Really? No one in Long Beach can be bothered to spend $3.2 million for the old George Hathaway Bixby Ranch House in Bixby Knolls?
There are a plenty of people in Long Beach with a lot more than $3.2 million rattling around in their change jar. When they want a new house, they buy a gaudy monstrosity in Naples built on a half-dozen lots and looking more like a Newport Beach timeshare resort than a place where you would want to raise your family.
If you want a home with a glorious past, with impeccable papers and provenance, a house with two physical stories and hundreds of the sort with which you can regale guests around an extraordinary fireplace, you should be buying the Bixby house, not throwing your money away on a sheetrock faux-palace.
But that’s apparently a matter of opinion, because, after more than three months, the Bixby Ranch House, at 11 La Linda Drive, is still on the market.
The eight bedroom, seven bath, 6,978 square-foot house on a 30,500 square-foot lot, was built by George Hathaway Bixby, son of “the Father of Long Beach,” Jotham Bixby, in 1890 on 10 acres of the family’s Rancho Los Cerritos. He lived in the house with his wife Margaret and their seven children.
The house was designed by Ernest Coxhead, who ran the architectural firm Coxhead & Coxhead with his business partner and brother Almeric. The London-born Ernest built Episcopal churches, mostly in Northern California, as well as several residences in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto at the turn of the century. The Bixby home is a Shingle Style residence, covered in cedar shingles. The centerpiece of the interior is its dining room with its curved oak columns and white oak ceilings and floors. It is clearly the home’s gathering spot.
“Coxhead was a genius and was wildly underrated,” said Dr. Barbara Lamprecht, architectural historian and associate partner for the listing agency Deasy/Penner, which specializes in historically and architecturally significant properties. “There are many homebuilders who appropriate different styles, but not many can do it with a real synthesis and clever integration of conflicting periods,” she said.
The Bixby house moderates a Victorian approach with Craftsman simplicity. And yet, the grounds have a formal English bent to them, marked by twin lily ponds or reflecting pools.
“There’s very much Englishness in the house,” said Lamprecht. “It’s filled with so many eccentric nooks and crannies. If I grew up in this house and was reading C.S. Lewis, I could imagine thinking, ‘That would be Lucy’s closet, right over there’.”
Although the land around the house was subdivided following Bixby’s death in 1920, when he lived there it was still on the site of a working ranch.
“It must have been wonderful back then, with all the people coming and going, the workers, the ranch hands, the farm laborers,” said Lamprecht. “It was a beehive of activity and this house at the center of things, commanding all of that.”
This is the first time the house has been on the market for 25 years. Its owner, Duane Rose, has allowed several nonprofit organizations to use the home for fundraisers over the years and, ideally, says Lamprecht, a new buyer would be similarly generous. “It’s that kind of house, where it actually becomes a contributor to the city,” she said. “With a house like this, when it’s used for an event, it automatically distinguishes the organization that’s using it.”
The next opportunity to see the Bixby Ranch House comes on Oct. 14, when the preservationist group Long Beach Heritage is hosting a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. for its members to view the home and to meet its new executive director, Sarah Locke.
If you’re not already a member, you can attend the reception by becoming a Preservationist Level member for $100, or making a donation to Long Beach Heritage.