Morrell House to offer view

Morrell House to offer view of Redondo 100 years ago

by Carly Mayberry

When the restoration of the Morrell House in Heritage Park is completed, residents will not only inherit a community center, but also a sense of what it was like to live in Redondo in the early 1910s.

"Basically, we want to show how families in the early 1910s lived," Bob Hayes, president of the Redondo Beach Historical Society said recently, about the current effort to restore the inside of the historical home. Hayes, who devotes his weekends to the restoration effort, took a break from his nail pounding and wall stripping recently. He is just one of the volunteers dedicated to constructing the home to its original condition.

The Morrell House has been in its present location at Heritage Court in Dominquez Park since 1989. It received landmark designation from the Preservation Commission in 1991. The home originally sat at 204 North Catalina Avenue, one house north of Diamond Street. The Queen Anne and Craftsman style home was built in the 1800s and remodeled in the 1910s. Since being moved to Heritage Court, it has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery with a new roof, foundation, and earthquake retrofitting. A new handicap access also lines the building.

Now volunteers are concentrating their efforts on the interior. The walls have been re-plastered and the doors restored to their original five-panel design. The next step is to replace the electrical and plumbing systems.

Amongst the rubble and construction material that line the floors now, a new chimney is visible, recreated from the original bricks.

That’s the purpose behind restoration of the Morrell House — to create a building fresh and new by honoring the uniqueness of its past.

"Redondo once had a fantastic number of old houses," Hayes said. "But because the city has always been so development oriented, too many of these historical homes were destroyed."

Besides the original bricks in the construction of the new chimney, windowpanes have been restored with old "wavy" glass, reminiscent of the original glass.

"All the glass has been replaced with old hand blown glass," explained Monica Moore, the treasurer of the RBHS, who also donates time to the project.

Venture upstairs and the vision of a lawyer’s bookcase shrouded in books from the turn of the century greets you at the landing. This bookcase is the original, donated back to the residence.

Once upstairs, with view through the crystalline windowpanes, lies the living quarters, including the master and children’s bedroom. There is also an old-style closet constructed of the original Cedar wood.

"Velma Morrell has also donated the original master bedroom set," Moore explained, referring to the daughter of Ed Morrell, the home’s original owner. Velma Morrell is still very involved with her old home, which was one of the first houses in Redondo to have electricity and a barn in the back for raising chickens.

"It will be a living museum, not a regular museum," Moore explained. "The difference is that all the rooms will be restored in different time periods to show the progression that the home has gone through in a lifetime."

Moore said that the home will also provide much needed meeting space for the community.

For his part, Hayes hopes to restore the house while keeping its historic fabric intact. That history not only includes the nostalgia of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, but the rebellion of the 1960s.

"There’s still a moon etched in one of the doors from the period of time when the house served as an ashram," Hayes explained. "Like everything else, that will remain intact too."

At the same time, Hayes wants to restore the home’s architecture with a movement back to simpler lines.

"During the Industrial Revolution, Victorian homes became very busy," Hayes said. "I think the movement should be back to simpler lines with open timbers, brackets and casement windows."

But Hayes main concern is to simply see the complete restoration of the home come to fruition.

"I just like old houses," Hayes said. "And I hate to see old houses rotting away."

According to Hayes, the City of Redondo is currently working on a grant to help pay for the final stages of restoration of the Morrell House. In addition, The Redondo Beach Historical Society is always seeking donations. To help with this restoration project or for more information, call the RBHS at (310) 316-1855. ER