Last of Simiopolis

first_img He has, however, put years of work into the old colony house and the gardens that surround it on a nearly one-acre Pacific Street lot, south of Los Angeles Avenue and west of First Street. He, too, hopes the home can be moved to be moved to Strathearn Historical Park, and so, as he makes improvements, he is careful to preserve the historical details. An old-fashioned white picket fence runs around the property, extending to a neighboring house he also owns. Powell said he plans to do more work upgrading the area, while preserving its historic character. The old home is unique, with a definite custom appearance inside and out, but a tract house is still what it was in 1890, when Ninetta Eames wrote about her journey to Simi Valley in the Overland Monthly magazine. “There was something uncanny about this lonely village, with its mathematical likeness and precision,” said Eames of the colony houses in the development of Simiopolis. The developers sold the homes with advertisements stressing the area’s booming real estate market and wonderful climate, “delightfully cool and pleasant in summer, and free from frosts in winter.” One ad even showed a paddle steamer on the Arroyo Simi (about a block from Powell’s house), which was actually a dry gulch much of the year. The first tract-home buyers found in Simiopolis a town with no river, no schools or churches and no roads, like a Western movie set in the middle of nowhere. Eames stayed the night about four miles away from Simiopolis, near what is now Los Angeles Avenue and Stearns Street. There she found a grand old hotel designed by Samuel and Joseph Cather Newsom, architects of California landmarks such as the 1890 Piru Mansion and the 1884 Carson House in Eureka. She fell asleep, only to awake to “the unearthly howling of coyotes near my window.” About 1917, the old Simi Hotel was dismantled and the lumber used to built more homes in Simi Valley. Through much of Simi Valley’s history, Powell’s house was owned by the Printz family, which ran the postal and telephone services for the community. From 1904 to 1941, Rosa Arabella Printz was postmistress, and she and her three daughters eventually ran the town’s telephone service from their home. “The Printz family purchased two of the colony houses,” Havens said. “They lived in one from about 1904, and when it burned down (after one of the daughters knocked over a kerosene lamp), they moved to the other.” Bessie Printz, Arabella’s daughter, lived in the house before Powell and worked for the telephone company until her retirement. Powell calls the colony house a dream home, even though it constantly needs work and doesn’t have modern amenities such as forced-air heating and cooling. “You cannot bring furniture upstairs through the hallway, because the hallway is so narrow,” he said. A good deal of the house is made with square nails, which he saves if he removes them during his restoration work. He has also saved many old tools, pots and pans and other relics he has found around the property, sometimes displaying them like folk art on his wooden fences and tool shed. It all sets up a unique atmosphere on the land where Powell tends a sprawling garden. “When I first bought I had to jack up the east side, and recently had to jack up the west side to level it. An old pepper tree fell in the winds and slammed the garage to the ground. So the garage there is new, and I built a porch on it to match the house. It looks like a granny flat, but it’s just a garage. “I’ve redone the bathroom completely. I’ve redone the gardens. The mature trees came with the property. The pepper tree that went down was probably 80 to 100 years old. There were orange and grapefruit trees, and I’ve added avocados. “I’ve made it really comfortable.” Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SIMI VALLEY – Larry Powell found himself a dream home in what was once part of the valley’s first housing tract, a place called Simiopolis. The tract was made up of 12 identical “colony houses” that were partially assembled in Chicago before being shipped by rail and horse-drawn wagon to Simi Valley around 1889. They sold for about $300 each. Many of the colony houses burned down. Only two survived, including one on exhibit in Simi Valley’s historical park. The other, still on its original lot, is proudly owned by Powell. “About 18 years ago, I drove by and couldn’t believe it was for sale,” said Powell, a jack-of-all-trades who owns a landscaping business. “Three days later, it was in escrow. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “I like old things anyway, and I fell in love with the house immediately. I could live in a brand-new house, but it couldn’t be a tract house.” Simi Valley historian Pat Havens said she admires the work Powell has put into the home and hopes the structure can someday be moved to the Strathearn Historical Park, to be preserved for future generations. “I think it’s just marvelous that he treasures it, and it’s being preserved,” she said. “He’s kind of old-school – quite a guy. “The place looks really pretty there on the corner. It’s neat somebody is willing to live in the house, as old as it is. You can tell he loves it.” Powell has used construction skills he learned from his father to fix up other homes he has purchased in his Simi Valley neighborhood. last_img