Mike Tucker wanted to live in the quaint, charming ambiance of an old house. He shopped around the historic neighborhoods of Orange and Santa Ana. Finally, he found what he was looking for: A 1915 Craftsman bungalow with a wide porch.

But it wasn’t in Old Town Orange. Instead, it was on a street where many people would be surprised to know that old homes still exist: downtown Anaheim. “Right now in downtown Anaheim, it’s the same as it was five or six years ago in the old section of Pasadena,” Tucker said, referring to Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven district, which has become a trendy address. “The prices are dirt cheap.”

Tucker is one of the homeowners who will be opening his house to visitors today for a tour of historic homes sponsored by Anaheim Beautiful.

Residents who helped create the Anaheim Colony Historic District have been looking forward to showing off their neighborhood since the area was designated as worthy of preservation in October.

Today’s tour, which begins at Pearson Park, includes two of the city’s most famous homes, as well as four houses owned by people such as Tucker who have put their own elbow grease into restoring them.

For people interested in owning an old house, real-estate agents plan to hold open houses in the neighborhood today as well, organizer Micki Caldwell said.

Caldwell, who is organizing the tour for Anaheim Beautiful, has spent 15 years restoring a 1903 Mission Revival house built by a pioneer rancher and councilman. Joseph Fiscus was also a teetotaller who campaigned to make this city of wine makers dry on Sundays.

“We drink a lot in his honor,” Caldwell said.

Her home won’t be open this year because she’s helping run the event.

Over on Zeyn Street, the Tuckers’ two-story bungalow with its wide porches and lace curtains is known in architectural lingo as an Aeroplane bungalow, because its overhanging roof resembles the wings of a plane.

Zeyn boasts a string of similar bungalows in good condition that people have begun buying and restoring.

Only a few years ago, residents said, this neighborhood was declining as owners grew elderly and many renters moved in. Cheap rents attracted problem tenants who didn’t care about the condition of the homes.

Now, preservationists say the area has begun to turn around. They hope the historic designation will help.

“People buy these houses, fix them up and there’s a lot of pride of ownership, as opposed to someone who wants a cheap house to rent out,” Tucker said. “That’s a real turnaround from the late 1970s.”

The Anaheim Beautiful self-guided tour will also include visits to the Mother Colony House. Now a museum, the home was the first residence of a European settler in Anaheim and among the first in Orange County.

It was built under the supervision of George Hansen, an Austrian immigrant who arrived here to buy land for a wine makers’ cooperative colony.

Hansen represented the Los Angeles Vineyard Society, 50 German immigrant families who had invested $750 each to launch a winery on the fertile soil near the Santa Ana River.

He lived in the Mother Colony House while surveying the land and preparing 50 20-acre plots for the grapevines.

Another well-known house on the tour is the Red Cross House, which now serves as the local headquarters of the Red Cross.

This fanciful Victorian mansion, with its conical tower turret, broad porches and gingerbread fretwork, was built in 1884 by Charles Woelke and owned for many years by the Stoffel family.

Two artists who have converted their modest white bungalow by adding a matching studio in the back will also open their house today.

Brad Pettigrew teaches art at Anaheim High School. His wife, Alone Larsen, is also an artist. Their home is old-fashioned on the outside but decorated with contemporary arts and crafts inside.

The owner of an attractive three-bedroom California bungalow at 760 N. Zeyn St. with three bedrooms, a fireplace, a breakfast nook, a front porch and hardwood floors is asking $159,900, according to his sale brochure.

Some owners in the neighborhood have discovered that they own “catalog houses,” which were shipped complete from back East, including assembly instructions and nails.

Those who have bought old homes warn that restoring the houses rapidly becomes an addiction. Especially after the unwary victims meet neighbors who are doing the same.

Tucker became curious about the history of his house and spent hours in the Anaheim History room of the Central Library looking it up. When he ran out of things to research about his house, he started studying Anaheim history in general.

“We started researching the house, and that led to researching the neighborhood,” Tucker said. “Then I did the Web page.”

Later, he thought he would use his knowledge of history as a subject to teach himself how to design Web pages.

Today, more than half a million people around the world have visited his Historic Anaheim web site, which includes details on everything from early saloons to becoming an “old house detective.” The Web site includes information on today’s tour, the historic district, a suggested home tour as well as a wealth of newspaper,

Historic Anaheim

This comprehensive site was created by local resident Mike Tucker. It contains self-guided tours, stories, newspaper articles and trivia. See the Register’s Saturday Web site at www.ocregister.com/entertainment/saturday/ for a chronology on Anaheim’s settlement, how to find information on your old house, and Anaheim sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
ARCHITECTURAL STYLES IN DOWNTOWN ANAHEIM: Mission Revival, Prairie School, Pueblo Revival, Cottage Style, Queen Anne, Queen Anne Cottage, Eastern Shingle Cottage, Aeroplane Bungalow, Dutch Colonial Revival, Craftsman Bungalow, California Bungalow, Spanish Revival, Norman Revival, Tudor Revival. HISTORIC ANAHEIM

In 1857, a group of German immigrants started a wine making cooperative on the banks of the Santa Ana River, paying $750 each to join. A willow-pole fence was built around the Anaheim Colony, as it was called, to keep herds of wild cattle from trampling the fragile grapevines. Today, the colony’s boundaries are East, West, North and South streets. The experimental venture was so successful that the new township grew to have its own dock at San Pedro to ship its wine back East. After a grape blight destroyed the wineries, farmers turned to chilis, walnuts and citrus groves to earn their daily bread. As the colony grew, wealthy immigrants continued to build mostly sturdy but unostentatious houses in the German tradition. Many of those homes remain along such streets as Zeyn, Lemon and Adele. Street names in the historic district: Zeyn Street: After John P. Zeyn, early mayor. He was one of the original vineyard colony settlers.

Clementine: Clementina Ontiveros Langenberger was the daughter of Juan Ontiveros and a descendant of the original Spanish land-grant holder. She was the second wife of August Langenberger, who established Anaheim’s first general store in 1858.
He also owned the Langenberger Hotel. This German immigrant had panned for gold in the California Gold Rush. Pearson Park was built on his orange grove.

Helena Street: Named after famed Polish actress Helena Modjeska, who retired to the city in 1876 to form a Utopian community. YOU’RE THERE What: Home tour of the new downtown Anaheim Colony Historic District. Six vintage homes include the oldest house in Anaheim. When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today. Allegria folk dance troupe performs at 11 a.m.

Where: Buy tickets for self-guided tour at Pearson Park, corner of Lemon and Sycamore streets. Sponsored by Anaheim Beautiful. How much: $12 includes refreshments. Proceeds go toward buying a mobile paint lab that can match colors to paint out graffiti.