Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Stephen Schafer, schafphoto.com

Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House

During the late 1800s, many small cottages and “shotgun” houses were constructed in Santa Monica’s Ocean Park neighborhood. 

Shotgun houses are long and narrow: they span the width of a single room, with the other rooms (typically two to four) connected by aligned doorways instead of a hall. Some attribute the unusual name to the notion that if all the doors are open, one could fire a shotgun into the front door, and the shot would travel straight through the house and out the back door without touching any walls. 

Over the years, many of Santa Monica’s small shotgun houses were demolished, significantly altered, or moved inland. This structure, believed to have been constructed in the late 1890s, is the only intact shotgun house remaining in the city.

After decades as a rental property, the house was first threatened with demolition in 1998. Community members rushed to have the house landmarked, which didn’t prevent demolition outright. In 2002, a new owner began demolition work. A back room addition was demolished, and many windows and interior cabinetry were removed and discarded before neighbors and preservation activists could obtain an emergency order to stop the demolition. 

The Church in Ocean Park, the Ocean Park Community Organization, and individual community members purchased the house for $1 and raised funds to store it until a new owner and site could be found. Ultimately, the house moved three times: to a storage facility at the Santa Monica Airport, a City storage facility, and finally its present location, only one and a-half blocks from its original location.

The City of Santa Monica took ownership of the house because the community organization that had rescued the house had disbanded, and the house was considered abandoned. In 2007, the City issued a request for proposals to find a suitable use for the Shotgun House. With support from neighbors and community members, as well as other local groups, the Santa Monica Conservancy successfully proposed to rehabilitate the home and adapt it for use as their Preservation Resource Center.

The Santa Monica Conservancy raised funds to rehabilitate the house and preserve as many of the original elements as possible. Missing elements were replicated when necessary: at some point during the home’s vacancy, decorative porch brackets were stolen, and these were reproduced based on photographs. The home’s few original window and door casings were used as models to recreate others that were missing. While the interior was modernized with insulated sheetrock walls, open panels in the walls reveal original redwood boards and salvaged wallpaper. 

The house now serves as Santa Monica Conservancy's headquarters, and benefits the Santa Monica community and visitors as a preservation resource center. It contains a resource library, as well as interpretive signage and materials to learn more about preservation principles and local history. The house accommodates visitors and events such as workshops, lectures, and meetings. It is open to the public Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 am - 2pm, and by appointment.

In early 2017, the Shotgun House earned LEED™ Gold certification, proving that even a century-old structure can be rehabilitated and adapted for sustainable, contemporary use. Some of the green features of the building include the reuse of ninety-five percent of the original building, energy efficiency, and a drought-resistant garden.

The work to save and rehabilitate this rare shotgun house earned a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2017.

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