Victorian-Italianate 1870s home has undergone several transformations 

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Moved from one side of Old Town Tustin to the other more than 20 years ago,
this 136-year old Victorian-Italianate style home is one of fewer than 25
still in existence in Orange County

Orange County has fewer than 25 Victorian-Italianate homes still standing, according to Thirtieth Street Architects Inc., and Old Town Tustin is fortunate to have about a half dozen of them.

Preceding the Queen Anne Victorian, Victorian-Italianate, which was used in the 1870s and 1880s, was the first major architectural style used in settling the area that was to become Orange County in 1889. One of Tustinís finest examples of this architectural style will be on display during the Tustin Area Historical Societyís annual home and garden tour on May 1.

The identity of both the architect and builder of this house, as well as the family for which the dwelling was built, has been lost over the years, but the house is believed to have been constructed about 1874. It is known that a number of Tustinís most prominent citizens resided in the house or were associated with it in some way.

Barbara Ann Lewis, sister of Columbus Tustin, was the first owner of the land on First Street where the house was constructed, but she sold the property to James Y. Moorehead in 1875 for $700. The next owner of record, Almon Goodwin, paid $3,500 for the property in 1881.

Although there is no mention of the house, records also show William W. Martin, a member of the Tustin Land and Improvement Co., purchasing the 7.26 acres for $10,000 in 1887. A photo of the house appeared in a publication that same year and identified it as the residence of W.W. Martin.

The house became known as the Albee Mansion while Charles and Alice Albee occupied it in the early 1900s. Interestingly, the Albee name was listed on deeds for the sale of various pieces of the property as late as 1943. Most of the acreage was planted with avocado and citrus fruit.

Henry C. Wollert operated an interior decorating business from the house between 1944 and 1946. Orville Northrup, principal of Tustin High School, lived there from 1941 to 1954 when Dr. Henry Eastman acquired the dwelling and, recognizing the need for housing in Tustin, divided it into three apartments.

Attorney Norman Schmeltzer converted the house to law offices some 20 years later. Jeff and Cheri Thompson acquired the house in 1990 and moved it to 415 West Sixth St. They have spent the last 20 years restoring the home to its original Italianate form. Despite its various uses during the years, the house still retains its basic elegance and architectural elements. The hexagonal tower roof above the two-story slanted bay with arched windows contributes to its original Italianate form.