Whittier council rejects proposal to demolish house Richard Nixon once owned

The Whittier City Council has refused to allow a single-family house once owned by the late President Richard Nixon to be demolished, a long-sought goal by the current owner, who has argued the property doesn’t meet the criteria to be considered historic.

The council voted unanimously this week to uphold the Historic Resource Commission’s January denial of real estate broker Robert Salamone’s request to deem the house, 15844 Whittier Blvd., ineligible for a local historic landmark designation.

Richard and Pat Nixon with their daughter, Tricia, at the home on 15844 Whittier Boulevard in Whittier. (File Photo)

Council members cited a letter from attorney Paul Carter, a Nixon scholar who has published a biographical map of the 37th president — which traces where the Republican lived throughout his life– and written a biography of him. The written biography focuses extensively on Whittier and Nixon’s life there.

Nixon began his political life from the Whittier property, Carter wrote.

Nixon lived there while he ran to get reelected to his congressional seat in 1948, Carter said, and returned to the house while serving as a senator and as vice president.

“In many respects, the 15844 Whittier property can be considered the birthplace of Richard Nixon’s political career,” Carter wrote. “There can be no doubt that it is the site of an important historic event or it is associated with events that have made a meaningful contribution to the nation, state or city.”

Mayor Joe Vinatieri said he thought Carter did a nice job of capturing the situation.

“This property is historical and needs to stay that way,” Vinatieri said.

Still, Vinatieri and other council members said they were sympathetic to Salamone, who in 2005 purchased the one-story Tudor Revival house and has made multiple attempts to demolish it.

“Is there something that can be done,” Councilman Fernando Dutra asked during the Tuesday, Nov. 9, council meeting, “including placing it at one of our parks?”

So far, the answer is no, City Manager Brian Saeki said. Saeki said he had looked at getting cost estimates for moving the house but it’s complicated because any project would have many contractors.

“Until it’s our project and we’re moving it,” he said, “we won’t know what the cost is.”

Salamone can’t develop the property the house is on without demolishing, he said.

Most people, the broker said, would prefer to see this property developed.

“I do think people who want it to be preserved are in the minority,”  Salamone said. “Most of the city of Whittier is not concerned about this.”

Two firms, he added, have said the property is not historic because it doesn’t meet any of nine criteria the city requires, including that it’s not connected to someone renowned, local or an important personality — although the property is connected with Nixon.

Nixon’s parents bought the property in 1946 for one of their other sons, Don, who managed the family business. It was next door to their home.

There’s no evidence was found to suggest that Nixon ever lived at the property or used it as his primary place of residence, a city staff report said, though he was registered to vote at that address from 1948 to 1950, and again from 1956 to 196.

These periods coincide with Nixon’s terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and as vice president, the staff report said.

The Nixons sold the property to Luis and Marie Dashwood in 1976, two years after the former president resigned. The house was converted to a commercial retail store called Dashwood Antiques.

Luis Dashwood sought to demolish the house in 2000 but the Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously to declare the property historic because of its association with Nixon, according to the minutes of that year’s Oct. 18 meeting.

The City Council, however, voted 4-1 against declaring the property historic.

Salomone tried to get permission in 2012 to demolish the property but was told his application was incomplete. He sued the city but lost. In 2018, the commission ruled the report Salomone provided on the property was not objective because he commissioned it.

File source

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