The building had remained neglected and unused for decades.
But now the 81-year-old Adobe House in Hart Park is beginning to be recognized by state and national historians as a building of historical significance that's worthy of preservation.
Julianne Polanco, California's state historic preservation officer, has officially agreed with the county of Kern, a hired consultant and a large group of local historians and preservationists that the adobe structure is historically important and worth saving.
In a letter to Geoffrey Hill, the county’s chief general services officer, Polanco said a determination has been made that the Depression-era structure is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
While that listing will ultimately require a separate and more rigorous process, Hill said in an email to stakeholders, it means the Adobe House has been automatically listed in the California Register of Historical Resources.
"This is a great milestone for the project and one that wouldn’t have been achieved without the help, support, and input from all the stakeholders, Chattel (the consultant), GS Construction Services, Community Development, and Supervisor (Mike) Maggard," Hill said in the email.
The county has plans to use Community Development Block Grant funding to rehabilitate the Adobe House for use as a visitor center for the 370-acre park.
Chattel Inc., the historic preservation consultants, conducted extensive research and analysis of the structure and its surrounding property, Polanco noted in her letter to Hill.
The County requested a records search from the Southern San Joaquin Valley Information Center of the California Historical Resources System at Cal State Bakersfield, Polanco said. In addition, a sacred lands file search from the Native American Heritage Commission was conducted, and tribes with an interest in the project area were consulted.
"No subsurface historic properties were identified," Polanco said.
After more work, Chattel Inc. provided a recommendation on the adobe home’s eligibility for listing in the National Register.
Based on those recommendations the county determined the Hart Park Adobe House is indeed significant, primarily for its association with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program and the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal agency that funded construction in 1939.
The state agency agreed.
"This is exciting news, which serves to validate the significance of the structure," Maggard said Friday. "It's an important next step in the fulfillment of the restoration project. And it also helps us in our effort to re-birth Hart Park as the gem of the Kern County parks system."
Stephen Montgomery, vice chair of the city of Bakersfield's Historic Preservation Commission, is a key member of the Hart Park Working Group, a collection of historians, preservationists and area residents who were never willing to give up on the goal of saving and restoring the building that is also known as the Peacock House.
"The county has been faced for some time with the fact that Hart Park is close to the worst regional park in California, the most neglected and run down," Montgomery said. "Geoffrey and the team are out to change that."
"This recognition of the building's role in our history and culture makes it official," Montgomery said, that the Adobe House is "worthy of preservation."
"As our regional park is being improved, having it include a building eligible for federal registration — or getting registration — would only add to the overall value of the park as a public asset," he said.
"With docents operating the building as a public history, science and nature interpretive center, eligibility and later registration would give it and its volunteer staff a degree of additional credibility."