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Funding needed to preserve Bottle Village

August 13, 2009 8:48:25 AM PDT
It's on the National Register of Historic Places, but the jury's still out as to whether Bottle Village is an artistic feast for the eyes, or just an eye sore. Bottle Village is a collection of random structures built decades ago by Simi Valley resident Tressa "Grandma" Prisbrey.

A native of Minnesota, Prisbrey moved here at the age of 50, and soon after began building her very own village of mortar, bottles, and whatever else she could salvage from the local dump.

Prisbrey died in 1984, but not before putting her own creative stamp on her property.

"She built structures for more sentimental reasons, more personal reasons. She started finding other things from the dumps besides bottles," said Daniel Paul, an architectural historian.

"The creativity of this is what became important," Paul said.

The artsy attraction brought in big crowds until the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake hit.

Parts of the property were destroyed in the '94 quake, and critics say the collection of bottles, mosaics and pencils is now nothing more than a junk pile.

Historians argue this is a treasure in Simi Valley worthy of preservation.

Prisbrey's collection has been featured in dozens of publications worldwide, and volunteers at the site are soliciting support from city officials to try and salvage what's left.

Simi Valley Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Williamson is impressed with Prisbrey's work.

"People come to the city to see the Reagan Library, a lot of them come to see Corganville, which is where old movie stars used to do a lot of filming. Why couldn't this be the next step?" she said.

While she doesn't support funding the preservation with public dollars, she's encouraging the private sector to support the eccentric collection.

"I hope they think outside of the box when they look at this place and what the potential it can have."

Volunteers recently toured the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board to showcase the property and are still hoping private dollars come through to save the site.

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