The Headquarters of History in the Making
Seventy-six years old and counting, the City’s Sesquicentennial Headquarters house has a colorful history, and it’s not nearly over, now playing host to the City’s 150th Anniversary.
When James S. T. and Meda R. Leavitt built their house in 1929 at the corner of their 5 ½ acre citrus ranch, Anaheim was a city already nearing its 75th anniversary. Another 75 years have passed since the house was completed, and although the Leavitts are long gone, the house still stands. It now serves as the headquarters for the City of Anaheim’s 150th Anniversary celebration.
Aerial view of 883 S. Anaheim Blvd. circa 1930s.
A California transplant born in Maine, James S.T. Leavitt built his house at 883 S. Los Angeles Street (now S. Anaheim Blvd.) at the age of 72. City records cite the initial cost of the new dwelling at $4,500, with an additional $8.50 in fees. The Leavitts owned the citrus groves adjacent to the house as well as another five acres elsewhere in Anaheim.
In 1938, Leavitt succumbed to an extended illness in the very house in which he had lived for eight years. Survived by Meda and step-son James R. Reed, Leavitt was memorialized in a funeral service at the Hilgenfeld Mortuary, a family-owned business still in operation in Anaheim today. After his death, Meda retained ownership of the home until 1943, when she sold the house and both citrus properties to Santina Colombo.
The house is now headquarters for
the City's 150th Anniversary celebration.
As the century approached its halfway point, Anaheim’s myriad citrus groves continued being developed. Colombo and partners Marion & Pierina Caracausa followed suit by opening the citrus-growing land along S. Los Angeles Street to development. The house, now officially Lot 28 of Tract 1194, remained in Colombo’s possession, and the Caracausas are listed as the residents from 1948 to 1953.
Victor and Irene Cheslick, a blueprint drafter and a guest home manager, bought the property in 1953. In 1957, they opened the Lynhaven Guest Home, which was managed by Irene. These establishments catered to retired men, usually bachelors or widowers, and provided a group living situation like that of a family. A year later, the property was sold to Dr. Franz Pohl, a local physician who continued to operate the guest home under new manager Martha Kruger.
Although Dr. Pohl maintained ownership of the property, the guest home was renamed and changed management several times. In 1963, Dorothy S. Schaffer began managing the Santa Maria Guest Home, which operated under that name until 1976. In 1978, the name was changed to Virginia’s Guest Home, which came under the management of Clara M. Black in 1980. Dr. Pohl is also listed in association with Virginia’s as the home’s go-to physician. In 1983, the McMahon Guest Home began operating under manager Marguerite McMahon. The home’s use as a guest home ended in 1986.
Since the McMahon Guest Home closed in 1986, the house has been occupied on and off. In 1996 the Botich Partnership, an architecture firm, was listed at the address. Built-in architecture was installed around this time, making the home ideal for more professional uses.
Orange groves in Anaheim circa 1930.
In 2001, Dr. Pohl sold the property to the City of Anaheim, 45 years after first buying the property. For the next five years the building stood empty. In the meantime, the City’s Redevelopment Agency recognized the home’s aesthetic and historic value and looked for an appropriate development opportunity.
When time came to plan the City of Anaheim’s Sesquicentennial celebration, which kicks off in October 2006, the City converted the empty home into what is now the City’s 150th Anniversary Headquarters. Once ranch property, private residence, guest home and business, the house has followed the historical trajectory of Anaheim, and can be expected to follow the City into the future.
The historical photos featured on this page were provided by the Anaheim History Room. Click here to see more pictures of Anaheim's history.