Monday, November 02, 2009

Goodbye, 527 E. Union (Herkimer Arms Apartments)

This past weekend, I said a final goodbye to the apartment building at 527 E. Union in Pasadena, where I lived for a few years while working on my seminary degree.  The 1912 Herkimer Arms apartment building (if you're wondering about the name, Union used to be called Herkimer Street), the only multi-family building built by Pasadena architects Greene and Greene, has been cut into two pieces right down the middle, and the first half of the building was moved from that address to its new home in Northwest Pasadena last night.  The second half will follow on Tuesday night. (UPDATE: The moving of the second half was apparently delayed.  It finally occurred sometime during the week of November 11th.) This is the culmination of roughly three years of effort to keep the building from demolition and get the structure relocated, and Fuller has taken a bit of flak from local preservationists for its role in this process (presumably, the preservationists wish that Fuller would just have left the building alone, and continued to use it for housing).

Although I don't think that these folks have been especially fair to Fuller in this ordeal, I'm not really interested in picking up the role of defender: a role for which I'm certain to be ill-equipped in any event.  In fact, I have to confess that I was unaware of the extent of the building's significance for most of the time I was there (and what I did know came through the efforts of a fellow tenant, not from Fuller itself).  In retrospect, I'd have thought that having such an historic building as part of Fuller Housing would have been a source of pride, that they would actively be telling would-be residents about, in order to attract attention, even if the building couldn't ultimately support Fuller's current needs (as housing, it was in constant need of attention, and the site is intended to be used for a new worship center/chapel, which I feel that Fuller has desperately needed for years--a seminary should have a dedicated worship space!--but for which it will still have to wait until funding can be fully raised).

Rather, I want to wax nostalgic for a bit about the building that I called home for a while.  It was wonderful to be able to walk out my kitchen door and already be on campus!  This was a rarity even then, and is practically unheard of at Fuller now.  Most "on campus" housing still requires students to at least cross the street (and some is actually far enough away that one has to drive!).  I really was kind of spoiled.  I saved so much money on gas, compared to what I use these days just to travel from Monrovia to Pasadena and back!

I wasn't among the last wave of students to use this building as housing, and in fact had to leave a few years earlier.  Having completed full-time study, I was simply no longer eligible to remain in Fuller housing at the time (policies are a little different now, and I might have been allowed to remain on the basis of my employment at Fuller.  Assuming, of course, that they were still using this building as housing, which is obviously no longer the case.).  I haven't actually been inside the building since, and so it's been nearly a decade since I've seen familiar sights normally visible only to those who get inside the building, like this set of mail boxes.  One of those use to be mine!  It's kind of surreal to see stuff like that exposed and visible from the sidewalk!

Of course, a disclaimer is also in order.  At some indeterminate point in the past (none of the news articles I've found have clarified the timeline.  Anyone with better sourcing is welcome to leave a comment or e-mail me), the Herkimer Arms was joined together with a separately-built Victorian house to create the housing unit that Fuller used for so many years.  The front portion, visible from the street, was the Herkimer Arms, while the attached house took up the rear.  I actually lived in that added-on portion, which itself was actually demolished a couple of years ago (that caused some controversy, too, despite the comparative lack of historical value of that portion, and Fuller's having gotten approval to demolish that part).* But for those of us who lived there at the time, the distinction was purely academic.

Anyway, to see some pictures of the building more or less as I remember it (the building hadn't been vivisected yet, but the Victorian portion had already been removed from the back), try this link.

*Information on the Victorian portion's demolition was found via articles in the Pasadena Star-Times: "Victorian house on Fuller campus demolished" and "Demolition of Victorian home surprises Pasadena Heritage," dated July 20, 2007 and July 21, 2007, respectively.

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