Judy Oleson not only knows about the pioneer daughter for whom her 1903 Craftsman bungalow was built, she has the
woman’s faded photograph hanging on the wall.
Oleson and her husband, Keith, moved into their roomy downtown bungalow 12 years ago after falling in love with its
distinctive woodwork and architectural details. Since then, the couple have worked to improve aging downtown
neighborhoods, including doing historical research on 10 houses in the proposed historic district the City Council will
If approved, the Anaheim Colony Historic District would become the first protected one in the city’s history, with voluntary
guidelines for restoration.
The Olesons’ house is among those on the preservation list.
“Right by the doorway, we have a picture of Jessie Melrose, the woman the house was built for,” Judy Oleson said. “It
was built by Fred Backs Jr., son of an original settler, for his soon-to-be bride.”
Preservationists say they hope a protected district would help increase pride and property values in the city’s old downtown
neighborhoods, as it has in other cities throughout the country.
The proposal for the Anaheim Colony district includes some 900 buildings volunteers have deemed worth saving within
the area bounded by East, West, North and South streets – the boundaries of the 1857 winemaking cooperative established
by German settlers.
“It seems as though it will pass because they are voluntary guidelines, and council members seem pretty supportive,”
said Micki Caldwell, one of the volunteers who has been working to create the district.
Unlike neighboring cities such as Orange and Fullerton, Anaheim doesn’t intend to tell owners how they can alter or
demolish buildings that have historic or architectural value.
The measure Anaheim council members expect to consider Tuesday has no enforcement clause and wouldn’t guarantee the
preservation of any building.
Owners could still demolish or alter as they see fit – although they would have to listen to a lecture first about why they
should keep a building’s historic character intact.
Most of the remaining old buildings downtown are in residential neighborhoods hidden from the main commercial streets.
Civic leaders demolished most of the city’s old commercial buildings over the past two decades.
“When we moved to Anaheim in 1983, it was pretty appalling to me there was no downtown,” said history buff Gail
Eastman, one of the volunteers who pored through ancient, handwritten tax assessor books and yellowing city directories
to research the background of houses within the proposed district.
“There were a few buildings still standing (in the commercial district), and we said, `They won’t knock those down,’ ”
Eastman said. “And, of course, they did.”
Tips to rediscover your old house’s past. You buy an old house because it’s cheap, then become curious about its past. How
do you look it up? Ask librarians and archivists for help.
Where to search:
State and federal archives
What to search:
Tax assessor records
Cemetery and census records
Birth, death and marriage certificates
City directories and phone books
Deeds, titles, land grants
If you’re interested in researching your house or learning about historic issues, here is a useful Internet site:
Historic Anaheim: This comprehensive site was created by resident Mike Tucker. It contains self-guided tours, stories,
newspaper articles and trivia. Address: http://www.anaheimcolony.com