To Mickey Caldwell, a house is more than a place to make dinner and find shelter from the rain. It is inhabited by the ghosts of the people who built it and lived and loved in it.
The older the house, the more people have passed thorough its front door, bickered in it’s kitchen, and slid down its laundry
Caldwell is among dozens of volunteers who have spent the past year roaming downtown neighborhoods with pencils and
clipboards, peering from the sidewalk into the porches and yards of strangers’ houses.
“There’s a value to them, a living history,” she said. “There’s still a downtown if we fight to keep these houses preserved.”
Caldwell and other history buffs have been working to create the cities first protected historic district – one that includes not just a few streets, but the entire original pioneer colony that became Anaheim.
Their job has been to look past the peeling paint, security doors and scruffy lawns of aging homes that once were graceful and
charming and to envision the day when they could be again.
If successful, the residents will have done something that others have failed to do for 25 years: create the cities first ordinance to preserve historic buildings.
“We want to turn around people’s perceptions of what this neighborhood is, “said Mike Tucker, who owns a 1915 bungalow on Zeyn Street. “It’s not cheap housing, it is old historic housing.”
|WITHIN A WILLOW FENCE|
In 1857, German immigrants from San Francisco paid $750 each to join a 1,165 acre wine making cooperative on the banks of
the Santa Ana River. A willow fence was built around the Anaheim Colony, as it was called, to keep cattle herds from
trampling the grape vines.
As the colony grew, increasingly wealthy settlers built sturdy, but mostly modest houses, in the German tradition that scorned
Many of those homes remain within North, South, East and West Streets – the boundaries of the old colony.
Today, the homes on Clementine Street, North of Pearson Park give the lie to a notion that downtown Anaheim is little more
than shabby bungalows and strip malls.
Eleanor Faessel’s house, across from the park’s duck pond and stately trees, was built in 1921 by Charles Boege, a trusted city
treasurer who created the major scandal of the day when he was convicted of embezzling $3,500 from the city.
Houses in this neighborhood, built in the 1920s and 1930s, have whimsical details like turrets, diamond-paned windows, plaster cornices, striped canopies and river rock chimneys.
Several doors north of Faessel’s house, hamburger king Carl Karcher lives in a sprawling Spanish Revival home highlighted by tilework and surrounded by verdant trees.
Nearby, a house with peaked roof and dormer windows was built by Lotus Louden, founder of the Anaheim Bulletin. Louden
helped drive the Ku Klux Klan from the City Council.
| MAKING CHANGES
As currently envisioned, creation of the historic district would not ensure preservation of some 1,100 old buildings within the
original township. Property owners would still have the right to make changes as they see fit.
But they would be required to meet with historic planners at City Hall first, to learn about their buildings’ past and how the
architectural character of the building could be preserved.
Owners would then be asked to follow voluntary guidelines that emphasize the original character of the building.
For example, preservation buffs would like to see antique wooden windows repaired, rather than replaced with aluminum frames that appear awkward on an older home.
Preservationists believe these changes detract from what historians call the architectural integrity of a building, and can lower its financial value.
Under the proposal presented to the City Council last week, voluntary remodeling guidelines would apply only to buildings 50
years or older that haven’t been altered substantially.
History buffs don’t want to see their neighborhood suffer the fate of the Pickwick Hotel, a Mission Revival gem that was razed in 1988 to make way for a new City Hall.
“Everyone veers toward making everything mandatory, but I still think you should educate people so they want to do it,” Mickey Caldwell said.
Lisa and Corey Loprest had no particular interest in history before they bought a dilapidated house on Elm last year.
They only became aware afterward that their Victorian house, built in 1897, belonged to some of the city’s most important
John and Margaret Rea owned 80 acres of walnut groves named the Katella Ranch after their daughters, Kate and Ella. The dirt road to the ranch later became Katella Avenue. The Reas sold their house in 1922, and it was moved to 125 Elm Street.
Today, the three-story wooden home sits on a shabby commercial side street and needs repairs, which the Loprests have
undertaken even though historically accurate fixes cost more and take more time than off the shelf hardware.
“We are Christians who believe the Lord really led us to buy the house, ” Lisa Loprest said.
Many Craftsman Bungalows remain along North Zeyn Street in good condition, attracting people who like the wooden structures with wide porches and doors.
Mike Tucker and his wife bought their 1915 Aeroplane Bungalow on Zeyn Street six years ago, moving from Lakewood in search of a bygone era.
Their house is knows as the Aeroplane style because it has wide roof overhangs reminiscent of airplane wings.
Public interested in Craftsman architecture has become a cult, with its own magazines, clubs, and even furniture makers. True
believers journey to Pasadena, where entire neighborhoods are built out in that style.
Today, Zeyn Street’s residents include retired people who arrived before Craftsman became chic, and younger couples seeking
their architectural dream.
Several years ago, Tucker became interested in investigating his house, spending hours in the Anaheim History Room at the
Later, when he decided to teach himself to create Internet Web pages, he used his historical research as a subject.
Today, Tucker’s Historical Web site has been visited by thousands of people, who can read about the proposed historic district, take home tours, and read a treasure trove of stories about the city’s history.
“I’ve actually driven down the streets and seen groups of people with my Web pages doing a self guided tour – which is great,”
Tucker said. “You put that stuff out there and don’t know if anyone looks at it.”
Neighborhood Coordinator Phyllis Mueller, who formerly worked in Pasadena, was hired by the City’s Community Development
Department last year to help improve downtown residential areas plagued by low property values and blight.
One of her first activities has been to organize local history buffs to create a preservation district.
She would like to see downtown Anaheim get the same recognition for its old houses as communities such as Pasadena or Orange.
A volunteer committee of fourteen people and others spent more than a year digging into old ledgers and combing through
microfilm copies of old newspapers to create a historical record for some two hundred homes.
Volunteer researchers Gail Eastman, and her husband Ron, rode bicycles downtown seeking the twelve old houses they’d been
assigned, so they could document their current condition.
Then they spent many evenings at the library pouring over dusty handwritten old tax assessors’ books and yellowing directories, finding the stories of the people who once lived here. The couple spent almost twenty hours researching each house.
They also looked up their own house on Illinois Street, which they believe was a catalog home build in 1924.
Many homes in Anaheim were once ordered from Sears or other catalog businesses, then shipped west by rail, complete with
lumber, light fixtures and even nails.
If history buffs can gain community approval, they envision a new kind of catalog – monuments marking the boundaries of the
historic district, commemorative brass plaques on the doors of houses and a series of showcase home tours.
“Anaheim is full of places for tourists to come to, but it would be nice for people to come here to see our community and what
we’ve done,” said Caldwell.
survey of central Anaheim residences with historic and architectural significance. They are
among an estimated 1,100 that remain of some 1,400 old buildings noted in an earlier survey.
East Adele Street
North Janss Street
South Kroeger Street
North Lemon Street
- 709 – 717
South Lemon Street
West Lincoln Avenue
South Melrose Street
East North Street
West North Street
South Ohio Street
North Olive Street
South Olive Street
- 116 – 118
North Philadelphia Street
South Philadelphia Street
North Pine Street
North Resh Street
North Rose Street
East South Street
West South Street
East Sycamore Street
West Sycamore Street
North Vine Street
North Vintage Lane
North West Street
South West Street
East Wilhelmina Street
North Zeyn Street
East Alberta Street
- 501 – 503
South Anaheim Blvd
- 440 – 454
South Atchison Street
North Bush Street
South Bush Street
South Citron Street
South Claudina Street
South Clementine Street
East Cypress Street
South Dickel Street
East Ellsworth Avenue
West Elm Street
North Emily Street
South Emily Street
North Harbor Blvd
South Harbor Blvd
North Helena Street
South Helena Street
South Illinois Street
South Indiana Street