Stonehurst Recreation Center Building
c. 1930 – Daniel Lawrence Montelongo
9901 Dronfield Avenue, Sun Valley – map
It’s figured stonemason Daniel Lawrence Montelongo is responsible for building, or helping build, as many as 100 stone buildings in his lifetime. Most of them were Los Angeles bungalows, but there were a couple of bigger homes and at least one larger public building – the Stonehurst Recreation Center Building.
Montelongo was born a full-blooded Mescalero Apache Indian on July 21, 1895, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a brief spell in Durango, Mexico, Montelongo, still a young boy, moved near the San Fernando Mission. By the time he was 25, he had served as a ranch hand on Porter Ranch, joined the army, was a Los Angeles County sheriff, and worked on oil fields and the Owens Valley Aqueduct. Also a cement contractor, Montelongo even took a crack at gold mining (with no success).
He married Delfina Valencia Moreno in the early 1920s, the couple raising their family at 11724 Wicks Street (the home's long gone).
According to Albert Knight of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, who interviewed Montelongo’s son, Dan Jr, the stonemason
… never employed more than 3 or 4 people at a time, and he often did most of the stone work, and almost all other phases of the work, himself.The Sun Valley foothill community of Stonehurst was only about half a dozen years old when Montelongo built its recreation center in or around 1930. As usual, he used natural river rock from local washes, water-worn and rough-stacked. These he collected as noted above or possibly through a local contractor.
The collecting of rock was done mostly by hand, with wheelbarrows and an old truck to move it from the collection points to the work areas.
… wood frames for fire places, doors, and windows were built first, and then the stonework and rock was built up around them, then the frames were removed.
Dan Montelongo, whose masonry work can be seen not only throughout the Sun Valley area but also as far away as Lake Arrowhead, died of stomach cancer on September 22, 1944, at his family’s home on Wicks Street. He’s buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. The family was so poor when he died, they couldn’t afford a marker till years later.
Well, I figured I’d swing by Valhalla, enjoy a goblet of soma, and look for Montelongo’s gravestone. Now, this was a stupid idea – there are far too many residents there and my time is dear. (It'd been convenient if they'd bury folks alphabetically, but I guess that’s too much too ask.) However, while there I did get a picture of Oliver Hardy’s grave – here it is:
But I digress.
The Stonehurst Recreation Center came pretty close to being demolished in 1977. The city had planned to raze the building that fall after opening a brand-new 10,000 square-foot community center. Local residents, along with Councilman Louis Nowell, worked to preserve the old stone building, however, having it declared a city landmark on March 9, 1977.
“Historical Status May Rescue Stonehurst Building" Los Angeles Times; Mat 15, 1977, p. SF_A1
Knight, Albert “Stonehurst – A 1920s Era Stone House Neighborhood" San Fernando Valley Historical Society 2002
Up next: Welsh Presbyterian Church Building