In a recent award ceremony, Alhambra Preservation Group honored the homeowner of a classic 1912 Swiss Chalet Craftsman Bungalow with its 2013 Heritage Home Award. Located in Alhambra’s historic Ramona Park area, this home is one of many houses built by the Ramona Park Building Company just after the turn of the 20th century. “It is Alhambra Preservation Group’s great pleasure to present this award in recognition of the investment this homeowner has made in the preservation of Alhambra’s architectural history,” stated APG president, Christine Olson, in presenting the annual award.
This home, located on the western edge of Ramona Park, features many of the design elements for which the Ramona Park Building Company was known. The company’s principles, John and Daniel Althouse, were contemporaries of the Pasadena-based Greene brothers and had a solid reputation for high-class, high-quality work. Two front-facing low-pitched gables and the influence of the Swiss Chalet style can be seen in the arrow-patterned gable vents. The wraparound porch is offset to the north, supported by columns and is enclosed by a distinctive stickwork railing. Two broad fixed windows flank the front door, with its leaded glass window. Shingles sheathe the structure down to the windowsills, where a flared skirt of shiplap siding wraps the building.
Arlow and Georgia Watson had this home custom built in 1912. The Watsons came to Southern California from St. Paul, Minnesota in 1909 with their two-year old daughter, Dorothy. Their son, Arlo, was born in Alhambra. The Watson family lived here for more than thirty years, until Arlow’s death in 1943.
More than 40 years later, the current homeowner was in the market to purchase a “well-built home with real character” in Alhambra. In an interesting twist, the homeowner’s realtor talked about the home in which he had been raised – this very home. The home needed a lot of work! Most of the Douglas fir woodwork had multiple coats of paint and the green shag carpeting throughout. The ceilings had been texture-coated and all of the original light fixtures were gone. In the kitchen, a suspended ceiling was installed over fluorescent lights.
Despite its challenges, the homeowner could tell that the home had “good bones and was very solidly built.” It featured a beautiful built-in buffet in the dining room that had somehow managed to survive unpainted. Most importantly though, the home’s essential character was still there – although barely distinguishable under all the paint and carpeting – and the homeowner could see its potential.
Today that potential has been realized! The front porch, which was enclosed as a separate room when the homeowner purchased the house, has been removed, and its original use restored with its wooden bead board ceiling painstakingly stripped and stained. The fireplace and chimney have been repaired and restored. In the kitchen, the fluorescent lights and suspended ceiling have been removed and the original straight-pine floor restored. The ugly carpeting has been torn out, revealing the original quarter-sawn oak floors. And along the way, there have been a few surprises. The basement contained a box of beveled glass pieces that the homeowner learned belonged in the home’s front door, which have now been reinstalled. In another section of the basement, the frame and hardware for the folding Murphy bed that was original to the home’s front parlor was found. Its re-installation is a project yet to be tackled.
Now, this Craftsman gem welcomes friends and family, restored to its original splendor by a homeowner who looked past a neglected and forgotten old house and saw the beauty and quality that is unique to this home. Thanks to the care and stewardship demonstrated by this homeowner, this home is ready to shine for another century in Alhambra’s historic Ramona Park.