Julianna Delgado bought a house in 2002 in the Pasadena neighborhood called Bungalow Heaven, and it didn’t take her long to get involved in preservation efforts in the local community.
The interim associate dean of the College of Environmental Design become an active member on the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association, eventually serving three terms as president, as well as on Pasadena’s Historic Preservation Commission and Design Commission.
But her most lasting work, and one that will be referenced for decades to come, is “Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven” published in 2012 by Arcadia Publishing.
The 127-page book that she co-authored with neighbor and local historian John G. Ripley was the result of both of their fascinations with the area named a Landmark District by the city in 1989 and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
“I was researching my own house, as was John, and we wanted to know more about the origins of the neighborhood,” says Delgado, an urban and regional planning professor. “I’m more of an archeologist or a detective, so I dug in.”
The book details the neighborhood’s story, but its most striking attribute is page after page of historic photographs that showcase the houses built mostly in the early 20th century and characterized by low-pitched roofs and substantial front porches.
Delgado trekked throughout the state to find photographs and additional information about these houses, including stops at the California State Library in Sacramento and the Huntington Library in San Marino.
In total, she says she spent hundreds of hours poring over plans, drawings, photographs and whatever else she could find that related to the neighborhood.
“We knew there were some early images, but these were scattered all across the state in different collections. Fortunately, I was able to unearth much more,” Delgado says. “No one has published any of this before. This is all brand new.”
Bungalow Heaven is considered the nation’s finest and largest collection of intact middle-class homes — about 1,500 — built during the American Arts and Crafts period, roughly from 1890 to 1929. The historic neighborhood is about a mile square in area within the borders of Lake Avenue to the west, Hill Avenue to the east, Washington Boulevard to the north and Orange Grove Boulevard to the south.
The neighborhood has a unique character and is a throwback to how communities used to be. Neighbors are friendly, look out for each other and participate in community activities.
“We all have front porches so all you have to do is sit out there and the world walks by,” Delgado says. “It is a close-knit community that everyone is craving for in this era of anonymity.”
Delgado’s interest in preserving the past has also benefited the city. Property owners interested in restoration efforts would approach officials to request information and images of what their house looked like when it was built. The city typically didn’t have that information until “Pasadena’s Bungalow” Heaven was published.
“The city had a hard time figuring out what was probably there and could be permitted, but now we have the record,” Delgado says.