Roughly 10 weeks after he violated historical preservation laws by dismantling a set of eight original windows in the former Highland Park Masonic Temple, the building’s co-owner is getting expert help in restoring the panes ahead of plans by Councilmember Gil Cedillo to set up his field office there.
Hector Cruz, who co-owns the three-story building on 5577 N. Figueroa St., on the corner of Avenue 56, has turned over hundreds of pieces of 90-year-old prismatic glass from the windows to a fine arts studio in Garvanza. On June 26, he replaced the historic windows overlooking Avenue 56 with fixed-glass panes, just a week before a Department of Building and Safety inspector ordered him—evidently too late—to stop working on the windows.
The inspector told Cruz that because the Highland Park Masonic Building is on the National Registry of Historic Places, he is required to get permission from the Los Angeles Historical Preservation Overlay Zone before doing any work that changes the building’s architectural integrity.
Cruz’s response was that the windows, which were held together by a framework of zinc, were so old that they were falling apart and that he did not know he couldn’t replace without permission from city authorities.
The pieces of glass, each measuring four-by-four inches, are being cleaned and treated at Judson Studios, a renowned 117-year-old family-owned stained glass business located on the edge of a leafy residential area on Avenue 66.
Cruz said a staff member in Cedillo’s office recommended that he get the windows restored at Judson Studios.
The replacement of the windows, which were six feet wide and three feet high, coincided with plans by Cedillo to open his field office on the first floor of the former Masonic building, which also served as his campaign headquarters during the May City Council elections.
David Judson, the fifth-generation owner of Judson Studios, said during a tour of the facility on Thursday, that it would take about a month to install the windows in the historic building.
Cedillo’s staff may move into the building before the windows are restored, but a grand opening of the field office won’t be held until the windows are in place, according to one of the councilmember’s deputies.
The windows’ eventual restoration won’t be the end of Cruz’s troubles, however. The building owner is required by historic preservation laws to restore another 16 windows on the property, even though he didn’t fiddle with them.
Glass from the windows had been missing long before Cruz and his mother bought the building five years ago, according to Cruz, who said he plans to begin restoration work on six windows facing Figueroa Street in January.
Cruz said he was able to find enough of the original glass for the six windows in the building when he bought it—and that he will use the glass during the restoration process next year.
To restore the remaining 10 windows in the building, Cruz said he would scour vintage stores and salvaged glass stores for suitable material.
“I’m going to present whatever material I do find to the Highland Park Heritage Trust, and see if they will approve it,” Cruz said. “Otherwise I’d have to find a glass company that can replicate vintage type of glass.”
The building owner said he attended a recent meeting of the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, where he “admitted to making a mistake by removing the windows” and acknowledging that he is “fully aware of the damage I had done.”
Correction: The last paragraph of this article initially referred to the Highland Park Heritage Trust as the organization before which Hector Cruz recently appeared. That is incorrect—and we're sorry about the error. Cruz appeared before the board of the Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, not the Highland Park Heritage Trust.