The witch's house | March 30, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - March 30, 2012

The witch's house

It's a grand old dwelling with no witches in sight

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The rumor has persisted among Pleasanton children for more than 100 years: A witch lives in the old house at 733 Division St. You can tell by the witch's hat, a dark pointed turret that caps part of the roof.

Linda and George Garbarino, who bought the house in the '80s, said a neighbor recalled playing in the house as a child.

"She said they'd run up and say this is the room where the witch -- or ghost -- was," Linda recalled with a laugh recently, as she stood in the upstairs room with the tall pointed ceiling.

They've talked to neighbors to learn of the house's history through the years and looked at historic photos of Pleasanton. One old postcard features their house shortly after it was built in 1895.

"A gentleman came to the house one day and said he'd found the postcard in a box of old photos at the dump," Linda said. "People used to put photos of their houses on postcards and send them to their friends."

The house was designed by architect Charles Bruce for the Lewis family, she said. The Lewis brothers were owners of the Lewis Hardware, Tinware, Stoves, Watchmakers and Jewelers store, which was located in the landmark Victorian on Main and Division streets that was home for Kolln Hardware for many years and is now Comerica Bank.

"This is our second Victorian," Linda said. "Our first was on Ray Street. I was raised in San Mateo then we went to Fremont. We've lived 30 years in Pleasanton, 28 years in this house."

The Garbarinos have restored much of the home, refurbished the original floors and molding, and added a trim near the 10-foot ceilings.

"Old Victorians are a challenge," Linda said, "but a good challenge."

They have decorated with their many collectibles and furniture of the Victorian period, which featured high ornamentation and bold colors. Persian carpets cover the polished pine floors.

"Chinese and Persian objects were used widely in Victorian décor," Linda remarked. "And I like it."

Amid the figurines and framed photographs are two dollhouses she made that their grandchildren, now ages 16, 14 and 12, would make a beeline for when they visited. This solved the problem of children visiting a house with so many "don't touch" objects.

A mahogany staircase to the second floor is an attractive feature of the spacious entryway, and a mannequin on the landing wears Linda's grandmother's wedding dress with a broach at the throat.

"The wedding dress is from the early 1900s," Linda said. "The broach was George's aunt's."

To the right of the entryway is the formal parlor and the living room is straight ahead. The parlor, with yellow walls, has its original fireplace with a mirror built into the mantle on the inside wall, typical for that era.

"The fireplace could work," Linda said. "We've toyed with the idea of using it again."

Since the Lewises, the house has been owned by the Kamps, the Fish family and the Petrocks.

"The Petrocks redid all the wiring and all the plumbing in the early '80s," Linda said. "They added forced air heating."

They also have had the house bolted down in preparation for an earthquake.

The living room dimensions are generous, even more so since they removed a huge wood-burning stove, Linda said. A flat panel television is barely noticeable amid the many antiques but the room, with green walls, is clearly a comfortable place to relax.

The adjacent dining room has the original cabinets with bead board walls and a window seat. The upper part of the wall has trompe l'oeil wallpaper trim for a three-dimensional effect.

A built-in buffet opens between the dining room and the large kitchen, which has a cozy nook to one side of a brick column.

"That's the flue for the heater that goes up to the second story to the bedroom closet," George explained. "There was a wood-burning stove here."

In the kitchen a huge island divides the cooking area from the breakfast room, which was originally a porch. A former owner who gave cooking classes in the kitchen installed the island and pushed out the wall to accommodate her students.

Now a smaller enclosed porch serves as a back entryway from the luscious garden. A nook to the other side of the kitchen is used as a small office.

At the front of the house to the left of the front entryway is a hall with a guest bathroom and leading right to the master bedroom and bath. The guest bath has the original sink, claw-footed tub and sculptured toilet, and the Garbarinos redid the tiny vintage tile when they remodeled the master bedroom and bath.

"The Lewises only had one bedroom," Linda said. It used to look out over a walnut orchard, which was later developed into condominiums.

They had no children, at least when they built this house, and never completed the upstairs, Linda explained.

The Garbarino children, Josh Garbarino and Nora Garbarino Chavez, who were 8 and 6 when they moved in, quickly made themselves at home upstairs, which now has a spacious hallway with a seating area facing to Division Street and three rooms plus a bath.

Nora first slept in a small upstairs room, but when she was a young teen they converted a larger area into a spacious bedroom for her. Mother and daughter chose the flowered wallpaper, which keeps the vintage look of the home, and together they hand-cut large roses for the trim so it could seamlessly turn the corners.

The Petrocks removed the false ceiling in the turret room and lined the sides with cedar as they rise to the point. Recessed bookcases and windows surround the room, with a view of the Fairgrounds.

"This was my son's room," Linda said, recalling the children's excitement when they could spot their house from the Ferris wheel during the Fair.

The ceilings upstairs follow the contours of the roof, resulting in some places that do not offer a lot of headroom for Josh, who ended up being 6 foot 3, Linda said with a laugh, and going downstairs tall people must watch their heads.

Now Nora's room serves as a guestroom. Linda uses the turret for her art, which includes paintings and black and white sketches. She's also at work on a quilt made of old silk neckties.

"My sister, who's a sensitive, said there are two ghosts here but they are friendly," Linda noted as she looked around the room.

George uses the smaller upstairs room for his art and photography work.

The artistry of the couple shows throughout the house, as they've re-created the Victorian era but added their own colorful and whimsical touches. They've solved practical problems creatively, such as placing their cat Jessie's bed on an antique chair with a back decorated with cats and a lamp folding over the bed for gentle heating.

Linda currently serves as president of the Pleasanton Heritage Association, and their home has been opened to the public on tours to raise money for the Museum on Main.

For a visit to past times, be sure to avail yourself of the next tour. But don't expect to see any witches.


There are no comments yet for this post