Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home. --John Howard Payne
In these days of boxy condominiums and cookie-cutter tract homes that have names like "Granada," "Goldenrod" and "Larkspur," it is nothing less than thrilling to chance upon a really old house, one with a front porch, sash windows and a fireplace in the bedroom. In North County it is still possible to find these houses, some tucked away in older neighborhoods and others smack in the middle of downtown.
From New England Salt Box to Midwest Bungalow to adobe ranchos, these are the houses that have survived the wrecking ball--and, in some cases, been restored to their previous glory. Most are privately owned, but some are open to the public.
Here are the stories of some of the oldest houses in North County:
The Bandy/Conley House,
638 S. Juniper
Gleaming with a fresh coat of cactus yellow paint, this Queen Anne Victorian radiates a kind of happiness and warmth. Total strangers knock on the front door asking for tours of the house and they are not turned away.
The owners, Robert and Joanne Conley, believe they have a chunk of history and a responsibility to share it. They have joined the Escondido Historical Society and are active in preserving old buildings in town.
Since he bought the home nine years ago, Conley has spent much of his spare time painstakingly caring for and repairing the 99-year-old solid redwood structure. From the multicolored gingerbread work on the side of the house to the red and white striped barber poles in the third-story attic window, he has ensured that his house oozes Victorian charm from every crevice.
Julius H. Anderson, a cashier at the Bank of Escondido, bought the lot for $325 in 1891 and built the 3,250-square-foot Victorian for himself and his family. The architectural firm of Comstock and Trotsche designed the 11-room house.
Later owners included N. Fredrick Hansen, business manager of the Escondido Times newspaper; former Iowa state Sen. Abraham O. Garlock, and more recently San Diego City Councilman Ed Struiksma. But the house was named for Tom Bandy, an Escondido blacksmith who lived in the structure for more than 50 years.
The Conleys bought the house for $125,000 and renovation began immediately. One of the first jobs the Conleys tackled was the kitchen.
"We were living in Mission Viejo and we wanted to buy a period home and restore it," said Robert Conley. "First, we completely gutted the kitchen and brought it back to the old Victorian period by installing new solid oak cabinets and a wood floor and wood ceiling."
The lion's share of Conley's renovating efforts has been restoring the woodwork throughout the house and completing the wallpapering. He also turned two of the six upstairs bedrooms into an office and a walk-in closet.
The original fireplaces in the living room and bedrooms are still intact and so is the fire pole next to the kitchen. The fire pole, which extends from the second floor down into the kitchen area, is from the first firehouse in Escondido and was installed when a family with seven children lived there.
Breaking from the house's Victorian theme, Conley indulged in a little personal whimsy and designed the breakfast nook to resemble a '50s-style diner. The small room off the kitchen is outfitted with a restaurant booth, an old Tiffany lamp that was purchased in Mexico, and several malt-shop era Coca-Cola signs.
Conley's home improvement plans also extend to the property surrounding the house. Already standing in the front yard is a cast iron lamp post circa 1910 that he purchased from the city of Pasadena and restored, and he next wants to add Victorian gazebos to the front and back yards.
The Bandy/Conley home was the first house in Escondido to be named a historical landmark, and it is on the city's walking tour. In conjunction with the historical society, the house is open to the public at various times during the year as part of a tour of Victorian homes in the area.
The Cunningham House
This 103-year-old ranch house had everything Art and Lauren Cunningham were looking for. It was big enough to accommodate their growing family; it was within their price range; and the shadowy figures and peculiar noises in the house were just niggling inconveniences, less a concern than termites.
"I wouldn't say there are any special features," Lauren Cunningham said. "It's an old house, definitely a fixer-upper, and supposedly it's haunted."
Cunningham said she has heard many stories from former owners and longtime Poway citizens that date to the turn of the century. Her "haunted" house is always a topic of conversation, she said.