An elegant Queen Anne-style house on North West Street in Anaheim, once a showpiece home, today houses an equally noteworthy venture: the Central County service center of the American Red Cross. Orange County's two oldest chapters, in Fullerton and Anaheim, were both founded in 1917.
This grand three-story house, embellished with stained-glass windows and a turret crowned by a cupola, was built in 1894 by John Woelke, a restaurateur recently arrived from Chicago with his wife and family. But the future of this elegant home was jeopardized when its original location at Center and Palm streets (today Lincoln Avenue and Harbor Boulevard) was slotted for redevelopment in the late 1940s.
To preserve the house, John and Lera Dwyer purchased it in 1950 for $5,000 and moved it onto their property at 418 N. West St. The Dwyers never lived in the house but donated it to the American Red Cross Anaheim Chapter in 1953 under a 20-year trusteeship. In May, 1973, the trustees and Lera Dwyer officially turned the house over to the Red Cross Orange County Chapter.
Towers, gables and porches grace the exterior. The front doors have beveled glass windows and cast-brass key plates and doorknobs. The chandeliers on the first floor are original features. The three stained-glass windows were made in Germany especially for the house. The only damage incurred in the house's move was to its three tile-decorated fireplaces: They lost their chimneys.
The portrait in the sitting room is of Clara Barton, the nurse who founded the American Red Cross. Farther along the entryway are portraits of John and Lera Dwyer.
Restoration work has been done entirely by volunteers. Many of the antique furnishings (the Art Deco lamps and the spinning wheel) have been donated. The handsome wooden armoire on the second story, with mirrors and carved designs in the front panels, was purchased with funds from the Anaheim Arts Council.
A second-floor room is dedicated as a tribute to Red Cross history. Three mannequins model uniforms worn in various wartime services. Pins and booster buttons are displayed in a cabinet with glassed-in shelves; a display case features, among other items, a photograph of Flo Tarlton, the current director of the Anaheim and Fullerton Red Cross service centers, dressed in the uniform she wore when stationed overseas with the Red Cross during World War II.
The house relies on fund-raisers for its upkeep. Last week, it was the site of an annual duplicate bridge party. Each player contributed $15 to participate.
Also utilizing the Red Cross House once a month is Crafty Ladies, a group of nine women who knit lap robes, stocking caps, slippers, baby blankets, baby sacks and sleepers for the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Long Beach and the Florence Crittenton Service Center of Orange County (a residential treatment center in Fullerton for troubled teen-age girls and their infants).
"It takes quite a bit of money to keep up the house," Tarlton said. "The volunteers that come here are exceptional. I can't say enough good things about them." Hours: No regular hours Address: 418 N. West St., Anaheim Telephone: (714) 778-4526 Miscellaneous Information: Scheduled tours are available. Flo Tarlton gives tours and fields calls in the Anaheim office on Fridays.