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Turn-of-the-century homes and old oak trees give Long Beach's Carroll Park the feel of another time. The curving streets serve as a barrier to the outside world, deterring traffic and the noise and bustle it brings. This quiet historic district began as an Irishman's desire to build a community in a temperate climate in such a way that he could shield his young daughter, who had health issues, from the dust of horse-drawn carriages.
California bungalows, Craftsman chalets, Colonial Revival-style homes and Spanish/Mediterranean Revival homes are among the architectural styles represented in Carroll Park. Most of the homes were built between 1898 and 1923, making the neighborhood one of the oldest of Long Beach's 17 historic districts.
John Carroll, who envisioned the development, settled in Long Beach in 1902 after a series of visits. By the end of that year, he was selling homes.
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Carroll Park was "not in a part of the city that was built up," said Julie Bartolotto, executive director of the Historical Society of Long Beach. But the neighborhood was walking distance to the Pacific Electric red car lines and an easy commute to work, she said.
The curving streets were meant to slow horse-drawn carriages and discourage automobiles in the neighborhood, explained Jan Ostashay of the city's historic preservation department.
James "Buzz" Lyon, 65, grew up in Carroll Park. He and his wife, Susan, raised four children here, two boys and two girls. At one point he lived across the street from his childhood home, but Lyon now lives in it again. He was born a few blocks away at a small clinic that is now a CVS pharmacy.
"It's just gotten nicer," Lyon said. "It's always been quiet." Like a neighborhood historian, Lyon points to nearby houses, recalling a long, winding staircase he played on, a "wonderful basement," and the home of a childhood friend whose father worked as a typesetter for local newspapers.
When he was growing up, kids could run wild as long as they stayed within the neighborhood boundaries, Lyon said. Bottled milk deliveries and waiting for the Good Humor truck's bell are among his fondest memories, he said.
"There is less turnover here compared to other neighborhoods, but it's also smaller," said Shannon Jones, a real estate agent and consultant to Keller Williams Coastal Properties. By her count the community has about 80 single-family homes.
A Craftsman-style home that dates to about 1913 went for $663,000 in October, Jones said. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home had nearly 1,740 square feet of living space. About $100,000 worth of restoration work had been completed by the seller.
About a year ago, Bill Marley, 62, purchased a 1918 two-bedroom Carroll Park home for $490,000. Marley said he likes refurbishing old homes and also owns a 1912 home a few blocks away.
"It's not typical for this neighborhood to have a derelict home," he said. On a recent afternoon, Marley was hard at work, with his cream-and-white 6-year-old Labrador retriever Maggie keeping watch.
Among area condo sales, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with 1,123 square feet sold in March for $345,000, according to Trulia.com.
Among the closest schools to Carroll Park are Fremont Elementary School, Burbank Elementary School, Mann Elementary School and Wilson High School. All are in the Long Beach Unified School District. Fremont earned a 2008 Academic Performance Index growth score of 925 out of 1,000. Burbank scored 757; Mann, 817; and Wilson 740. A city program allows children to attend the school of their choice within the district.
Sources: City of Long Beach; City of Long Beach Historic Preservation department; Historical Society of Long Beach; Shannon Jones, Keller Williams Coastal Properties, www.showmehome.com; www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/