History of Zamora Park and Art House

The land on which the Zamora Art House sits has served many different functions over the years for many different people. We recognize the Tongva people as the original inhabitants and traditional caretakers of Tonvaangar, which includes Houtngna (El Monte). As an arts collective working in an unceded Tongva territory, we pay respects to and honor rebels like Toypurina and elder Gloria Arellanes and are committed to learning from and working the Tongva.

plot plan_Pub Records response (2nd request)--Pub Records response (1st)-pages-5.pdf

Plot plan, 3820 Penn Mar, El Monte

Orchard and Residence (1900s - 1968)

There is little surviving material documenting the early years of the Zamora Art House. It is believed to have been constructed in the early 1940s, during World War II. Before that, in the early 1900s, the land was part of a 500-acre walnut orchard belonging to the politician Prescott F. Cogswell (1859 - 1960). 

The first known resident of the House was a wholesale food salesman named Murray Cluff, who owned the House from 1955 to the early 1960s. John Dewey and Katherine Brundage were the second known residents of the House, from the 1960s to 1968. Little is known about John and Katherine, but research indicates that the two met at Brigham Young University and married in Utah. John was a professional truck driver.

Art House (1971 - 1980s)

In 1968 the city of El Monte purchased the land that would become Zamora Park. Twenty homes were demolished, with the exception of this house. In December 1970 the Zamora Art Center officially opened, and began offering classes in spring 1971: ceramics, copper enameling, batik (a wax-resist dyeing technique), jewelry making, and stitchery.


"El Monte Dedicates Recreation Facility," Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1970

1970 Dec 29,_LA Times_EL MONTE PROJECT- Arts and Crafts Facility Opened .pdf

"El Monte Project: Arts and Crafts Facility Opened," Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1970

Throughout the 1970s the House hosted a variety of charity organizations and holiday events, such as the Junior Women’s Club, Santa Claus Inc., and Greater El Monte Girls Club. 


"4 Sister City Students Studying at El Monte," Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1968

Why Zamora?

The Zamora Art House was named in honor of El Monte’s sister city, Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico. Sister cities are reciprocal relationships between two separate locations intended to promote cultural and economic bonds. In the 1970s city officials and a few students from one such city visited the other.

Adult School and Youth Development Center (1980s - 2000s)

Use of the Art House declined throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Fragmentary records indicate that the El Monte-Rosemead Adult School held classes in it in February 1982, and in 1998 the Youth Development Center received city funding to provide family support, education, and domestic violence programs for at-risk youths. 

In the early 2000s the House functioned as a continuation high school in partnership with the El Monte Police Department, before drifting into disuse. 

My brothers loved to draw and do art in many forms, from graffiti to drawing sketchbooks to tattooing. I think, had this been an art house before, insead of this, end of the pipeline, before prison pipeline, I think that would have saved so many, including my own brothers, that didn’t make it, and ended up in the system.”

-Alfred Mendoza, educator, March 25, 2023

History of Zamora Park and Art House