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Friday, January 12, 2007   

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Vintage home gains new lease on life

A vintage Salinas Valley home has been granted a life extension plus a renewed reason for being.

That would be the 1903 Chapman Foster House, which is now white but may be painted another color before the work is done.

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Viewed daily by thousands of commuters, the house sits just off Highway 68 at 7 Foster Road near the Salinas River bridge.

"It's best if you can find a good use for these older buildings," Chris Bunn said.

"If they get preserved and there's no use attached to that, then they often languish."

The Bunn and Yuki families, well-known names in Salinas Valley agriculture, own the old home. Its new purpose will be to provide office space for Yuki-Bunn Family Operations, Bunn said.

Few facts about the home's early history, such as who designed it, are known.

"It was not uncommon for that period to use pattern books," that would contain several ready-made plans for structures, said Thomas Carleton, architect for the project.

"But the quality is certainly there."

The home was carefully built, Carleton said.

It included features such as columns and cornices. Sturdy redwood studs, most likely hauled in from a mill in the Santa Cruz Mountains, were part of the effort.

"It was a strong structure, a handsome building inside and out," Carleton said. "We're trying to maintain that."

The project began in December 2004 and should be completed by early April.

"It's a beautiful old building, which adds to the flavor of the valley," Bunn said. "We wanted to preserve it so it wouldn't become a tear-down."

Plans call for keeping the shell of the first floor. What is changing is everything inside and above that, Carleton said.

"We will have a second floor," he said.

To increase useable space from a total of 1,000 square feet to 1,800 square feet, workers are raising the pitch of the roof and adding dormers.

The exterior of the house may be repainted in an antique tone, one muted and reminiscent of days gone by.

"A color deeper and richer than the current one," Carleton said.

The old house sits on what was old Toro Road, historic evaluation documents filed with the county show. That old road became Highway 68.

"In the 19th century, (the land) was broken into many small farms," the documents say.

Many of the farms belonged to miners who'd come to California seeking gold, the documents say, and who "found it expedient to farm in order to eat."

The background of Foster, for whom the house is named, isn't known.

The house was moved several hundred yards from its original spot in 1968 to make room for the freeway, Bunn said.

Because the building remains close to Highway 68 traffic, crews are installing added insulation to improve soundproofing, Bunn said.

Vintage buildings, such as the old house, can carry more than visual appeal, Carleton said. Unlike the many generic offerings of much of today's architecture, older buildings can evoke a sense of place and past, he said.

"I'm just glad to see something prominent and visual at that location," Carleton said. "It's like his gift to the community."

Contact Dave Nordstrand at dnordstrand@thecalifornian.com.



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Originally published January 12, 2007

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  •  Buy this photo  Zoom Photo
    SCOTT MACDONALD/THE SALINAS CALIFORNIAN

    The Chapman Foster house awaits further renovation Wednesday near Highway 68.

    WHAT'S NEXT

    The renovation and remodeling of the Foster House along Highway 68 at Foster Road, which began in December 2004, should be completed by early April.



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