George Armstrong is getting to used to having a room with a view. Since December, the Long Beach City College professor has lived 50 feet above Sunset Beach in his new house, a redwood water tower that for 40 years has been the community's primary landmark. And he and partner Bob Odell can "count on two hands now the things we still intend to do" to complete the house, he said.
Armstrong, who owned another water tower, agreed six years ago to buy and renovate this one after a group of Sunset Beach residents convinced him that he was the only person who could save the community landmark from the wrecking ball.
He replaced the old, graffiti-marred tank with a slightly bigger, three-story house, paneled with redwood salvaged from the old tank. A Jacuzzi, already in need of repair because of overuse, is built into the tower on a deck 40 feet above the ground.
Top Floor Is Single Room
The three-story house's crowning glory, Armstrong said, is its top floor, a single circular room, 30 feet in diameter, with a 360-degree view of Catalina Island, the Pacific Ocean, the beaches, Huntington Harbour and the county beyond.
The top floor is where Armstrong and Odell entertain guests and where they do their homework, at desks facing Catalina Island, behind the bar. "You can look out and meditate, almost as if you were at the top of a mountain," Armstrong said.
"It's really a terrific place to work," he added. "I try to be home at sunset. . . . It's really a special time of day."
Although the novelty of his house has worn off, Armstrong said, "the best thing (still) is the excitement of the people that come to see it. Even looking at pictures, or standing outside, they cannot visualize what it is until they come in and see it.
"It happens with everyone that comes in . . . they are all astounded with the interior of the home. And the view."
Some Think It's a Restaurant
More than a few passers-by knock on the door and ask for a tour. "It happens once a week, anyway," Armstrong said. "I've also had a lot of people come up and think it's a restaurant. They want to know where the menu is."
Armstrong spent three years building the house. Odell estimated last year they would put close to $500,000 into the tower and house, but Armstrong steadfastly refuses to reveal how much money the two have invested. "I want to avoid putting a monetary value on it," he said. "I feel it has more to do with art than money. . . .
"I could have spent half as much or I could have spent 10 times as much; it wasn't going to improve the view," Armstrong said.
Sitting at the bar, built just 2 1/2 feet from the floor so it wouldn't obstruct that precious view, Armstrong swept his arm in a circular gesture.
"This room really isn't 700 square feet," he said. "It's 700 square miles."