Historic Alamitos Beach Mission Revival home in escrow in advance of its initial listing

Historic homes in Long Beach are, given the vast timeline of the past, relatively modern. Even in terms of American history, homes on the East Coast and in the South are routinely for sale that were built in the 17th century.

Perhaps the oldest home in America currently on the market is a log home in Gibbstown, New Jersey, built in 1638 (with a “modern” add-on attached in 1738).

Here in the New World town of Long Beach, it’s exceedingly rare to dip below the 20th century in terms of an old house. Aside from the ranchos Los Cerritos and Los Alamitos from the 1700s and 1800s, respectively, most of the oldest structures in Long Beach have been torn down and replaced.

The houses that have earned the honor of becoming a Historic Landmark are either extraordinarily unique (the Skinny House; the Seashell House) or are exceptional examples of great or notable architecture (Ed Killingsworth’s Opdahl House; Richard Neutra’s Moore House).

One example of the latter, the James. C. Beer Residence, gives house-hunters a rare chance to pick up a Historic Landmark, which not only scores for the buyer invaluable bragging rights, but also makes them eligible for valuable Mills Act tax breaks.

Such in demand are Historic landmark homes that the Beer Residence, scheduled to be listed today, is already in escrow (don’t abandon hope; things can go wrong) before hitting the market, according to listing agent Jason Patterson of RE/MAX College Park Realty. Listed at $1.4 million, Patterson said the seller got an offer he couldn’t refuse, so, more than $1.4 million—or maybe $1.4 million and a pony. Either way, above asking, like virtually every house sold these days.

Patterson was a contractor and builder who constructed several homes in Long Beach, chiefly in the Bluff Park/Alamitos Beach neighborhoods in the early days of the 1900s. The historic residence, at 1503 Ocean Blvd., that continues to bear Beer’s name, was built for a fairly exorbitant sum of $20,000. It is said to be the oldest remaining home on Ocean Boulevard and is certainly one of the few homes remaining that was built in the Mission Revival style.

Mission Revival is readily identifiable because, well, it looks like a California mission. It was a popular style in the early days of the last century in California, but fell from grace rather rapidly when it was shoved aside in favor of the more classical and timeless looks of Spanish and Mediterranean Revival styles that are still prevalent in homes along the coast and in other venerable and tonier neighborhoods.

The Beer house checks off most of the distinguishing features of Mission Revival: most importantly, the mission-shaped roof, along with roof parapets, arched doorway, overhanging eaves and red clay tile roof.

The home’s current owner, Joe Bartlett, who rescued the house from demolition by buying it in a foreclosure auction in 1996, has won awards from preservation and historical groups, including a Long Beach Heritage Award for his restoration of the home’s tile roof in 1998.

Bartlett, said Patterson, has taken extraordinary care of the home—and Patterson  indicated that the new potential owners plan to do the same.

The woodwork has been preserved, including newly finished wood floors throughout the five-bedroom, four-bath house.

The great room features hand-milled wood coffered ceilings, and the property has several balconies and patios where residents and guests can enjoy breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean while lolling amid lush landscaping.

A couple of bonuses, in addition to Mills Act eligibility, include a studio apartment over the garage (where the Beers lived in 1911 while the main house was being built), and a finished basement with a wine-cellar room and space for an office.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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