Local preservationists are remembering the contributions to their cause of three people who passed away recently.
Michael Crowe, Carolyn Douthat and Jane Powell were all former board members or leaders of nonprofit groups dedicated to raising awareness of the legacy of our historic buildings. They will be greatly missed, said Naomi Schiff of the Oakland Heritage Alliance.
"Each in their own unique way, Michael, Carolyn and Jane were pillars of historic preservation in California," she said. "Each distinguished themselves with creativity, firmness and acerbic wit."
Their mission was to share the ethic of "pride of place," Schiff said, referencing the idea that the restoration of distinctive buildings or districts tends to develop a sense of pride among people who live in the vicinity.
After Douthat's death on Nov. 1, Helaine Kaplan Prentice, a lecturer at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, posted on Facebook: "If you live in Oakland or love Oakland, you have Carolyn Douthat to thank for protecting the built environment."
Douthat used her legal background -- she was an attorney who specialized in land use and California Environmental Quality Act issues -- to advise local governments on incentives to spur historic preservation. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, she led a task force of government leaders and residents to establish a building facade improvement program, resulting in many of the restored downtown Oakland buildings we see today.
Crowe was the founder and former president of the Art Deco Society of California and also served on the boards of the California Preservation Foundation and the Oakland Heritage Alliance. He had recently retired after 18 years with the National Park Service, where he coordinated historic landmarks programs, including a federal preservation tax credit program that benefited countless owners of historic properties. Crowe died Oct. 26.
"He led many of our most popular summer walking tours and shared his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for our noteworthy landmarks," Schiff said. "Many will remember his lively and witty treks through Mountain View Cemetery."
Powell, through her books, articles, and lectures, had a national following of old house aficionados.
"She was sometimes called 'the bad girl of bungalow writing,'" said her sister, Mary Enderle, "because she had a unique way of cutting to the chase when it came to standing up for the proper ways to conduct a restoration."
Powell was a hands-on restorer who had learned from trial and error after successfully updating several distressed properties. A preservation consultant, she guided clients through the often confusing and difficult process of bringing a house back to life.
"She was uniquely qualified to help her clients avoid many of the pitfalls that go along with restoring an older home," Enderle said. At the time of her Nov. 11 death, which came after a long bout with cancer, Powell was living in a 1905 Fruitvale neighborhood house that was of exceptional quality but in need of extensive rehabilitation.
"We hope new owners of the house will come forward and continue the work she had started," Enderle said.