LOMA LINDA: Surprise! Forgotten 1800s home found when citrus grove removed

LOMA LINDA: Surprise! Forgotten 1800s home found when citrus grove removed

The house will be moved to Heritage Park, joining two other historic homes, and will be rehabilitated and reused.

By SANDRA EMERSON / STAFF WRITER

When a citrus grove was removed from a property on California Street in Loma Linda a few weeks ago, it revealed a large Victorian house.

That house, built by the Curtis family in the late 1800s, soon will be moved to Heritage Park in Loma Linda to make way for a new housing development.

“Our goal is to preserve these really unique buildings,” said Konrad Bolowich, Loma Linda assistant city manager. “We only have a handful of them, and we want to make sure they get preserved.”

The house will join two other historic homes in the park, the Curtis-Fisk house formerly on Mission Road and the Cole house. The house will be rehabilitated and reused, Bolowich said.

“We refurbish them and put them back into some type of practical use in a park setting,” he said.

Orange County-based Stratus Development bought the property, on California between Orange and Citrus avenues, which was annexed to the city of Loma Linda about a year ago. Stratus plans to build 35 single-family homes.

The house was not a registered historical landmark, said Andrew Wood, partner with Stratus Development, but it’s old and the company agreed to move it to the park, on Mission Road between Mountain View Avenue and California Street.

“Unfortunately, it has been in a state of disrepair for probably the past 40 years,” Wood said.

The house belonged to the son of Eli Curtis, who brought his family to Southern California in a covered wagon in the 1860s, local historian Tom Atchley said.

The Curtis family bought 60 acres of land next to California Street, he said. The Curtis-Fisk house, which made an appearance in the movie “Nixon,” was built by the Curtis family and later sold to the Fisk family, Atchley said.

Most people did not know the house on California Street was even there, Atchley said; it had been surrounded by citrus trees.

“When the orange grove was torn out, people went, ‘Oh, my god – there’s a Victorian house back there,’” he said.

The citrus trees were removed because the grove was past its production prime, Wood said.

“It was abandoned,” Wood said. “It was no longer being harvested because the trees were old.”

The property was part of unincorporated San Bernardino County but was within the city’s sphere of influence and designated to be annexed into Loma Linda if development is proposed, Bolowich said.

“Since we’ll be providing services – water, sewer, fire and law enforcement – typically when that happens we annex the property,” Bolowich said. “We also want the property tax to pay for those services.”

Bolowich said the development has been approved and is in the final stages of planning.

“They’re actually really beautiful houses,” he said.

Stratus has “done a couple of projects here in the Redlands, Loma Linda area in the past,” Bolowich said. “They may not be local but are well-versed in the area.”

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