When they moved to Great Oak Circle a dozen years ago, Jeanne Reece and John Stowers began a detailed restoration of a 1912 Highland Park bungalow. The couple stripped layers of paint from the exterior of the Craftsman-style home to reveal the original redwood siding and chipped away the stucco that had concealed the brick porch. Since they moved on to Great Oak Circle, many other old bungalows on the block shaded by billowing Camphor trees have also been restored, turning the street into a poster child for historic preservation. In fact, on Sunday, the Highland Park Heritage Trust honored the entire 5900 block of Great Oak Circle with a Community Preservation Award. But not everyone is a fan of the Craftsman style or wood siding, even on Great Oak Circle.
During the preservation awards ceremony, Highland Park historian and preservation leader Charles Fisher mention that a contractor had purchased a home on Great Oak Circle (top right photo) and was in the process of remolding and expanding the property, apparently without any intention to preserve what remained of the existing wood siding or covering the new portion of the home in a similar material. Fisher said he spent 20 minutes on the phone with the contractor, who indicated that he would be living in the house, to try and convince him to stick with wood. “He said that he really didn’t like wood siding,” said Fisher. “It was obvious that I wasn’t going to convince him.”
It turns out the old house being ripped apart sits right next door to the bungalow that Reece and Stowers have spent a dozen years restoring. But, instead being angry at their new neighbor, the couple say there are more important things than a picture-perfect Craftsman bungalow. Of course, the couple was not exactly thrilled when they heard about their new neighbor’s plan. Reece, a payroll manager, said her first reaction was, “Oh, no he’s going to stucco.” But, as Stowers, a singer songwriter, said, the new owner has a different vision and “it’s his property. I am sure whatever he does is going to be tasteful.”
Dictating paint colors and house style would seem at odds with the neighborhood’s reputation for serving as a home to many free-thinking artists and musicians, said Reece.
“There are people in this neighborhood who are very accepting of other people just being who they are and kinda of having their own beliefs and their own values,” said Reece. “We are all very different and we all get along. Nobody has told anybody what color they should paint their house. We definitely have our preferences but that’s not our job to tell other people how to lead their lives.”
The couple’s goal is to have a good relationship with their new neighbor, Reece said. “We would like to be friendly.”