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History's for Sale in San Dimas : Landmark: Mansion built in 1887 as a hotel has been a home and a restaurant. Price: $1.19 million.

May 05, 1991|FRANKI V. RANSOM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The historic San Dimas Mansion--built as a hotel but used as a home and later as a restaurant--is on the market.

Heirs of the family who lived in the yellow three-story Victorian house downtown for 89 years are asking $1.19 million for the 1887 mansion, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The family also will consider a lease.

Six generations of descendants of James W. Walker, who moved to California from Covington, Ky., lived in the house, which Walker bought in 1889 for $25,000, said heir Susan Davis.

The "Big House," as family members called it, became known as the San Dimas Mansion when businessman Don Wilcott leased it in 1979 and opened a French gourmet restaurant.

Citing mounting financial burdens, Wilcott closed the restaurant last fall.

Davis said she and six other heirs decided to sell or lease the property because of high maintenance costs.

San Dimas City Manager Robert L. Poff said the building can be used only for a commercial business.

"We're confident that any buyer will work with the city to use it for something compatible with the structure," Poff said. "It could be used as a bed-and-breakfast, restaurant, or for weddings and receptions. . . . Our preference is for a public use."

The house was built by the San Jose Land Co. to be a hotel on the Santa Fe Railroad line. But a land boom that the company hoped would keep it filled became a bust, and the mansion was never used as a hotel, said Martha Glauthier of the San Dimas Historical Society.

"I would rather lease it so it could stay in the family," Davis said. "I remember the big Christmases when there would be 45 to 50 of us together. We would have huge Christmas trees in the living room because all the ceilings were 12 feet high. We would open gifts and come back to have dinner at night."

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