“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Ventura where we lay our scene…” With apologies to the Bard, we hope he allows some license as we diverge from the story of “loves killed with hate,” and strike a happier tone of love extended into family, edifice, history, and the future.
While Bill Lucking renovates and resurrects the past in two historical homes with beach views on Ash Street, finishing with devotion the work that he and his wife began, Cody Supan looks to the future on nearby Hemlock Street, blending turn of the 19th century practicality with 21st century wired sensibility.
On Ash Street, Lucking, a genial widower of 68 who with his daughter, Alison, lives in Ventura Historical Landmark No. 104, is sanguine about the cost of historical renovation. “I overpaid for these places, but it’s a labor of love,” said Lucking, referring to his home and the house next door to it at 244 Ash, which he is in the process of renovating as he did his own home at 230 Ash. Both houses were built in the late 1890s, finished as late as 1902, and love’s labors have not been lost. 88
Using money from stocks and investments that he and his wife, Bonnie, made over the years, Lucking became a “fixer-upper,” and working with the historic preservation committee, Ventura architect Bruce Labins, and Camarillo contractor George Walker, he started putting pieces together. “It’s ridiculous, but it’s also fun,” he said.
Ridiculous because the process of restoring a historic home involves the united effort of many people and millions of dollars. Millions. But the state allows a significant property tax reduction through something called the Mills Act contract, in which a historic home’s property taxes are reduced by some 50 percent for ten years and can be renewed thereafter as long as the home is preserved. Lucking needed more than just builders.
Enter Cynthia Thompson, a Ventura-based historian and archivist who worked with Lucking and the historic preservation committee to research the properties. “Buildings last, and people don’t,” said Thompson. “Bill deserves all the credit in the world for these two homes. He invested a lot of money, time, and effort in restoring them.”
Frank and Julia Hobart, who were both very active in the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Civil War veterans in the 1890s, developed the block, Thompson said. “He was a justice of the peace and was responsible for a lot of the eastward expansion of the city of Ventura.” The next owners were Leonard and Cleo Barr. “He was a councilman and developer during the 1920s oil boom in Ventura,” she said.
The Luckings finished renovations in April 2010, but Bonnie died in May of that year of a heart attack. It remains a devastating blow to Bill. “A lot of the house is in deference to my wife,” Lucking said with visible emotion.
Bonnie picked out the colors and was responsible for many details. “She did the leaded glass over the porch in the front and a lot of other touches,” Bill explained. Crown molding and maple-wood floors add warmth, and original windows, which refract light in distorted patterns as the sun sets to the west, adorn a home with a balcony that looks out over the Ventura pier and the beach. On the porch, a hanging sign reads, Grand Central Station. “She really liked that sign and wanted to put it up,” Lucking said. “I thought that was just the right spot.”
“The houses are really a monument to Bill’s wife,” said Thompson. “It was so heartbreaking to lose her like that.”
The homes are big and small. Walking through the front door offers a feeling of space and expanse as eight-foot ceilings give way to ten-foot ceilings separated by large flowing archways with detailed molding and soft pastel colors of green and yellow. But with only two bedrooms and one bath each, it’s hard to get around the idea that in a modern context, a large family couldn’t live here without serious compromise.
Both homes have upgrades on all of the plumbing and electricity to modern standards, and while 244 will remain a one-story home, Lucking’s residence at 230 has a second story he added—staying within the guidelines of the preservation committee. “It’s really just making use of the attic that was there and adding an interior staircase,” said Thompson.
But if the details of renovating the 230 residence include additions, the 244 residence is all about resurrection. The little house is actually the third of three that Bill and Bonnie bought in 2008. But they tore the third house down to make room for a garage and shop, as well as a driveway.
“The house is actually built on a foundation of beach rocks,” said George Walker, who is doing the renovation. Under the foundation of the house, the rocks appear like dots an inch-and-a-half apart. “They support the whole thing, and they were placed there by hand more than a hundred years ago. We’re not going to move them now,” Walker said. “The redwood is original and we’re keeping that, too. There’s no rot in it. The goal is to keep it like it was, as much as possible.”
Not a beach stone’s throw from Ash Street, just northeast of the Lucking residences, Cody Supan, a 25-year-old who grew up in his father’s construction and renovation business, took a different approach to a historic home. The photographs of the eyesore that Supan found on Hemlock Street are remarkable. Overgrown with weeds and crabgrass, critters flitting about here and there and two giant avocado trees leaning aggressively toward a bruised and battered structure originally built in 1908, fading away so that the paint chips were stronger in places than the edifice, Supan didn’t so much renovate as tame the house.
Now engaged to fiancé Alejandra Cortes, Supan’s renovated “bachelor pad” fits the bill perfectly as a family home. “I bought it for $250,000,” said Supan, “and I knew what I wanted to do. It’s my first house and Alejandra and I are going to live here, so changes were definitely in order.”
Supan’s vision included adding on to the 900-square-foot, two-bedroom bungalow. In the process of adding an additional 500 square feet, the city required that he build a two-car garage, a simple structure that now sits detached in the backyard and is accessed by an alley.
Where Lucking was preserving the past, Supan looked to the future. “Music is a big part of my life, so I wired the whole place with speakers,” he said. They are built into the ceiling of his family room where a large flat-screen television hangs over a layered stone fireplace with a tile approach. The soft beige leads to creamy, coffee-colored walls, and another flat-screened television, this one smaller, hangs in the kitchen for morning.
The master bedroom got the addition of a bathroom; both rooms are wired for sound. A clean, efficient closet and motion sensor lights complete the room. “I wanted to get the space just right,” Supan said. Indeed, even the shower is well thought out: big enough for a party of two, with a rain showerhead as well as a portable shower nozzle. “It’s really just thinking about each room,” Supan said. “I want every room to be unique.”
An avid HGTV watcher and lover of all things building, Supan works with his father, Scott, in the family renovation business. “The whole industry fascinates me,” he said. “When I have free time, I like to hang out in Home Depot and Lowe’s.”
Adding on to a turn-of-the-century house presents its share of problems, too. “We wanted to add on, but we couldn’t make it a different design, so we had to blend old and new,” Supan said. “You can see the ceilings look the same throughout, but the bedroom, hallway, and kitchen area are all brand new.”
While the kitchen is still without an oven, as Supan and Cortes figure out which one to buy, it does boast a large centerpiece island of polished granite. A countertop leading to the farmhouse sink is a honed finish, pocked with divots and small holes. The backsplash is glass tile revealing a subdued pastel green tone that blends with the richer colors of the granite.
Distressed antiques that former customers wanted to throw away meld with newer pieces—leather couches and wooden cabinets—to complete the modern/vintage motif. “You’d be amazed at the stuff people want to throw away,” Supan said.
Perhaps, but in a city like Ventura, where the old and the new are celebrated in much the same way, like Shakespeare’s plays set in the 21st century, there is always someone who can bring it to life again.