Spanish-style estate with a solid rock history in Belmont Heights is for sale at $4.45M
While combing through the real estate listings, I’m always on the lookout for houses of historical interest—the likeliest suspects are the old, large and magnificent homes in Los Cerritos and Bluff Park that were built for and lived in by some of the city’s most notable citizens.
And when I saw this beautiful Spanish-style estate at 238 Roycroft Ave. in Belmont Heights, I figured it likely had a fairly honorable and prestigious pedigree.
It’s a stately and beautiful property, a hacienda sprawling over two full Belmont Heights lots—just about a third of an acre. The house is largely obscured from view from the street. A blue door breaks the plane of the wall that surrounds the property.
Its past is steeped in the legal profession. The original owner was Martin De Vries, a noted dahlia grower who was a longtime municipal court judge in Long Beach following a stint as a deputy district attorney in the city.
John Paap, a prominent Long Beach attorney followed as the home’s owner in the 1960s. With his wife Madeleine and their two sons and a daughter, the family filled the five-bedroom, three-bath house. Paap was born in Australia, and in addition to being a high-power lawyer in Long Beach, he was a civic leader in numerous organizations and headed the Long Beach Recreation Commission for five years before his death at 62 in 1968.
Then came Philip Madden and his family, and again, Madden was a big attorney and a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County from 1963 through 1965, and he held the same position in Long Beach from 1965 to 1967.
Things got a little looser in 2002, when the house was purchased by its current owners, Tim Swenson and his wife, Rosie.
It was a surprise to me when I found out that local rock star Swenson was the owner of the 1929 house at 238 Roycroft Ave. I used to see him perform back in the 1990s at various venues in Long Beach, including Bogart’s, the Blue Cafe and even Que Sera with his bands Lunch Box, Vagabond Soul and Candida, and I had written about him often as a fan of his powerful vocals and strong lyrics.
How does a guy go from being a rock musician who is amply talented—but not plugged into the once-lucrative music business that some recording artists used to enjoy—to this jewel in the Heights? It’s an expensive home, listed at $4.495 million.
“Well, it wasn’t that price when I bought it,” Swenson, now 57, says. True. It was only $1.6 million in 2002.
“I worked hard and saved up enough to buy a Craftsman on Fifth Street in Belmont Heights, and I sold it for double what I paid,” he said.
His side gigs included working for his father at a circuit-board company, starting a skate shop and silk-screening T-shirts. Perhaps most importantly, he’s been clean and sober for a couple of decades, emerging unscathed through an era when some of his bandmates and friends died or otherwise fell victim to heroin, pills and alcohol and falling into the cosplay of hard-partying rock stars.
“I used to live on Broadway between Elm and Linden, and I would go on runs a lot from my place to Atlantic and back, and sometimes I’d run past the Roycroft house, and I’d wonder what’s behind that blue gate,” said Swenson. “And I always thought maybe I’d have that house some day, or maybe I won’t.”
It came a lot closer to reality after his windfall from selling his Craftsman at a nice profit, and he and his wife set their sights on the Roycroft manor.
“It was never on the market,” said Swenson. “I just knocked on the door and asked the owner if he was interested in selling it, and he was.”
So, what is behind the blue gate? You pass through into a courtyard that’s landscaped as expertly as the foliage that covers the front of the property. There are brick patios with several sitting areas and a pool accompanied by a shaded and partially covered spa.
Inside, coved arches abound, as do high ceilings with exposed beams. Hardwood floors are found throughout. The formal living room and dining rooms have a fireplace, and the great family room has built-in shelving and another fireplace.
There’s one bedroom and full bath on the first floor, while the primary bedroom and three others are on the upper level. They’re all spacious, with the primary having two walk-in closets and the bedrooms with one walk-in each. A fifth bedroom has a sitting area and a built-in office. All have views of the gardens and the grounds.
The Spanish influence holds up throughout the 3,173-square-foot home that also includes a handsomely paneled office and a laundry room/storage area behind the house, which the listing agents, Christy Di Leo and Ellen Henry, say can be converted into an ADU.
One of the home’s most desirable features, once you get away from its architecture, is the privacy and seclusion it offers its residents, thanks chiefly to its foliage, which the Swensons have enjoyed for the 22 years they’ve lived in the house.
“I appreciated the privacy of the home,” said Swenson. “I’ve kind of become more reclusive.”
He and his wife have moved to San Juan Capistrano.
“I never thought I’d leave Long Beach, but here I am,” said Swenson, though he says he already misses the home on Roycroft.
“It’s kind of a quirky house, like most that were built in the 1920s,” he said.
“It’s a special house. There’re regular houses and then there are places that have a certain amount of soul. That house has a lot of soul.”
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