War Memorial Building Back On-Line After Massive Renovation

From left, Lucy Hakobian, So Pas community services supervisor and Nathalie Wilcox, city program specialist, are standing in the renovated War Memorial basement. Photo by Steve Whitmore

After five months and more than $200,000 in renovations, the South Pasadena War Memorial building’s basement is ready for community use again after being sealed against water seepage that has plagued the historic structure since 2016.

The basement has been used as a multipurpose room down through the years but has been closed because of the water damage.

In fact, the basement became unusable in March of 2016, according to city officials.

The City Council last summer approved the renovation contract, not-to-exceed $209,702, to Golden Sun Firm & Co. Inc., an electrical engineering firm in Northridge.

The final cost for the project was about $11,000 over the initial contract, at about $220,000. An amendment is set to go in front of the council for review in February.

“It’s fair to say that the water issues in the basement were more extensive than first anticipated,” said John Pope, So Pas city spokesman. “Some of that damage turned out to be issues with mold.”

Pope also said the city is in final negotiations with the contractor about the final budget.

The construction project, which began in September of 2018 and is now just completed, had massive temporary scaffolding in place for entering and exiting the building. That has all been removed.

The project also included the construction of water barriers to protect the basement from future water damage and repair to damaged sidewalks out front, according to city officials.

The landmark War Memorial Building, 435 Fair Oaks Blvd., designed by Norman Foote Marsh, has served as a memorial to veterans, meeting place for South Pasadena’s American Legion Post No. 140, and meeting site for other events, such as the Senior Center Christmas luncheon for nearly 200 seniors and the city’s own holiday celebration, among many others. 

In 1921, Marshal Ferdinand Foch laid the cornerstone of the building; in 1923, General John J. Pershing planted a redwood tree on the grounds, according to data from the South Pasadena Library.

The building is No. 2 on South Pasadena’s Register of Cultural Heritage Landmarks.

However, it’s still a building and the basement became victimized by the gradual seepage of water through the years and was in dire need of a major overhaul, according to South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.

“Over a period of time, there has been water seepage from the outside into the basement,” DeWolfe has said in an interview last spring when she discussed the project before it began. “We are going to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and reopen it.”

At the time, DeWolfe anticipated the project to be completed rather quickly but the extent of the water damage caused the necessary five months.

“The basement will be available for public use shortly,” Pope said. “We are also going to cover the grounds with drought tolerant landscape.”

The city is planning to have a public grand re-opening of the historic structure.