Probably no other residence in Old Town Tustin has
been owned by the same family for as many years as the home Sherman Stevens
built for his bride, Martha Snow, in 1887 at 228 Main St.
After her husband died, Mrs. Stevens remained
in the house until her death in 1948. At that time their son Horace became the
owner and kept the property until the late 1970s when he sold it to Douglas
Gfeller Construction Co. and it was turned into a business park.
Stevens, a wealthy businessman and a partner in
the San Joaquin Fruit Co. with C. E. Utt and James Irvine, hired two Los
Angeles architects, Costerigan and Merithew, to design the Queen Anne cottage
which was constructed of redwood shipped by boat from Eureka, Ca., to
McFadden’s Landing in Newport and brought to Tustin by horse and wagon.
The home, lovely both inside and outside, stood
among several acres of oranges and avocados. An extensive garden of exotic
plants and trees as well as a habitat for animals collected by Stevens
surrounded the dwelling.
The garden housed a large aviary filled with
exotic birds which Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, who were enthusiastic travelers,
brought home from their travels around the world. Neighborhood children were
welcome to visit the gardens and delighted in checking on the birds or hunting
for brightly colored feathers.
Billy, a talkative parrot who lived in an
orange tree, was well known for whistling at girls who walked down Main
Other popular residents in the garden include a
bird of paradise, a golden cape pheasant, finches, canaries and many noisy
parakeets. The children found a large loquat tree near the aviary an excellent
perch for watching the birds and eating the tasty fruit.
Visits to the squirrel cage and the toucan cage
were part of each trip to the gardens. Usually one or both of the Stevens’ two
dogs, an Irish setter and a Gordon setter, tagged along with the children.
A tour of the garden always included the lath
house which was filled with exotic ferns and the cactus garden bordered with
rocks and pieces of petrified wood. After being told about a child who fell
into the cactus, the children were very cautious in this area.
A colorful bed of purple violets, a strawberry
guava, a heliotrope and many camellia bushes were other “must sees” for the
Lucky children who were invited into the house
came out wide eyed, awed by the many treasures and the beautiful paintings
collected by the Stevens on their travels. Their extensive art collection is
now housed at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. The grand piano, possibly the only
one in Tustin, the mahogany Victrola and the stack of National Geographic
magazines, which they were encouraged to read, fascinated the youngsters.
Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, who were known for their
generosity, also shared their garden with other Tustin children. The house,
now part of an office complex known as Stevens Square, has been listed on the
National Register of Historic Places since 1984.