The Girl Next Door
The Girl Next Door

From their beautiful Craftsman bungalow on North Pine Street in Old Towne, Rob and Gloria Boice have been pioneers of the preservation movement in Old Towne since 1981 when they purchased the historic home and worked toward restoring it to its original glory.

Remarkably, Rob and Gloria are only the second owners in the history of their Craftsman bungalow, which will be 100 years old this year.  The couple purchased the home from Rhoda Kletke, a direct descendant of the home’s original owners, the Kletke family.  When she lived there, Rhoda grew flowers on the lot next door and would bring them to Immanuel Lutheran Church, located just down the block.

“She grew her gladiolas specifically for the church and also grew calla lilies for Easter,” says Gloria.  “She shared her family history and told us they had always been very involved with the church.  This property is a third of an acre.  We purchased the lot next door shortly after we bought the home.  The historical plaque on our house references an individual who was a spec builder at the time.”

The facade of this historic 1923 Craftsman bungalow on North Pine Street has changed very little during its almost 100 years in Old Towne. 

Back in 1981, Rob and Gloria valued the importance of maintaining the original elements of a historic home in Old Towne.  Their process led them to co-founding the Old Towne Preservation Association, established in 1986.  Rob was the organization’s second president and wrote articles for the OTPA’s newsletters.  “I remember writing about how our front porches here in Old Towne create a welcoming sense of neighborly friendliness, which I think is true to this day,” says Rob.

A native of Orange, Rob grew up in neighborhoods near to where they live today.  His parents lived just two blocks away on North Cambridge when Rob was born.  In 1972, he bought his own place on Maplewood, four blocks away.  It was there he met Gloria after she moved in next door.

“I literally married the girl next door,” says Rob.  “Our wedding cake had a bride and groom with a white picket fence between us.”

Gloria was born and raised in Syracuse, New York.  She moved out here in the early 1970s after finishing her master’s degree in math and education.  She taught at the former Marywood High School in Orange and then got her degree in computer science at UC Irvine.  She worked as an engineer for 30 years.

Restored original woodwork takes center stage in the living room, dining room and study.  The oak floors are also original to the home.

Specializing in heating and air-conditioning, Rob started a company in 1972 with his brother-in-law and worked as a C-20 contractor doing service repair and installation. Naturally, Rob installed the AC and heating in their own house.

“After I installed the duct system in here, whenever we would turn on our AC, the lights in the house across the street would dim,” recalls Rob.  “That’s how unprepared Old Towne was back in those days for upgraded appliances.  Soon thereafter, they upgraded the electricity in town.”

When renovating their house, Rob and Gloria put their respective skills to good use.  One of the first things they did was to restore all of the original woodwork to its natural state, as it had been painted over through the decades.  To do this, they removed the cabinets, trim and doors so they could strip the old paint, refinish the surfaces and then protect the natural wood with seven layers of clear coat.  They even built a special spray booth for the job.

“We were a lot younger then but we got it done,” laughs Rob.  “Our goal was to bring the house back to where it was when it was first built.  We hand-sanded and refinished the quarter-sawn oak hardwood floors ourselves, which luckily had been protected by carpeting.  We also salvaged other woodwork that had been removed and stored in the garage, such as a big cabinet from the dining room.  We were elated when we found the pillars up in the attic.  We feel lucky that so many original elements of the home were still intact or in storage.”

Gloria met Rob in Old Towne in the 1970s when they were next-door neighbors on Maplewood.

Rob relaxes in his library replete with gorgeous wallpaper and distinctive bookcases.  The vintage saddle came from Irvine Ranch.

The couple was able to figure out the original placement of some of these restored pieces after they removed the wallpaper from the main living areas.  Once the original plaster walls were exposed, they could see the faint outlines of where each of the missing built-ins had been, as well as the outlines of the old picture railings.

“Most of the original picture railings were gone, but we did find a sample.  We took it to a lumberyard in Anaheim and had them reproduce it.  If you listen closely, an old house will talk to you as you investigate.  It was only after we removed those three layers of wallpaper that we determined the previous owners had taken the built-ins out of the house and put them into the garage.”

In the bathroom, they uncovered an old mural depicting ducks and reeds beneath the wallpaper.  Unfortunately, the mural was so badly damaged from the glue, they were unable to save it, but they did take photographs of it.  Meanwhile in the kitchen, vintage stencil designs were painted along the corners of the walls.  To preserve the designs for posterity’s sake, the couple refused to whitewash the walls before installing beautiful Roycroft wallpaper from New York.  They purchased a set of dishes with the same design and the Roycroft symbol to match.

The backyard pool offers a refreshing retreat on hot summer days.

The patio built on the adjacent lot serves as a gathering place for many events and dinners.

Incredibly, the 1930s Marlboro Universal stove in the kitchen is in working condition after all this time.  “The stove was here when we moved in, and we’ve used it for 40 years,” says Gloria.  “It’s still got its match-lit oven.  We have never had to replace the thermostat.”

For Rob and Gloria, the joy of living in Old Towne comes from the friendships and alliances they’ve made through the decades.  They can barely walk a block without running into someone they know.

“It’s a close-knit neighborhood famous for its Christmas decorations during the holidays, and its block party on the Fourth of July,” says Rob.  “After we got married, I would drive home down Center Street across Maple, or down Pine Street across Maple.  I knew I wanted to live on either of those two blocks.  As soon as this house came on the market, we bought it.  We raised our daughter here and now we have grandchildren.  We couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but right here in Old Towne.”

Article Published in the
Mar / Apr 22 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
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