Issue #43
News for the Neighborhood #43
Old Towne Property
Built in 1938, the distinctive home on South Batavia is defined by a bay window that features 36 panes in the main window alone. Homeowner Dave Barrett believes the house was built by Roy Roscoe Russell, who at one time built many homes in Santa Ana's Floral Park neighborhood.

When Dave and Alison Barrett first laid eyes on their vintage house at 220 South Batavia, they never imagined that one day they'd be living in it. Built in 1938, this distinctive home with its country-style garden is now a haven for the Barrett family of four, who frequently host gatherings and pool parties in the property's spacious backyard.

"I used to jog and this was on my route," says Dave, previously residing around the corner on South Pepper. "I would pass by the house and always admired it because of its classic look."

One day, Dave noticed a For Sale sign and immediately made an inquiry. Unbeknownst to him, his wife Alison had driven by the house earlier that day and also made a call.

Old Towne Property

The imposing wooden fireplace, inset with stone tiles, is the focal point of the Barrett's living space. Their eclectic mix of furniture and use of rich color reflect an international influence and their great love of world travel.

"When we got home that night, we discovered that each of us had called! We have similar tastes in many things, but we really weren't looking to move. Maybe it was meant to be."

Intent on starting a family, however, Dave and Alison determined that the Cape Cod-style home with multi-paned bay window would afford them the increased square footage they needed. So in 2000, they completed the escrow process and moved into the house that had been occupied for more than four decades by the same family, the Swansons.

"There was a lot of work to be done, but we took on one project at a time," says Dave, originally from England. "Between raising our new family and working on the house, everything was happening at once."

Undaunted, Dave and Alison set out to transform the premises, starting with the floors. Previously carpeted, the original oak floors were in great shape when they pulled up the carpeting. In the kitchen, they opted to update the electrical to accommodate modern appliances, although they retained the old-style knob and tube wiring in the rest of the house. "The gauge on the wires is as good as it gets," he notes.

Old Towne Property

The kitchen remodel features a glass tile backsplash, Caesarstone countertops, large apron sink and traditional-style cabinetry. The Barretts felt that simplicity was the key to creating a user-friendly space with a look in keeping with the age and style of the home.

The huge bay window in the living room provides the perfect backdrop for an antique Chinese cabinet and two Chinese armchairs that were purchased from an antique dealer in Old Towne Orange.

Throughout the yard, Dave and Alison found the right setting to indulge their passion for gardening, creating an environment that reminds him of the English gardens of his homeland, including fruit trees, roses and flowering vines.

Planting a seven-foot arching hedge, Dave installed a wrought-iron gate and old brick path that leads through the backyard and down to the pool area. "We wanted to evoke the feel of a secret hidden garden," Dave explains. Through the gate, a sparkling pool and 1960s pool house provide a cozy retreat.

"It's a great little area for entertaining," Dave says. "Certainly not something I could ever have had in a UK climate. We have a lot of children coming over to swim in the pool. One of the things we loved about the property was the size of the yard. We wanted to transform it into something we would spend a lot of time in."

A longtime resident of London, Dave moved here in 1991 after meeting his wife, Alison, in Japan. A professor at Golden West College, Dave teaches English as a Second Language. Alison is an Orange County native who works for a corporate relocation company in Tustin. Their children, ages 5 and 8, both attend McPherson Elementary School.

Old Towne Property

Reminiscent of an English garden, the Barrett's backyard serves as a central gathering place for family and friends. A swimming pool and pool house receives plenty of use during the summer months.

Characterized by its decidedly symmetrical appearance, the stylish four-bedroom home features numerous vintage architectural elements such as curved ceilings, original wood windows, antique doorknobs and built-in closets. Upstairs, a set of drawers actually extends beyond the exterior walls, concealed under a window. The enormous, three-sided bay window in the living room features 36 panes in the main window alone. In fact, the house has an incredible number of windows. "A window-cleaners nightmare!" says Dave. "But it makes the home light and sunny inside."

"The home is comfortable and has personality and character," says Dave. "It's something that I would have lived in if I had stayed in England."

Curious about the home's history, Dave went to the library. His research led him to a prominent Santa Ana builder from the era, Roy Roscoe Russell, who built homes in Floral Park, as well as the Pacific Building in Santa Ana. Through a realtor, Dave was able to confirm that Mr. Russell owned at least two houses in Orange, and that perhaps his charming home on South Batavia was one of them.

"I've seen some of the homes that he built in Santa Ana, and the features are almost identical," Dave observes. "There is another house on Monterey in Orange that might have been his also."

Old Towne Property

The dining area features many of the treasures Dave and Alison have collected on their backpacking adventures to numerous Far Eastern countries including China, Japan, The Phillipines, India, Sri lanka and Indonesia.

Having previously lived around the corner, Dave Barrett and his wife Alison had long admired the house they now call home. Originally from England, Dave says the house reminds him of a British-style residence.

For Dave and Alison, Old Towne provides the ideal place to live out their dreams. "Old Towne is very attractive to us," Dave says. "I feel as if there are deep roots here. There's a sense of community and history that parallels where I come from, having grown up in London and the south of England. The combination of community, legacy and history creates a sense of identity for the city. I also like the fact that it's a walkable community, because I never needed a car in London."

Dave says he enjoys taking the family to Watson's Drug and Soda Fountain, as well as to the Filling Station. "The girls love their malts!" They also like to visit Irvine and Hart parks where they can discover nature and use the bike trails.

"This house is great for entertaining," he adds. "It's a real gathering place for our children's friends. We love it here. Now that we're finished with the major renovations, we're going to sit back and enjoy it."

Published in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Karen Anderson, Photograph by Will Hare

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