California on My Mind

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, House Styles, Green Renovations, In The News, Old House History
Another Great Preservation from California

Another Great Preservation from California

I have spent most of my life in the eastern part of the country. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and have lived most of my adult life in Virginia, with a couple of years on the coast of North Carolina thrown in. Perhaps due to living here, whenever I think about old houses the first states which pop into my head are Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Maybe it’s because of the Pilgrims, the Virginia colonists, and the early days of our government in Philadelphia.

However, it seems like every time I have done any research on old houses lately, the first state that comes up is California. I don’t know if it’s because people and the local governments in California are more active in preservation efforts than other parts of the country, or if they are more adept at using the Internet than other states, probably a little of both. It seems like half of the old house preservation organizations I have written about have been in California, and the same goes for old house fairs. Of course it could simply be that a lot of our country’s history has been made in California, and California has been a leading state for many years. Whatever the reason, California seems to be doing a great job of preserving its historic old houses.

California Historic Preservation

We can add to the list the Henry Reed home in San Jose, California. The Victorian was built in the late 1880s for Henry Reed, who was active in the lumber and woodworking business. The trim work in the home showcases the abilities of the local craftsmen. The old house closely resembles John Steinbeck’s childhood home down the road in Salinas. The Henry Reed home has been restored and designated a historic landmark.

The Redman House in the Pajaro Valley of California is also undergoing a historic restoration. The Redman family farmed the area until the 1930s and the Victorian was built in 1897 for $3,368. The old house was then sold to the Hirahara family, one of the first Japanese-American families to own farmland in the country. Maybe it is something in the water out in California, but whatever it is they are doing a great job with the preservation of old houses.

Sustainability or Depletion?

I wrote about Sustainable Northwest Wood in Portland, Oregon several weeks ago, and their laudable efforts to only sell FSC-rated wood from sustainable forests. A recent article in USA Today showed that out of the 7 most heavily forested nations in the world, our country depleted the most forest land between 2000 and 2005. An area roughly the size of Pennsylvania or 46,000 square miles of forest was lost, most of it in the southeastern part of the country. The people who did the study don’t know how much of it was due to responsible harvesting, wildfires, or old growth forests being removed; they just know that it is gone. I think we need more companies like Sustainable Northwest Wood.