Houses With History

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by T Christian Gapen

Zach Bancroft in his Camarillo woodshop.


ach Bancroft loves reclaimed wood. The founder of 805 Woodworks values the quality (older wood is often milled from very old trees, which yield more durable, rot-resistant lumber), digs the history behind it, appreciates the unique shape and structure of each piece. That latter quality can pose challenges during construction, to be sure, but Bancroft enjoys the problem-solving process, too . . . which only adds to his fondness for his materials and the items he crafts from them.

Old houses, like old wood, can instill a similar regard. They echo with their past — architecture, décor, the spirit of previous owners — and are, in part, symbols of resilience, the ability to withstand the ravages of time. The homes featured in this month’s issue all have a history, which has made them beloved by their owners.

Hawk and Molly Koch, the subjects of our cover story, live in a relatively newer home, but have filled it with emblems of a particularly rich past. Hawk is both a film producer and the son of one, and a former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with dozens of movie credits and decades in the industry under his belt. Molly is the daughter of a television actress, and the granddaughter of radio show legends. The home they share in Rancho Matilija has something from Hollywood in nearly every room . . . and serves as a reminder of Ojai’s own past (and present) as a getaway for the film industry’s rich and famous.

In Hobson Heights there is a large estate — a nearly 3,900-square-foot house on close to 19,000 square feet of land — that in its 1938 heyday was a gorgeous, Spanish-style grande dame. The years were not kind to her, however, as she fell victim to disrepair and incomplete expansions that tarnished her original beauty. Now in the hands of a committed restoration expert, she has been buffed and polished to her original splendor, and this former “diamond in the rough” shines once again.

A 1918 Craftsman in Oxnard may not have the size or star power of these other homes. But it’s a beautiful example of its architectural style, which its owner, Nancy Switzler, has honored throughout her careful and thoughtful restoration and expansion. She has allowed the house itself to dictate the direction of her efforts, paying attention to the clues that have been gradually revealed — from a bit of torn wallpaper here or a lifted carpet there — to bring elements of her home’s past into harmony with its present.

Modern life, at times, feels like a constant balancing act, as the present becomes the future at an ever-faster rate. But links to the past — a treasured photo, a vintage doorknob, a lovingly restored architectural gem — can anchor and sustain us, and provide a solid foundation on which to stand. They remind us that despite the passage of time and the changes that accompany it, much endures . . . and give hope that we will, too.


Back to top