Protecting Pasadena’s Heritage


Pasadena Heritage Executive Director Sue Mossman has set her sights on preserving Pasadena’s historic properties.

BY: Julie Carlson

“Our collective architectural past is beautifully represented in Pasadena is a real, visible, tangible part of our everyday experience here,” explains Executive Director of Pasadena Heritage Sue Mossman. Founded in 1977, Pasadena Heritage has been a leader in the community by advocating to protect and preserve Pasadena’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Just one year shy of the organization’s inception, Mossman has worked for the non-profit for 39 years, first starting as a volunteer. “Pasadena Heritage is one of the oldest historic preservation groups in Southern California and the second largest in the state, with more than 2,000 members,” says Mossman.

The organization was instrumental in saving the once derelict Old Pasadena from a wrecking ball and the Colorado Street Bridge from demolition as well as working to preserve the Civic Center and Pasadena City Hall with seismic retrofit and restoration, the former YWCA project, and has championed the protection of historic neighborhoods, districts, landmark homes and buildings.

“The organization has nominated more than 2,000 buildings for historic designations,” explained Mossman. “It has the largest preservation easement program west of the Mississippi, and has developed and fostered affordable housing using historic properties, including founding Heritage Housing Partners which is now a very successful independent housing non-profit.”

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan Mossman gained an appreciation for cultural and architectural heritage early on through her family’s travels abroad. She spent years in Southern France, Bangkok and Rome. She graduated from Kent State University with a major in English and moved to Southern California in 1969.

Mossman has been a longtime resident of the Madison Heights neighborhood in Pasadena since 1976, living in a craftsman style home. “Years ago, I was a neighborhood activist and was very involved in my sons’ schools, sports and scouts when they were young,” says Mossman.

Her work with Pasadena Heritage has lead to continued roles in the community, serving on a variety of advisory bodies, such as the Pasadena City Hall and Restoration Oversight Committee. Twenty years ago, she also helped plan a statewide historic preservation conference which will return this year. She has also served on the State Historic Preservation Office’s Education Committee. “Pasadena Heritage work keeps me so busy that there isn’t much time do other things as I wish,” she says.

Throughout her tenure, Mossman has had many accomplishments working with the organization of which she can be proud, including when she negotiated a settlement on the Bullock’s Pasadena (now Macy’s) project that saved the historic structure and “kept it the visible centerpiece of that new development and the reopening of the display windows along Lake Avenue.” Not to mention saving the Stuart Pharmaceutical building in East Pasadena against monumental odds. She adds, “Helping turn the tide against the NFL remaking the historic Rose Bowl, helping create the Landmark District Ordinance, providing architectural tours and education to thousands of people, and helping the organization grow from 200 to 2,000 members over the last four decades.”

She credits being surrounded by a great team—from board members to Pasadena Heritage’s dedicated and talented staff. “I love my job because I love Pasadena and the great people I am privileged to work with,” says Mossman. “Helping to see that the extraordinary architectural legacy and the unique character of Pasadena are protected and so will be part of the city’s future is very rewarding.”

Pasadena Heritage provides lectures on historic districts, public tours showcasing postwar architecture of local homes, presentations on Old Pasadena, research and DIY advocacy workshops, among other special events such as film screenings. They are currently working alongside architects and development companies on preservation proposals and design review processes for the Union Street Condominiums, Green Hotel Apartments and the former Loud Ford Showroom, among others.

Mossman loves the special feeling that the historic buildings, places and spaces throughout the city evoke as well the variety they bring to our landscape—from the trees to the Arroyo to the mountains. Mossman muses, “I think history grounds us, inspires us and speaks to us as human beings in both grand and subtle ways. Historic places are there to be enjoyed by everyone, to teach us, to inspire us and even to comfort us. New is needed, change will come but old has depth, soul and memory.”


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