The oil business was booming. The value of real estate was soaring. And Carl Simpson, who had inherited a chunk of farmland just north of Ventura Avenue, decided in 1925 to make the most of those circumstances.
He sold off the land to businessman Joseph M. Argabrite, and in the next five years about 211 houses rose on the Simpson Tract, a ready-made neighborhood for the hundreds of blue-collar oil workers new to Ventura. The houses were built in Mediterranean Revival and California Bungalow styles--six blocks of stucco, wooden window trim, arched entrances and tiled roofs. They reflected, a city analyst later wrote, "both the economy and the architecture of that era."
Now, 65 years later, the oil tide has receded and the demographics have diversified. But 182 of those Simpson Tract homes remain, protected by a city ruling that they make up a historic district. Mabel Owen, who campaigned for that ruling last March, has seen her home on Simpson Street designated Ventura Historic Landmark No. 76.
With the economy in flux and plans up in the air for a state university, the Simpson Tract's future is unclear. All around Mabel Owen's neighborhood, meanwhile, another generation takes its place.