Correction: Morgan lives in Carthay Square. The three neighborhoods that comprise the “Carthays” are Carthay Square, South Carthay and Carthay Circle.
Carthay Square residents and their nearby neighbors in the other “Carthays” – Carthay Circle and South Carthay – gathered last Sunday morning to celebrate the unveiling of Marilouise Morgan Square at the intersection of Point View Street and Whitworth Drive. It was a fitting tribute to Marilouise Morgan, now 93, who has served the neighborhood for more than four decades, both as president of the neighborhood association and driving the effort to secure the community’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) in 2018.
“When Marilouise decided to step down from the board after many, many years of service, we starting thinking about how we could honor her,” explained Susan Sanford, current co-president of the Carthay Square Neighborhood Association. “We reached out the [city] council office to see if they had any suggestions. Jay Greenstein, our CD5 Field Deputy, suggested designating the square, which we thought was just perfect.”
“Often these designations are made in memoriam, but the council office was delighted to be able to honor Marilouise when everyone could be there to celebrate,” explained Sanford. “We had to wait several months for the request to make its way through the city process, but the timing was perfect. We dedicated the square to Marilouise the morning of our neighborhood’s annual pancake breakfast. Marilouise didn’t want to ask the Councilmember, Paul Koretz, to have to come to the neighborhood twice!”
Koretz presented Morgan with a certificate and two replicas of the signs that are posted in the intersection.
Morgan told the Buzz she was completely shocked when she heard about the square designation, and deeply honored.
“I’m honored and humbled for this recognition of my service, ” said Morgan at the ceremony. She thanked her fellow neighbors for their help along the way, including Susan Sanford and Michael Johnson, co-presidents of the board of CSA.
“When we moved here in August of 1959, we had a new house, a new baby and a new car,” Morgan told the Buzz. Morgan was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, most well known for its abundant supply of Frank Lloyd Wright homes, which she credits for her appreciation of historic houses. She made her way to Los Angeles for college, graduating with a degree in political science form UCLA and a masters degree in public administration from USC. Morgan said her involvement in the neighborhood began when her daughter started school at Carthay Elementary School.
“I wanted to support the teachers at my daughter’s school,” said Morgan. “I volunteered in the classroom, I picketed with the teachers when they needed our support, and my husband, who was a psychologist, once facilitated a retreat for the teachers. Carthay Elementary was the center of the community. There were seven teachers who taught at the school who lived in the neighborhood.”
Once her daughters got out of school, Morgan turned her attention to citywide issues and neighborhood issues. She became active in the effort to stop the plan to convert Olympic and Pico Boulevards to one way streets, which people feared would creat mini freeways through the Carthay neighborhoods. Morgan said the unpopular plan was finally killed when former City Councilmember Herb Wesson funded medians in his district. Interestingly, Morgan said Wesson credits her for being his first boss at the county. Morgan spent 27 years in the county’s administrative offices in a wide variety of jobs.
“The county is so huge,” said Morgan. “Staff got shuffled around, you could do a lot of different jobs at the county. I had a rich life working for the County, I ended up writing positions for the Board of Supervisors. I did a lot of writing, it was a marvelous education for me.”
Morgan used that education to help preserve her neighborhood. She served as co-chair of the HPOZ committee, along with neighbor and local architect Peter Merlin, whom she said donated hundreds of hours of his time documenting all the properties in the neighborhood. (Merlin wrote a story for the Buzz about architect Edith Mortensen Northman and French Revival style architecture in South Carthay.) She also wrote the history of the neighborhood that can found on the association website.
“There wasn’t much staff at the city at that time,” said Morgan. “Ken Bernstein was practically alone in the early days. We were fighting two battles; one to get staff in the city to take care of the HPOZs and the other, winning over the vocal opposition in the neighborhood. We owe a great deal to Ken, who came to every community meeting and really helped us.”
Morgan credits her “Minnesota stubbornness” for not giving up, as well her desire to find ways to balance the interests of her neighbors.
“I learned a lot about dealing with opposition,” said Morgan. “I learned more working in the community than from any lecture I attended, or text book or even working for the county. I also learned that perseverance counts for a lot.”
Morgan is deeply thankful for the next generation of leaders, like Sanford and Johnson, who have stepped up to lead the neighborhood preservation efforts. She hopes the next generation will appreciate how much work it takes to advance the neighborhood, and says everyone really wants the same thing.
“Everyone wants a neighborhood that has stability, and we have fought for that all along,” she said.
“It’s a testament to Marilouise that it takes two of us to do her job!” said Sanford, who added that she is optimistic that Morgan’s work will be carried on. Following the unveiling, more than 400 neighbors enjoyed a pancake breakfast and block party.
“Marilouise gave me a gift,” said Sanford. “She gave me my neighborhood. It was a great gift, and we are carrying that on.”
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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