A house older than the city moves to start a new life in Drake Park/Willmore Historic District
Are you looking for a modern new house or are you more in the market for an old, vintage home with a significant and interesting history?
Why not both?
Hitting the market last week at $1.075 million is what’s reported to be the oldest wooden home in Long Beach, at 326 W. 10th St. in the Drake Park/Willmore Historic District—at least that’s where it’s calling home right now.
It’s overly flippant to term it a “mobile” home, but the four-bedroom, three-bath house has more miles on it than your typical home, having been picked up and relocated four times in the last 126 years.
You can be fairly certain that its current location will be its last stop, but with its nomadic past, don’t bet the house on it.
It was built in 1887—a year before Long Beach became a city—by one of Long Beach’s founding families, Jotham Bixby and his wife Margaret, to serve as the parsonage for the early version of the Congregational Church on Cedar Avenue at Third Street.
Even at that time, the two-story Queen Anne Victorian home was considered a masterpiece. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Henry Kendall Booth, called it “an ornament to the town, an element of strength to the church and an honor to Mr. and Mrs. Bixby.”
A dozen years after it was built, the house began its travels. It made the short jaunt from Cedar to Third in 1899 and when the present First Congregational Church was built in 1914, the Parsonage House hit the road again and moved off-site, and in 1927 it moved to a lot at Seventh Street and Pacific Avenue where it was converted into a duplex and settled down for an 85-year stay, and time passed.
In the 2010s, the home’s owner had to move the house to make room for the 271-unit Volta apartments development, and he asked Realtor Greg Ernst to find an available vacant lot somewhere in the Drake Park/Willmore neighborhood to relocate the house, rather than tear it down.
A vacant lot was found at 326 W. 10th, and the house made its final journey down three blocks to the north and went through the process of being brought up to date.
From the outside, it looks pretty much like it did when it was built. The owners even spent $3,000 for a forensic examination of its original paint color to make the home historically correct. It has also retained most of its original windows and its front porch.
Inside, it’s a different story.
“More than 90% of the interior is new,” said Ernst. And that includes brand new plumbing, new electrical, new HVAC, new walls and ceilings, new lighting fixtures, new kitchens and baths, new flooring and tile work. It’s virtually a new house, with little memory of the past wrapped in a historic Victorian home with decades of stories to tell.
There are a few vintage touches remaining inside, including its staircase and a built-in wooden hutch in the living room.
The 2,017-square-foot house has a large, airy living room with a nice nook perfect for a reading chair and lamp, a bright kitchen and a fairly large bedroom. The primary suite has its own bath with a walk-in shower and a clawfoot bathtub next to a window overlooking a giant backyard that can easily accommodate a swimming pool and perhaps a garage, because many of the homes in the neighborhood were built before Model Ts began rolling off assembly lines. Ernst said the entire process, from moving the house to renovating it, cost nearly $2 million.
Because its exterior is still true to the original, the home, still known as the Parsonage House, remains a Long Beach historic landmark.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.