Senin, 09 November 2009

A Castle by the Sea After a decades-long renovation, a historic home in Laguna Beach hits the market

In 1973, Roger Jones convinced his landlord to sell him the guest house he lived in and the accompanying beachfront home for $420,000—a hefty sum for a 33-year-old electronic-parts salesman making $35,000 a year. “I was as scared as hell,” says Mr. Jones.

The gamble paid off. Added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984, the 5,000-square-foot house named Villa Rockledge, perched on the edge of a rock hillside, appears to float above the private beach 50 feet below and offers ocean views from every room—even some bathrooms and closets. The main room of the house is vast, with 22-foot-tall cathedral ceilings supported by logs as big as telephone poles that have been treated with an unusual mixture of cement and buttermilk to create a grey sheen. Many of the details have been restored: Solid redwood doors are dotted with brass extrusions cast in rough star-shapes that look like barnacles. The kitchen walls are covered with original canary-yellow tiling, while modern appliances are discreetly hidden behind wood panels. A 5-foot-wide ship’s wheel hangs from one of the beams like a chandelier.

After spending decades restoring their Laguna Beach home, Roger Jones and his wife Sherrill have put the property on the market. Tour the home, which was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984.

In May, Mr. Jones, now 69, decided to sell this home, which he’s painstakingly researched and slowly renovated over the past three decades, for $34.5 million. He says the upkeep and maintenance are too costly for his kids and adds that he and his wife are getting too old to live in a large home. “I’ve always had good luck just buying and selling [real estate] and rolling the dice,” he says, adding he’s hoping to invest the proceeds in a new film venture.

How lucky he’ll be this time remains to be seen. This week the listing agent, Susan Weir of Prudential California Realty, lowered the price of the home and its accompanying guest house to $29.9 million. “I do think it’ll eventually sell. I just don’t think its going to sell for $30 million,” says Sotheby’s International Realty agent Chris Guziak, who said that based on recent transactions in the area he thought the home would likely sell for “at least 25% less” than its current asking price.

Built by hand in 1918, the home was designed by Arthur Benton and built by Frank Miller. Considered a leading figure in promoting Mission-style architecture, Mr. Miller also developed the Mission Inn, a historic hotel in Riverside, Calif., where Nancy and Ronald Reagan honeymooned and Pat and Richard Nixon were married.

“I always felt like I was in a castle when I was there,” says Huell Howser, host of “California’s Gold,” a local PBS history and travel show and a former guest-house tenant. Rockledge “ranks up there as one of the most beautiful homes anywhere on the coast of California.”

One of the priciest homes for sale in Laguna Beach, the property sits in a lofty price category where its value can only be determined by the inclinations of the few deep-pocketed buyers who can afford it. Little question, though, that the home has a distinctive history, one that’s been burnished by a couple who were much devoted to it for many years.

When Mr. Jones and his wife, Sherill, bought the house, they found the previous owners had covered up bathroom windows that faced the ocean with storage cabinets and plastered exposed-beam ceilings in the bedrooms and sitting rooms with drywall to hide wiring and plumbing. The reddish brick exterior had been painted over with five layers of white paint.

Enamored of all things “oldy-woldy,” as Mr. Jones says, the couple began restoring the estate while tracking down the sons, grandsons, grandnieces and nephews of the original builders, Messrs. Benton and Miller. Mr. Miller’s niece gave them photos that offered clues about what elements of the house were original. The general contractor’s son—reached a few months before he died—recorded colorful stories about his role setting dynamite while hanging by a rope in order to level the site.

In the beginning, the couple was so strapped they remained in their apartment, renting the home and the other five units to make their mortgage, which they only obtained via seller financing. The work was arduous. In 1978, Mr. Jones began the search in England for 120 oak-framed leaded windows to replace the louvered windows a prior owner had put in. It took five years to get the woodworker, a helper and the windows flown to California for installation.

“It’s kind of nice to give something its own personality back,” says Ms. Jones. Mr. Jones penned “The History of Villa Rockledge,” published in 1991.
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To complement Villa Rockledge’s history, the Joneses have filled the home with antiques from around the world. Mr. Jones’ library is filled with 18th-century leather-bound volumes of Shakespeare and older history tomes. The living-room floor is covered by a 24-foot-long Persian rug, and an ornately carved china cabinet from England dominates the north wall. Mr. Jones carefully wiped the table when a water glass begins to sweat and drew vertical sunshades and heavy curtains to keep sunlight off the Persian rug.

“It’s been a labor of love,” he says. But, he says, “It’s time to move on and let somebody else enjoy it.”

When the house sells, Mr. Jones says he probably won’t stick around town for long. Retired from his day job, he sold his company of electronic-part sales representatives in 2005. But he continues to pursue his other vocation; Owner of four houses, he’s bought and sold 15 others over the last 40 years.

“Once you sell a property like this, it’s hard to be around it,” he says. He and his wife plan to spend more time in a woodsy lakeside retreat they’ve just completed in Washington state.

Write to Sara Lin at

1 komentar:

akhatam mengatakan...

Nice Post.. keep spirit...

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