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Q&A with Casey Tibbet – Architectural History

Learn more about architectural history with award-winning Associate/Architectural Historian Casey Tibbet! Ms. Tibbet has more than 20 years of experience in architectural history and currently leads LSA Riverside’s Cultural Resources Group. Check out the Q&A below!

How would you describe your role and responsibilities within LSA?

My role is to help people navigate the various regulatory compliance processes associated with manmade features (buildings, structures, etc.) that are 50 years of age or older. My responsibilities include providing my clients and coworkers with honest, objective, and accurate information, legally defensible and easy-to-understand analyses, and practical solutions to any issues that may arise. Basically, the goal is to make the process as painless as possible within the bounds of the regulatory framework.

What are types of services you provide as an Architectural Historian?

The primary services are evaluating built environment resources for historical significance and analyzing how projects might impact historically significant resources. But there are lots of other things we do such as CEQA/NEPA compliance, National Register nominations, Caltrans work, research, surveys, contexts, ordinances, design guidelines, and more.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

I really enjoy helping people understand and work through the process. I like coming up with practical solutions to problems and, although it can sometimes be frustrating, I love the treasure hunt aspect of research. The research always reminds me how connected everything past and present really is and reinforces optimism in the future.

During your tenure at LSA, what projects have you enjoyed working on the most?

There have been tons of fun projects, but here are three of my favorites.

  • Angels Stadium and the Big A—As a baseball fan, it was super fun to have the chance to evaluate this facility and learn all sorts of interesting things about the history of the sport, the evolution of stadium design, and the owners, coaches, and players associated with the organization. Big thanks to the stadium staff and ownership for the incredible tour of the stadium and the use of their archives.
  • Hollyhock House—Being part of the award-winning team that completed the restoration of this architectural gem was a one-of-a-kind experience. The house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, and Lloyd Wright, and determining the appropriate restoration period was sometimes challenging. Highlights were spending time with Eric Lloyd Wright and problem-solving with the City of Los Angeles’ project manager and architect.
  • Azusa Conduit—This resource is a nearly 6-mile-long water conduit that was constructed between 1892 and 1898 along the San Gabriel River for the purpose of providing water to a hydroelectric generating station. Aside from a truly fascinating and significant history, this project had one of the most fun and enthusiastic clients I’ve ever worked with. We remain friends to this day and hope to one day collaborate on a book about the conduit.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share about your expertise?

  • The amount of personal information that can be found in city directories, newspapers, and local histories, especially prior to the mid-1960s, is sometimes surprising. It’s similar to today’s social media.
  • I’ve discovered that saying, “I’m an architectural historian” is a real conversation starter while saying, “I’m in regulatory compliance” (both equally true statements) is a definite conversation killer. That said, it’s important to note that I’m in the business of regulatory compliance, not preservation advocacy.
  • Clients sometimes ask me to figure out who is haunting their building and why.
  • I cannot double as an archaeologist or a paleontologist—and they cannot double as architectural historians. My job actually takes special education and training in order to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards.
  • Reference librarians and archivists are always helpful, but they have been absolutely amazing during the pandemic! They have really spoiled me with all of their help these last couple of years.
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