39th Annual California Preservation Conference in Asilomar

Greetings from an unusually sunny, and somewhat warm, Asilomar!

Robert Chattel and staff from the San Francisco office recently attended the 39th annual California Preservation Conference at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds. Located at the southern tip of Monterey Bay, this state park features a unique combination of gorgeous Arts and Crafts facilities designed by master architect Julia Morgan, and later Mid-Century Modern buildings by John Carl Warnecke and Associates.  Asilomar was founded in 1913 by

the YWCA and used for their leadership conferences and Girl Reserves summer camp. College women and men from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and California worked as summer staff.  

Robert Chattel presented an educational session on the history of preservation incentives in California at a session outlining the current push for legislation of a California State historic tax credit. Shannon Ferguson toured the company town Spreckles, which was developed to support what was then the largest sugar beet processing plant when it opened in 1899. While the plant has since closed, there remain hints of the town’s former association with the Spreckles sugar empire - most pf the former worker's bungalows have dovecotes shaped like a stylized sugar beet. For Justin, one highlight of the conference was a tour of the grounds led by Michael Meloy, California State Park Historian who works at Asilomar. Michael detailed the history of Asilomar as well as explained contributions each succession of architects made on the site as it was transformed from a YWCA camp into a Boy Scout retreat, before becoming a California State Park in 1956.

In the office we always joke that the California Preservation Conference is like summer camp for preservationists, and at Asilomar this rang especially true. From a bonfire and s’more roast hosted by Steve Schafer, to the collegiate atmosphere of the dining hall, this year truly felt like “sleep away camp” (thankfully minus the curfew). The 3 Minute Success Stories are always a highlight of the conference and Chattel had front row seats to the event that took place in Julia Morgan-designed chapel. One success story was a ballad sung by Sally Zarnowitz about the rehabilitation of a Mid-Century Modern nursery, while another not-so-successful story was a hilarious photo essay by Steve Schafer chronicling when bad things happen to good buildings. Throughout the night Tim Brandt stole the show as he channeled the various spirits of Asilomar, from the ghost of Julia Morgan to a disheartened camp counselor, and finally, a fabulous canning factory Carmen Miranda.

Tim Brandt as canning factory Carmen Miranda at 3 Minute Success Stories

Tim Brandt as canning factory Carmen Miranda at 3 Minute Success Stories

At the end of the week Christi Di Iorio graciously allowed Chattel to host a lovely cocktails and canapés party for our friends and guests. We served up champagne cocktails and Moscow Mules to celebrate the end of another successful conference and catch up with colleagues from throughout the state. In the end the California Preservation Conference is more than just a series of sessions or workshops taking place in conference rooms. It is a chance to meet up outside of those rooms with old connections, and forge new friendships with those who are passionate about preservation (and won't say no to a stiff drink!).