The Tichenor House’s broken Oriental gate is chained shut, the once-red lacquer faded to a soft rose hue, while sounds of construction drift into the yard from yet another high-rise gaining ground next door.
But the 88-year-old Tichenor House, once the only occupant of the bluffs along Ocean Boulevard, has narrowly escaped the redevelopers’ wrecking ball.
After more than a year of negotiations involving the city, the developer and Cal State Long Beach, a new site was unanimously approved by the City Council this week. The Tichenor House soon will dwell in secluded splendor on the university campus appropriately adjacent to the school’s Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden.
Many of the historic buildings along the bluff, including the castle-like Pacific Coast Club, have fallen before the wrecker’s ball when funds could not be found to save them. But developer Larry Gulihur, a general partner with TTI Inc., has agreed to pay all of the estimated $150,000 moving costs.
“I could have demolished it, but I didn’t want to do that. The university system has no money, and the city said they don’t have any money. . . . I knew if I could get the house moved, that there are organizations that will provide funds for restoration and maintenance, but none of these government entities wanted to take the responsibility for getting it there,” Gulihur explained.
Gulihur, originally from Oklahoma and now Santa Monica, is a history buff who took a special interest in the house and its original owner, Adelaide Tichenor.
Adelaide Tichenor was a civic leader and philanthropist who founded the Ebell Club in her home and established an orthopedic clinic that bears her name.
“I read letters from Adelaide to the Greene brothers from 1898 through 1906, and learned she had a great influence on the design of the house. She convinced the brothers to go to the 1894 World’s Fair in St. Louis to see the Japanese architecture displayed there,” Gulihur said.
Built in 1904 and 1905, the Tichenor House was one of only three homes constructed in Long Beach by the renowned architectural team of Charles and Henry Greene. Most of the Greene brothers’ homes were built in Pasadena, including the 1909 Gamble House, now owned by USC.
The Greene brothers refined the familiar low-profile, wide-porch Craftsman bungalow with their skilled use of wood craftsmanship, and the influence of their early study of Japanese art and architecture.
From its crooked clinker brick and timbered wood exterior to the hand-painted silk wallpaper and huge slate fireplace in the second-story sitting room, the Tichenor House provides an excellent example of the Greene brothers’ ability to blend Oriental themes in an occidental house.
The house was extensively remodeled in the 1950s with many modern changes to the interior, but the exterior remains true to the original design’s harmony with nature, explained Ruthann Lehrer, the city’s historic and neighborhood preservation officer. The house’s wide eaves, U-shaped design around a Japanese garden, and many porches welcome nature into the structure.
Enthusiasm for saving the Tichenor House has run high in the city.
“When I first came to town, almost two years ago, it just stood out to me. From then on, it’s just been a love affair with the home and its history. It’s a very, very important building, and for Long Beach to have it is marvelous,” said Robert Ringstrom, project manager in the city’s Historic and Neighborhood Preservation office.
During the decade before Gulihur bought the house, it was occupied by a series of tenants. He held on to it until a place was found to preserve it.
“We cannot underestimate what this developer has done. Most developers would not have been this patient. I mean, how do you buy land and hold it for a year, and not do something with it? Gulihur worked painstakingly with everybody,” Ringstrom said.
The university is excited to be receiving the historic house.
“It’s a beautiful and wonderful addition to our campus, and it’s part of the local history of Long Beach, so it’s nice to be able to help the city preserve it,” said Toni Beron, senior director of public affairs at Cal State Long Beach.
Beron said the house will be used for special seminars and meetings.
“I don’t think the full potential for uses has been explored yet,” Beron added. Working drawings for the Tichenor House’s new location are under way, and site preparation, including the excavation of a new basement, is expected to start in about a month, Gulihur said.
The approximately 2,500-square-foot house, which will be moved in three sections, is scheduled to make the trip to the campus in about six months, Beron said.
Once the house is moved, Gulihur plans to build a luxury, four-story, 19-unit condominium on the bluff site. Each two-bedroom unit in the new development will have an ocean view, and the building will be constructed with energy conservation and recycling as top priorities, including recycling bins built into each unit, Gulihur said.