The California Heights Home and Garden Tours have become a local tradition. Sunday’s tour marks the 14th edition since they began in 1997, established to fund ambitious neighborhood improvement projects and demonstrate both the financial and intrinsic value that maintaining the neighborhood’s historic fabric and sense of place offers. The tours and the ongoing projects they fund earned California Heights the Neighborhoods, USA First Place and Grand Prize finish as 2012 Neighborhood of the Year.
California Heights Neighborhood Association board members, volunteers and generous homeowners are busy putting the final pieces in order. This year’s tour represents the homes that have become synonymous with Cal Heights. Despite the fact that several types of homes populate the historic district– charming craftsman, Tudor and other period revival bungalows, storybook and neo-traditional cottages– it’s the Spanish Colonial Revival bungalows that readily come to mind when one mentions Cal Heights.
No less than five beautiful examples shine for Sunday’s tour. While not typically grand in size, the warm, sculptured stucco lines, painted wood and picture windows and red clay tile roofs so popular in the 1920s ooze character and remain sought-after by many Southern California homebuyers. With so much character, owners often can’t resist the temptation for dramatic landscaping– a good thing, since the style lends itself so well to fanciful tropical and drought-tolerant schemes alike.
A 1937 Mission Revival bungalow makes its second appearance on the Cal Heights tour. A close relative of its Spanish Colonial cousin, the current owner has brought the kitchen back to its original roots with period-correct touches and materials, including real linoleum flooring and a fully restored O’Keefe & Merritt stove. A stunningly remodeled bath, beautiful original French doors and other period details preserve this home’s original splendor.
Sure to puzzle some tour guests, a unique 1954 Mid-Century California Ranch actually tells a tale of how the neighborhood was built out west-to-east over time, the oldest homes between Atlantic and Walnut avenues, and generally newer homes, many built during and after WWII, to the east between Walnut and Cherry avenues.
A few vacant lots even remained into the 1950s, allowing for the occasional eclectic juxtaposition. But this home’s trim lines and low-pitch roof still fit in well with the scale of the neighborhood’s original fabric.
Also telling of the west-to-east development pattern is the absence of the vintage lampposts that the tour’s proceeds have been so successful in helping to restore. Since much of the development on the east side occurred during the war years, metal was in short supply, dedicated to the manufacture of military might. As a result, the sculptured metal lampposts that characterize the older streets were never installed east of Walnut.
The loving attention lavished on these homes and gardens by their owners truly demonstrates the value of pride of ownership, preservation and restoration. The extra attention bestowed upon them for the tour shows them off. Participating homeowners complete their honey-do lists, accented with lovely floral arrangements donated by Bixby Knolls Florist, pleasantly plumped pillows, well-made beds and perfectly displayed pieces for a charming and inviting home and garden tour experience!
The tour will take place Sunday, Oct. 20 from 10am to 4pm. The guest-speaker presentation will begin at 10am; homes and gardens will be open from 11am to 4pm. Twenty-dollar pre-sale tickets are available online through Oct. 18, and $25 day-of tickets will be available at 3800 Olive Ave., from 9:30am to 1:30pm. For more information, visit calheights.org or facebook.com/calheights .
John Royce is the president of the California Heights Neighborhood Association (CHNA).