As the developers of The Promenade begin to clear the area of the NASA site for construction, residents are continuing to be hopeful that the NASA site’s historic history will not fade away in Downey, California.

Larry Latimer, vice president for the Downey Historical Society and the Aerospace Legacy Foundation sees opportunity for to be done from the city side of saving Downey’s space history and other important sites.

Latimer recalls when Roger Brossmer, current council member, who was mayor at the time became very interested in what the Aerospace Legacy Foundation was doing as well the Columbia Memorial Space Center. According to Latimer, after Brossmer left the mayor’s seat there was not much interest from the city in working toward preserving space history.

However, he is optimistic that after talks with the developers of the site that the space history is important to them and will make efforts to include the history into the shopping center. Even though all the structures on the NASA site are gone with the exception of the Kaufman Wing, Latimer hopes that a portion of the wing will become a visitors’ center for the NASA and aviation history.

When it comes to preservation, “Downey has been a city government that does not get involved. They leave it to community groups to try and preserve sites in the city,” he said.

“One of my biggest gripes with the city is that they don’t allocate money for historic preservation or support efforts,” Latimer said.

Latimer shares concern like some residents in the community about the Columbia Memorial Space Center’s management issues. Currently, the center is being run by the city and is struggling with running the center. The city is looking for someone outside the city to partner with them like the Smithsonian or aerospace industry.

“It’s a great place and it’s been so awesome. I am confident in the city in the long run,” he said.

“Month after month, you see city council people come to the center because they want to show it off and take photo opportunities. It’s time to stop doing the photo ops and start getting the center back on its feet,” he said.

He also would love to see the space shuttle mock-up be restored because people would be able to get in it. “What a learning experience that would be for a child,” he said.

He believes that the city could do more with the public arts funds that they have and use it toward funding things at historic sites.

Though he likes what the owners of Stay Gallery, he feels like the city should be investing public arts funds into historic preservation for the city.

“Priorities in this city are not preservation,” Latimer said.

He feels that more people need to get involved with preserving the history in Downey. “Residents can speak out more at city council meetings, write letters to The Downey Patriot, spread the word about visiting the historic places and join the groups in Downey that are involved with historic preservation,” Latimer said.

“We need to get more people to follow through in city government about the Columbia Memorial Space Center and get the right people involved to sustain the center for the community,” he said.

Latimer believes that the city needs leadership and need the city council and the mayor to take responsibility for the historic places and the CMSC.

“I am disappointed that they are not the ones speaking out the most when it comes to historic preservation and the center, none of them will and its sad that no one will speak out on saving historic places around here,” he said.

During a one-week online survey on Downey’s Historical Relevance for my capstone project on The Past and Future of Historical Preservation Efforts and Awareness of Historic Events and Sites in the City of Downey, California 26 participated in the survey.

The results were interesting as to what people felt personally about saving historical sites and how they felt the city is responsible for keeping the historic parts of the city.

Participants who answered the survey primarily were in the age groups 25 to 34 (42 percent) and 55-64 (27 percent) and have been residents of the city of Downey between 15-35 years.

As a result, Baby Boomers and Generation Y have invested interest in preservation of the city’s historical places. From this we can assume that children of Baby Boomers grew up going to the various historical places in the city and their parents’ value preservation.

Both women and men participated almost equally in the survey. Men showed higher involvement in the survey with 54 percent of those surveyed being men and 46 percent being women.

Response showed that 23 out of 26 participants feel that the city of Downey is responsible to preserve and maintain the historical places

Response showed that 23 out of 26 participants feel that the city of Downey is responsible to preserve and maintain the historical places

An overwhelming 92 percent of participants felt that the city is responsible for preserving and maintaining the historical places.

However when it came to involvement of participating in a community preservation group or attending city council meeting, 85 percent said they were not involved in any group but they do care about preservation of places in the city.

A list of some of the most popular historical places was given to participants to find out which places they have visited. All participants have visited the World’s Oldest Operating McDonald’s that is located on Lakewood Boulevard and Florence Avenue in the city. Second most visited place is Johnie’s Broiler, now Bob’s Big Boy Broiler after rebuild and restoration. The Avenue movie theater and Rives Mansion were among popular places participants had visited. All places on the list were visited by at least four of the participants.

Downey's Historical Relevance results of survey

Downey’s Historical Relevance results of survey

There were 69 percent of those surveyed felt that if the city were to market the historical places the city would see an increase in tourism and economic impact for the city.

When it came to do participants feel the city is doing enough to protect and preserve historical places in the city 69 percent said no, the they need to be doing more while 19 percent were not sure.

During the survey, I discovered a few new groups that are active in the city and the preservation movement. I am planning on connecting with the groups soon and continue to gather more information about preservation in the city of Downey and future efforts on projects.

The survey results provided a good insight for the continuation of the capstone project and gave some new avenues for story ideas as far as why residents care about preservation but are not involved with any community group that helps protect places. I think conducting another survey about why people get involved or do not get involved in preservation efforts would be a good to see what residents are feeling about the involvement in their community.

 

Everyone has a hometown, a birthplace just like a city is founded, and we as a people have a place we call home that is unique to us. The city’s culture, area, lifestyles and economics don’t differ from most cities but its what has happened here that makes Downey rich in history for the city and nation.

Downey, California is that hometown, a place unique with a vast past and a future geared toward expansion.

Over the last twenty years, the City of Downey has seen some of its most historic places lost, saved or in jeopardy of demolition.

There are several movements by residents and preservationists to keep the city’s unique and historic places intact so that Downey’s history will not fall away and be forgotten.

By taking the survey about Downey’s Historical Relevance, it will help with feedback for the capstone project on The Past and Future of Historical Preservation Efforts and Awareness of Historic Events and Sites in the City of Downey, California

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

In conclusion, the feedback from the survey will help establish what is important to those who took the survey and what type of direction the capstone project may take as it moves forward in the process.

The survey will give an understanding about the community, its involvement in the preservation efforts and action that needs to be taken. It will help confirm the feelings of the community about current issues with preservation and how the city is either supporting or not supporting those issues.

Resident finds value in historical preservation from Alicia Edquist on Vimeo.

Fond memories of going to The Avenue movie theater in Downey are just a few of the places that Malia Phillips, Downey resident recalls about growing up in the City of Downey, Calif.

She is a substitute teacher and graduate student who is majoring in Social Work. She has lived in Downey for her entire life of 32 years.

While she has not been active in historical preservation of specific places in Downey, she finds value in keeping places in Downey that have had significant importance for the city.

“I think it makes our city more interesting that we have the historical landmarks and it’s always something to tell people when they are asking about where you live,” Phillips said.

The World’s Oldest McDonald’s on Florence Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard is the one that she tells people about the most. The McDonald’s is known for its Googie-style architecture, Speedee figure and food system, and car culture and outside burger stand.

Another historic place that Phillips finds interesting is Johnie’s Broiler that is now Bob’s Big Boy Broiler because it has been in movies.

When it comes to the impact that historical preservation makes on a city is important to her.

“It makes it (city) more interesting otherwise we would have a boring city with not a lot going on. It makes it interesting for people who are visiting and when you have friends who come visit you have places to show them,” she said.

Phillips believes that the city is not doing enough to help save and restore places in Downey.

“I think there are places like the Avenue movie that are sitting empty and could be refurbished and being used. I think they try, I know like with the Bob’s Big Boy they helped to get that going and the McDonald’s that are open now,” Phillips said.

Historical preservation for Phillips means that we are preserving our history like a legacy to tell the children in the next generation and the world that something important or interesting happened in Downey.

With the recent demolition of the old NASA Boeing site, where the Apollo Space Program called home, with the exception of one of two buildings that were not taken down will soon have a shopping center called Tierra Luna.

Phillips is one of those residents who are not happy about the new shopping center being built on the land where the Apollo capsule was built.

“I don’t think we need another shopping mall, so it’s kind of disappointing. I am glad to see they are doing something with the property cause I really hate see buildings sit empty and wasted space like that…That space could probably be used differently and to better serve community. I really don’t think we need more shopping in Downey,” she said.

She follows several Facebook groups that talk saving parts of the city such as The Downey Conservancy group. While she doesn’t participate in conversations online about historical preservation she does take what she sees in the groups and has conversations with people about it.

Having personal memories of places in Downey has often been the starting point for saving a place because of the influence of the personal memory it has on someone.

For Phillips she also feels that saving places have to deal with the personal relationship you or your family has had with a place.

“It has a lot to do with their personal lives and what they choose to want to save and choose to want to restore and what they don’t care about,” Phillips said.

For her, it’s her personal memory of The Avenue movie theater which was built in 1922 that has been shut down and empty for years.

“We used to go there all the time when I was a kid, cheap movies and it was an adventure. We didn’t have a bigger movie theater until I was much older so that is where we went to the movies most of the time unless you wanted to go to a different city,” she said.

Several years ago, there was a campaign to Save the Avenue but since then not many have heard about what might happen to the old movie theater and wonder what has become of the saving it.

“We have a very interesting history and would just like to see it get preserved,” she said.

 

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