Kimberly Swan has a great appreciation for the unusual history reflected in her Idlewood Road home.
“This is a remarkable house,” she said. “It was built by a man who lived in it while he developed the neighborhood. He built it in a style he enjoyed.”
Her brick home, lined with windows along the side, features an arch over the front door and has been likened by some to a train station. Swan has documents indicating that a building permit was taken out in 1923 and that the house was built in 1924, but she doesn’t know any more about the builder himself.
A visit to Special Collections uncovered early city directories listing residents by address. In 1925, Antonio and Lena Farinacci were listed at 1648 Idlewood Road, and he was described as a builder. That same directory indicated only six other houses on Idlewood north of Kenneth Road. Three houses were owned by a family named Valentine, the other three by the Leatom, Lumbard and Fari families.
By 1927, the Farinaccis had moved to 1555 Cleveland Road (where he was now listed as a designer and builder). The next year, the Idlewood house was occupied by Dr. Robert H. Williams and his wife, Rose. The couple had two daughters, Billie and Bobbie, and by this time, according to the 1928 directory, there were 32 houses on Idlewood.
Williams described himself as an osteopathic physician in later directories. His practice involved the use of natural light to cure physical ailments, and he practiced out of his house, which he called the “Home of Sunlight.” He used postcards of his unusual brick residence, also known as the Williams Institute, as advertising.
The Williamses’ next-door neighbors were Alice and Robert Adams, and the two women became good friends. They had coffee every morning, and the Williams sisters spent a lot of time with the Adamses, who had no children of their own. The Adamses even took the two girls on trips, according to Swan, who said she often heard stories about the two families from Alice Adams.
Robert Adams had already passed away by the time Swan and her husband Marko moved to Idlewood in the mid-1990s, but Alice Adams was still living next door, and she shared many memories with Swan.
Swan learned that Williams’ practice didn’t go well. He died very unexpectedly, and the family quickly sold the house and moved away. City directories indicate the family left Idlewood Road by 1943.
Later, Betty and Jim Johnston moved into the house.
“They lived here 30 years,” Swan said. “Just before they left, someone put a postcard of the house under their car windshield and they passed it along to us.”
Now, the carefully framed postcard sits on a table in the beautifully restored living room.
“When we bought the house, there was white paint everywhere,” Swan said with a laugh, “even on the Batchelder tile on the fireplace.”
The Swans, determined to bring the house back to its original state, had the paint stripped from the fireplace and the wood work. When they removed the white carpet, they discovered the original wood floors, which only needed refinishing to bring back to life, Swan said.
Swan treasures a pair of vases that have a long history with the house.
“They originally belonged to Rose Williams,” Swan said. “After Rose passed away, her daughters brought them to Alice next door. When she [Alice Adams] was getting along in years, she brought the vases to us, saying they had come from this house and they belonged to this house.”
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached by leaving a message with features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale’s history, visit the Glendale Historical Society’s web page: www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or visit the Special Collections Room at Central on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. or make an appointment by calling (818) 548-2037.