Historic Laguna Cottages Dismantled


Big Bend Trailhead Takes Shape


Crews started dismantling historic cottages in Laguna Canyon this week. Photo by Jason Smith




After nearly four years in limbo, deconstruction of four historic cottages relocated to Big Bend from downtown began on Monday to allow for the establishment of a new trailhead and wildlife corridor in Laguna Canyon.

Over the next 16 months, the 3.7-acre city-owned property will be transformed from a dirt lot into a natural resource, according to Derek Ostensen, president of the Laguna Canyon Foundation. The property will be restored with native oaks, sycamores and coastal sage scrub, as well as public trails that will provide a new access point to 20,000 acres of adjacent open space in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

The vistas from the Big Bend site into adjacent open space.

“Though it is difficult to say goodbye to the cottages, their removal allows the property to be restored to a wonderful new community asset and wildlife corridor,” Ostensen said.

Donations from several local companies and organizations assisted, including Waste Management’s donation of dumpsters and debris disposal, which could cost as much as $2,500.

Over the next two weeks, Anaheim’s Orange County Conservation Corps, serving at-risk and disadvantaged youth, and Laguna’s Gregg Abel Design and Construction, Inc. will work to partly deconstruct the cottages rather than demolish them.

Recovered windows and doors, destined for reuse in other homes.

Portions of the cottages will survive repurposed in other homes, mostly in Laguna Beach. In all, four families who requested materials from the site will recycle materials such as lumber, cabinets, light fixtures, mirrors and vintage doors into their own cottages or artwork, Ostensen said.

Two cottage doors were rescued by Jim and Sherry Loofbourrow. They intend to hang them in their home, a historic Laguna cottage owned by former mayor Jesse E. Riddle, namesake of Riddle Field.

Resident Faye Chapman coveted cottage windows and doors that she envisions for use in photography.

And a Tustin resident, owner of a 1950s cottage, salvaged doors and windows to reuse in his home, as well as metal and lumber he intends for a recycling project and to sell as scrap, Ostensen said.

“The project provided valuable job skills training for 15 at-risk young adults,” said Josh Volp of the Orange County Conservation Corps.

Abel, who provided a donation to support the project, was on-site to supervise the deconstruction crew, which included one woman. “They didn’t need any training. They were smart. If I had deconstruction work today, I would hire these guys again. They were so pleased that someone cared to give them a second chance,” said Abel, who personally salvaged old-growth redwood lumber from one cottage. He intends to reuse it as exterior trellises or furniture in a Laguna Canyon home he plans for his children.

The next phase involves eliminating invasive species and replanting with natives and installation of public trails.

“This property is truly a community treasure,” said Max Borella, the foundation’s executive director. “Its spectacular cliffs, abundant wildlife and close proximity to miles of wilderness trails make it an incredible public resource.

— With contributions from Andrea Adelson


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