Thursday, November 17, 2005
In the area known as Pacific Grove Retreat is a pale-blue painted Victorian that for the past 104 years has lent a dignified presence to the neighborhood. Built in 1901 by the Chivers brothers, Henry and Richard, the home exemplifies the detailed finish work that the duo made popular.
(Eleven years later, the brothers built Pacific Grove City Hall, the first reinforced concrete building on the Peninsula. Fee for their services: $6,000 in gold.)
Realtor Christina Danley points to evidence of the Chivers’ talent on the façade of the house. “They had a reputation for doing ornate carving work and carving wood columns,” she says.
A small plaque next to the front door pays homage to the home’s first occupant: “Mrs. C. D. Smith, 1901.”
The property is surrounded by a white picket fence. Unlike many modern homes, the house exterior is broken into varying angles and finishes and details that add interest. (With the cost of construction so high, the expense and complication of building such details is not often undertaken today.)
The roof is peaked and has a dormer window popping out of the upstairs. A large bay window juts out of the downstairs living room.
Yellow and cream trim paint complements the sea-foam blue shades outside, and the exterior siding is broken up into different patterns.
“This is really one of the prettiest Victorian paint jobs,” Danley says. “The current owner is an artist and made everything very muted and pretty.”
Stairs from the quiet street lead up to the covered entryway, which is supported by three columns on each side. The stairs themselves are worth reflecting upon. They are the kind of stairs that beg to be sat upon, for awhile, with a newspaper and maybe a cat, while listening to the sounds of the bay at the end of the street. They are the kind of stairs that rarely exist anymore, in a neighborhood that is both a part of the activity of town and slightly removed from it. They are stairs to sit on and exude neighborliness while at the same time feeling tucked away and safe. Perhaps that is why older homes are felt to have more “character” (this one is on Pacific Grove’s historic registry)—because they tend to impart such strong feelings on the occupants.
The house functions in two ways: it can be used as a five-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-story home of 1,860 square feet, or can legally be broken up into a duplex. A door at the foot of the inside staircase locks and can create a division resulting in an upstairs unit of 800 square feet, with a small legal kitchen, three rooms, and a bathroom. Windows of wavy glass with leaded patterns provide rooftop views and a glimpse of the bay.
The 1,060-square-foot downstairs unit has a living room with a fireplace and the bay window, walls painted in pale pastels, white wainscotting running up the walls, a kitchen with a working antique Wedgewood stove, nine foot ceilings, two bedrooms, and a bathroom with a claw foot tub.
Some modern comforts, like newer oak floors with radiant heating and a recently redone roof, make the home cozier. Other areas of the home could be modernized to make a new occupant more comfortable, while leaving the great bones of the house intact.
Danley stresses that despite being located just up the block from the Recreation Trail and a few blocks from downtown Pacific Grove, the home feels very serene.
“It’s such a quiet and peaceful street for being in the heart of the city,” she says.
Price: $1,249,000. 149 13th St., Pacific Grove. Contact Christina Danley, Sotheby’s International Realty, 601-5355.