Those driving along Chapman Avenue east of Harbor Boulevard may have noticed over the last two months the placement of construction fencing surrounding a couple of long-standing boarded-up houses on the south side of the street opposite Fullerton College and wondered “What’s going on?” What’s going on is the culmination of efforts by Fullerton Heritage to have the houses behind this fencing saved and restored.
The effort by Fullerton Heritage has been ongoing for more than four years. In late 2015, when Fullerton College proposed its new master plan of the campus – which included the demolition of the these two houses and two more it owned adjacent to them for a new parking lot – Fullerton Heritage began a campaign to convince Fullerton College officials to either retain and restore the houses on-site for some college function or to find a way to have the houses moved to another property for their restoration as residences.
In letters sent to officials at Fullerton College in 2016, Fullerton Heritage noted that the houses scheduled for demolition were in relatively sound condition and could easily be restored, and two of the houses were historic in nature. Moreover, Fullerton Heritage suggested a possible solution for saving some of the houses: to have Fullerton College sell two nearby vacant lots that it owned to a private developer, with the condition that two or three of the boarded-up houses would be moved to these two lots and restored as single-family residences.
The suggested idea caught the attention of Greg Schulz, President of Fullerton College. After much review and discussion, Mr. Schulz approved a plan to sell the two vacant lots to a developer who would pay to move and restore two or three of the boarded-up houses. The proposal, however, needed the approval of the North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD), the entity that oversees Fullerton College. The trustees of NOCCCD first considered the proposed sale of the two lots in April 2018. Due to problems with the procedure to receive bids from interested buyers, the NOCCCD was not able to proceed with the bidding process until May 2019.
Local contractor Tony Bushala was awarded the sale of the lots in November 2019, one in the 400 block of East Wilshire Avenue and one in the 400 block of East Amerige Avenue, and has since been preparing two of the Chapman Avenue houses for their move to the two lots. If the move of these two houses has not already happened, then it will likely take place sometime in the first part of January.
Mr. Bushala selected the two houses in the best condition to be moved and restored. Both are vintage Craftsman bungalows. Little is known about the corner house at 428 E. Chapman Avenue other than it was built in 1914 and has a particularly nice stair and porch wall built of large cement blocks, which Mr. Bushala has dismantled block by block and will rebuild at the new location. However, the second house at 434 E. Chapman Avenue was designed and constructed by an important early local developer, Oliver Summerbell Compton. Compton’s early Craftsman bungalows were distinguished by their direct and simple styling. This house, built in 1922, is a fine representative example of his work, and it may be the only one still standing in Fullerton. The house would easily qualify as a Local Landmark upon its complete restoration to its original design as a single-family residence.
From its inception in 2016, it has taken four years to realize a plan to save, move and restore two of the four houses along Chapman Avenue that Fullerton College had planned to demolish. Fullerton College officials, in particular President Schulz, should be commended for pursuing a plan of development that will result in utilizing two long-standing vacant lots for the reuse of two Craftsman bungalows that will be fully restored and promise to fit well within a neighborhood consisting of like-era housing.
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