A look at what city pioneers called ‘home’

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Now owned by descendents of the Lindsay family, this board and batten house
at the corner of C and Second streets in Old Town Tustin is considered
a rare example of a primary settlement period building.

Housing was neither luxurious nor plentiful for those hardy pioneers who arrived in Tustin during its formative years. Board and batten houses were common, but often there was no house available for a newly arrived family.

William Huntley, who came to Tustin in the summer of 1880 at the age of 10, often recalled that when his family first arrived, they had to live in a tent pitched on what would become the Tustin High School campus. They waited several months for a house to become available.

The board and batten house was an inexpensive solution to the need for immediate housing. The walls were constructed of 10-to-12-inch-wide redwood planks standing upright. Three-inch boards called battens covered the cracks or joint between the planks. These houses were usually one story with four or five rooms although some were two story. Most had front porches. Many were left with unfinished exteriors, but a few were white washed.

Cooking was done on a wood stove, which also provided heat. There was no bathroom and no plumbing. Water was brought into the house by pail from a well in the yard.

Interior walls were not plastered. Instead they were covered with cotton sheeting which was then pasted over with wall paper. Sometimes burlap, usually brown, green or red, was used in place of cotton sheeting. Ceilings were created by tacking cotton cloth to the bare rafters at about the 8-foot mark. These would be changed when they became soiled.

Although very few of these board and batten houses have survived in Orange County, Tustin has one that is still occupied. Believed to date back to 1886, it was moved from an outlying area about 1900.

Mary Tustin, widow of Columbus Tustin who died in 1883, hired men to use mules and logs to relocate it in Tustin on a lot that she owned at the corner of Second and C streets. The Tustin family owned the house until the 1940s, although Mary Tustin moved to Highland Park in 1912 and never moved into it. Fannie Tustin Platt and Mary Jane Tustin Nicoles are thought to be the only members of the family to occupy it.

George Chandler and his family of nine children rented the house in the 1930s. Ralph Lindsay, owner of a shoe repair shop in the Knights of Pythias building, and his wife Louise bought it in 1945.

When Ralph, a volunteer fireman, served as fire chief from 1951 to 1959, he found having the Fire Department located just across Second Street from his house to be very convenient. Since the Fire Department telephone also rang in the Lindsay house, Louise could answer it during the day, set off the alarm and open the doors so the firetruck was ready to go when the first volunteer arrived.

At present Ralph and Louise’s grandson lives in the house, which is considered a rare example of a primary settlement period building, according to the City of Tustin Historical Survey.
 

 

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