roy Beatty, a Hollywood set designer to design the wrought-iron lamp fixtures and the decorative rustic furniture once found in each room. During its heyday, the Wagon Wheel was a local fixture and prominent stop on U.S. 101. But over the years it lost its customers, closed and became a boarded up eyesore. When word got out that the motel could be demolished for a mixed-use commercial project, local preservation groups rallied to save the property. The San Buenaventura Conservancy filed an appeal to stop demolition under the California Environmental Quality Act, arguing that preservation of a small two acre portion of the motel and restaurant was feasible, given the size of the 64-acre project. But on March 17, an appellate court upheld a lower-court ruling permitting demolition. The Wagon Wheel Motel and associated buildings were demolished a week later. There is no foreseeable date as to when redevelopment will start, as the project sponsor is waiting for the economy to recover.



Click here for the VC Star article

The preservation of a resource as young as the Wagon Wheel was a challenge from the onset; because structures forty to fifty years old are still considered current – but out of fashion. Structures like the Mission San Buenaventura and the Carnegie Library that have endured at least a century without being demolished take on a universal value to the public with time and perspective.

Historic buildings give us a glimpse into the past and further our understanding of our forefathers; people like Martin V. (Bud) Smith. It may be too soon for many to imagine him as a forefather or a pioneer, but the San Buenaventura Conservancy believes he will be remembered as the most prominent developer, most enthusiastic booster and the most generous philanthropist in the history of Oxnard, though it may take decades for that to become self-evident. For this reason the Conservancy believes it was worthwhile to attempt to save the Wagon Wheel as a truly unique and historic piece of Smith's pioneering legacy. Unlike the substantial challenges associated with the restoration of elaborate churches, crumbling adobes, and multi-story buildings in earthquake zones all over California, and despite all the broken windows, weeds and neglect, the simple, wooden structures on two of the 64 acres would have been straightforward and relatively economical to rehabilitate and reuse as a community center, farmers market, or anything the community imagined.

The Wagon Wheel Motel and Junction was Smith's first real estate investment and development. Indeed, this fact alone should be reason enough for the preservation of a small part of the Restaurant and Motel. Most of Smith's other early ventures are already gone or forever changed: the Colonial House Restaurant, the Esplanade Mall, the Carriage Square Shopping Center, the Lobster Trap, the Casa Sirena Marina Hotel, and so on. For over fifty years the Wagon Wheel gave the junction of the 101 Freeway and Highway 1 an authentic landmark and identity writ large in ranch-style western architecture and neon.

After the real estate market recovers, the Oxnard Village Specific Plan approved by the City of Oxnard calls for an 18-foot-tall cinderblock sound-wall surrounding 1500 residential units and a commercial/retail center. The opportunity for a unique, authentic, historic landmark for this Oxnard gateway is lost.

Many thanks to the supporters and fans of the Wagon Wheel from all over America who donated to the preservation fund, spoke, and wrote comment letters to the Oxnard City Council. The Conservancy would not have been able to fight for restoration of the Wagon Wheel without your support. The stories you shared about the site and its personal and cultural significance kept us going. Undeterred, we will continue to raise awareness and advocate for the protection of historic resources that are threatened and support developments that adapt to preserve our cultural history.


Despite the outcome, it was truly a fight worth fighting.



E.P. Foster house destroyed by fire August 2, 2010


Police and Fire: Ventura’ historic E.P. Foster house was destroyed by fire early this morning, authorities said. Firefighters first responded at 1:38 a.m. to a report of fire at the vacant two-story home, 2717 N. Ventura Ave., officials said. When firefighters arrived, they found the residence consumed in flames. A total of 27 firefighters from the Ventura City, Ventura County and Oxnard fire departments worked together to put out the fire, for more than three hours, officials said.

As the building was consumed in flames and its structure was compromised, firefighters battled the flames from outside the home and worked to protect nearby structures, Ventura City Fire Department officials said in a statement. Firefighters finally knocked down the flames by 5:11 a.m. Much of the building was consumed by the fire, and the second story collapsed, along with one of the two chimneys, Ventura City fire officials said.

No injuries were reported, officials said. The cause of the blaze was under investigation this morning. The building, which belongs to the Ventura Unified School District, was deemed a “total loss,” officials said. The article link is here.



EIR Circulated in Port Hueneme to demolish 1885 McCoy Residence

EIR issues: insufficient analysis, insufficient mitigations, no archeological review, no aesthetic impact review, and EIR objectives do not accurately include the objective of productive future use of the site. Demolition and clearing of a valuable property is never the end-point objective. There should not be a rush to demolish our heritage just so that the city does not need to deal with vandalism and the homeless, and the building should be secured and stabilized until adaptive reuse can be initiated. 

The Conservancy believes this would be a perfect place for professional offices, or a small dental/medical office. Reuse into a restaurant to serve the PH residents that live on the beach blocks away could easily be facilitated by building a kitchen addition in the large rear yard with alley delivery and trash access. The lawn could easily be made into a landscaped outdoor seating deck under the tree. This would activate the street, and bring neighbors and tourists back to downtown in a far more positive way then the multi-story hotel that is being envisioned for the site. This front deck could easily include a ramp to solve ADA access challenges in the raised-floor building. Inside the historic hardwood floors could be refinished and seating could be accommodated under the tall original bay windows in the original living room and parlor.


For more info, please click here.


The San Buenaventura Conservancy filed suit against the City of Oxnard in the Ventura County Superior Court in early 2009. The suit claims that the City’s approval of the Oxnard Village Specific Plan on the site of Wagon Wheel Junction, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Judge Glen Reiser ruled in favor of the City of Oxnard and the Village developers in Superior Court. The Conservancy filed an appeal in late 2009 with the 9th district court of Appeals. The case will wind its way through the appeals system over the next few months. The Conservancy hopes for a ruling that will require the Village to comply with CEQA and restore parts of the Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant as a Landmark.

The project proposes the demolition of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Motel, iconic examples of American mid-century roadside architecture. “This 64 acre project can be feasibly accomplished without demolition of the Wagon Wheel, and CEQA therefore does not allow the demolition,” said Conservancy President Stephen Schafer,“ The Conservancy did not take the prospect of suing the City of Oxnard lightly, but the rarity and regional importance of the Wagon Wheel merits its preservation for generations to come. We feel that razing the Wagon Wheel will be something that locals view with much regret, and that the concept of adaptive reuse of the buildings  – as farmers market, steakhouse, artist studios or tourism center – was always ignored in favor of demolition.”


The Wagon Wheel was built on the site of an old hog farm by Martin V. Smith in 1947. It was Smith’s first small real estate venture, but he would eventually become the most important developer in the history of Oxnard; creating much of Channel Islands Harbor, the Esplanade and Carriage Square shopping centers, Fisherman’s Wharf, and also the two towers at the Oxnard Financial Plaza.


The importance of the Wagon Wheel as an historic landmark on the 101 was made clear in numerous public comments submitted to the city by people from Oxnard and throughout the County and State who stressed the rarity and value of the Wagon Wheel as an authentic cultural landmark. The Oxnard Village Specific Plan is 64 acres surrounded by an 18 foot high concrete sound wall. “The Conservancy’s opinion is that the project can be successful and profitable for the developer and still carve out a little piece of land around the Wagon Wheel to celebrate Oxnard’s most iconic landmark and its most significant developer,” added Schafer. “We need to reverse the neglect that has happened to the Wagon Wheel since it was closed, and by applying the California Historic Building Code, the buildings can be restored to their mid-century heyday, like the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.” The lawsuit requests issuance of a peremptory writ ordering the City to set aside its approval of the project pending compliance with CEQA.

The Wagon Wheel is one-of-a-kind Americana along the 101 freeway, one of the few iconic landmarks that Oxnard has left. Yes, it's in sad shape today due to neglect by the developer, but it can be revitalized into a community resource with a Farmers Market, playgrounds, community center, swimming pool and a real American steakhouse all housed in the authentically restored, western-themed Wagon Wheel. No more motel, no more eyesore; just a gleaming preservation of the neon-trimmed buildings that millions of travelers have grown accustomed to seeing through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and the 90s. The Conservancy believes this location is important not only to the community of Oxnard but also the citizens of Ventura County as well as commuters and even one-time tourists; once it is demolished there is no second chance, it will be gone permanently.

The Conservancy is in support of the majority of the Village Specific Plan and in no way wants to impede the development, but a small number of listed historic resources will be demolished as a consequence of the new European-themed mixed-use project called the "Oxnard Village." A win-win scenario that would allow for preservation of the Wagon Wheel AND a profitable Oxnard Village development was not properly considered during the planning process (a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act). The Conservancy believes that The Village can be even more successful if less than three acres of the 64 acre project was revitalized to its authentic mid-century appeal. Restoring and enhancing a few of the original Wagon Wheel structures that Martin V. Smith created in the late 1940s.

The Conservancy sees the beautifully restored Wagon Wheel as a visual landmark on the 101, just like in the 1950s when the western-themed buildings and animated horse-and-buckboard neon sign served as a visual icon and lured travelers off the freeway. There's a Starbucks, Burger King and Holiday Inn at every off ramp; but real, authentic landmarks like this are rare, they're only found in America, and they are disappearing fast. The preservation of the Wagon Wheel is an opportunity to restore a world-famous destination, with an authentic Steakhouse and reuse the old motel units as artists studios, a farmers market, an educational facility, neighborhood stores, or perhaps a community center. Recreating the 'tough' motel of the last decade will not enhance the site. However, adaptive reuse of historic buildings does not require that the site be a motel. For example, the landmark Oxnard Carnegie Library isn't a library anymore, and the historic homes in Heritage Square looked even shabbier when moved, and they are now offices, restaurants, and a theater. The Conservancy envisions the restored site becoming a real magnet in the region and an amenity for the residents of the Village, creating a walkable, park-like destination between the high-rise towers and the 5 story townhomes. It will be at the center of the walking trail around the perimeter of the 64 acre development, some of the motel grounds could be used as open-space and the pool could again be used for swimming lessons like it did in years past. Much of this can be paid for with rehabilitation tax credits and preservation grants.

An unprecedented number of EIR comment letters from all over the country were submitted illustrating the need to retain and restore the historic Wagon Wheel to its former glory as a destination location and visual landmark. The Project Proponent has always maintained that – despite findings to the contrary by the Oxnard Cultural Heritage Board and historians hired to assess the site for the EIR – the Wagon Wheel needed to be demolished. The property has rapidly decayed as a result of its closure, (unlike the busy Bowling Alley next door) but the Conservancy contends that the simple frame buildings could be easily restored by adopting the California Historic Building Code. A small parcel containing the Motel and Restaurant could become a shining example of mid-century, themed roadside Americana and the entrepreneurial spirit of Martin V. Smith, Oxnard's most significant developer. If Oxnard allows the demolition of the historic Wagon Wheel they will have no historic landmarks from the 1940's or Martin V. Smith left, since Smith's first restaurant the Colonial House, was demolished 19 years ago, and has yet to be developed into the then-promised redevelopment project.

The Conservancy's concern was summed up best by Martin V. Smith in a 1991 LA Times article, when he was quoted saying, "I live here. I'd hate to see this area become like Orange County around the John Wayne Airport."