Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Old House

There's a house in my neighborhood that's been empty for years. It's funny how I can't say I even noticed it until it was empty. I drive by it almost everyday and wonder about who lived in it and it's fate. Until last week.

I made it my destination on my morning walk. With camera in hand, I walked around the block and took pictures from the outside of the cyclone fencing from every side.

I came to the front and spotted a parting in the fence, and as I stuck in my camera to get a few shots without any obstructions, a man working on a car at the auto mart next door piped up to let me know he was tired of chasing the homeless out of it. Aware of my grungy sweatpants and tee shirt, I quickly told him I was just trying to get some good pictures of this old house for my blog and asked him if he knew anything about it. Lucky me--he was the owner! He gave me a short history lesson which, combined with what I had already learned from researching the house, gleaned me these facts:

The house was built in 1870 on a stone foundation and occupied by Mr.Goodale who was an early Concord merchant.

Then Dr. and Mrs. George McKenzie made this their home sometime after his arrival in Concord in 1891. For many years Dr. McKenzie (and Dr. Francis Neff, Concord’s only other doctor), were the only doctors serving Concord and the surrounding area.

Mrs. McKenzie used to raise the flag at the house to signal to Dr. McKenzie (at work at the hospital about 400 yards away) that his lunch was ready.

There was a bicycle-powered windmill on the property that generated the electricity for his x-ray machine.

Mrs. and Dr. McKenzie both died in the house.

Then it was occupied by the Collins family, about whom little is known.

I asked would he minded if I went inside the fence and took some more pictures? He didn't so I did.

You must have really been something in your day, house.

I'm so sorry you've been neglected.

I'm so sad that the beauty you still have goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

I'm sorry your foundation is turning to rubble and your wood is decomposing into the earth.

I took some cuttings of the roses in the front and then squeezed back out through the fence posts.

I wish you could be saved, rehabilitated, resurrected, revived. But even though the owner wasn't at liberty to say what the future holds for you, he couldn't look me in the eye when he said the land had been sold to a developer in Washington.

You are the jewel in the crown of a city which loses a small amount of it's glint each time an old house is torn down.


  1. How passionate and poetic, artistic and authentic... from your heart!
    I also love and appreciate older architecture and I know that if we could, we would be restoring all of these lovely and grand old places!
    Thank you for the warmth and passion that this blog expressed...

  2. Oh,Jan. I almost missed this post because I was gone. I'm a bit overwhelmed. This is beautiful. MCKENZIE? COLLINS? A house owned by people with THESE last names? Sitting empty... waiting for someone. I feel like we should buy it together.
    Your description is so beautiful and your feeling for older houses is evident. This post shows the love you have for "The house with nobody in it."
    What you said about each house that is torn down in the name of modernization is so very true.
    "You are the jewel in the crown of a city which loses a small amount of it's glint each time an old house is torn down."
    This brought tears to my eyes. Our families saw too many of these beautiful homes disappear over the years. When will we learn.....
    Thank you for this tribute.

  3. I love your post and too bad there was not a way inside the house for photo's but it may have been dangerous as well. The pink flowers growing up against the chippy green wall made for a wonderful postcard looking picture!
    Thanks so much for shaRING.

  4. Hi Jan, OMG what a wonderful old house. I see Sis wrote you too. We both grew up with a passion for old houses especially those that need love and in witch you can see the possiblities of what could be.I have fantasized my whole life about fix'en up on old house.We use to watch This Old House in awe and wonder as they would lovingly repare and replace the amazing details of an old house as best they could. I look at you pic's and feel that old yearning. I agree with Sis lets all buy it together and live our dream, OK!Hope to see you soon, Love,Lisa

  5. I know you wrote this blog 2 years ago but just now saw it. The historical society had given me a little information on it. A John Goodale, a merchant, had built it around 1876 -the Assessor's office showed an assessment for $1,000 for merchandise in 1884. Dr. McKenzie started a practice with Dr. Neff in 1891. He extracted teeth, fitted eyeglasses and did his own lab work. Before there was electricity, his daughters would ride a bicycle that supplied the generator with "pedal power". He was also one of Concord's first drivers and the city council had to warn him to slow down as he loved to travel at 10-15 miles per hour!

    In 2002, the house was scheduled to be demolished, but the Historical Society protested and won. Now there is no Redevelopment Agency but no other plans had ben presented as of 2010.

    Have you noticed it sits sideways to Salvio with the entrance on East used to sit in a vineyard and that's where Salvio Street ended.

    So, the big surprise is - that the guy who owns the car dealership also owns the house?? Did he mention any plans for it or why he doesn't block the upper windows? I think we all love this house - just so so sad.


    1. Thanks so much for this information! The guy at the dealership sold it to a company in WA that has since filed for bankruptcy....

  6. I pass this house EVERYDAY---every once in awhile I would make up a scenario in my head on how this house use to be lived in and loved very much. What it looked like with the lights on, a lady knitting on the front porch while the kids played a game of hide and seek in the front yard. I wondered what it looked like during the holidays? 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday parties, weddings...It was once owned by a doctor/dentis? So for some this was a place of comfort to get relief from whatever pain one was having, or a place one stayed away from if you needed to get a tooth pulled! Regardless, it was once a busy place---and now it sits all alone, frozen in time while the world around it, moves on.

    It's so sad that a once beautiful home ended up this way.

    Does anyone know why it was abandoned?

  7. I see they have torn down what was on the property next door - the part that was next to the car dealership - looked like it had an old car wash in the back. And now the house stands starkly alone. Anyone heard of any plans for that property? Poor house.

    1. Yes, I have been watching it too as I drive by it several times a week. The building behind it was a mess. I have thought of asking the owner at Thunderbird Auto if he knows what's happening (he used to own the house and land) but I'm so afraid as to what the answer would be. I SO wish that someone would buy it as turn it into retail property, but in this economy, I doubt that would happen. If you see they start to tear it down, please contact me ASAP, and I'll do the same for you. I would at least like to be there when she goes so I can say good-bye....

  8. I wonder if the historical society knows any more's such a shame.

  9. The "Green House" is known as the Collins/McKenzie(sp?) House. In the 1970s it was considered a candidate to be designated as a local Landmark, but such designation was never completed.The house then was still in very good condition, but it has not been cared for over the years and (I am told) it is now a real wreak. For many years, that house and portions of that block were owned by a local investor. Several years ago, that party sold to a development company and they had plans to build commercial and residential on that block at last word but may have resold it.

    The city has been trying to force the current owner to demolish the house as a nuisance. But the house is more than 50 years old and some evaluation (Environmental Impact Report, EIR) is required before demolition. So things are at a standstill I think. The new owners do not yet have a plan for new development which has been approved by the city. I have no real idea what will happen next or when any progress will occur.

    I think the Planner at the city who is working on this or the clerk for the planning office 925/671-3451 can refer you to the planner most familiar with that project.

    Comments above noted the structure's placement setback. I believe but have not verified, the early trolly ran out East street - note the placement of the wealthy large Craftsman style homes in subsequent blocks.

    Thank you for creating this Blog.

    Steve 3-15-2014

  10. I drove by yesterday and noticed that all of the the plants and trees that used to be on the property are gone.

  11. I can add a little bit of info. I am a granddaughter of the Lembcke family who lived in this house for years. Many Christmas memories for me. I have been trying for years to get info on this house. The picture of the rose is a rose garden my grandfather planted. Made me smile. My grandfather was a handy man and a green thumb he lived in this house rent free to be care taker of the house as the Collins family were the owners at the time but no one wanted to live in it so they found someone to live in it which happen to be my grandparents. Just this week my mother and I stopped by to take a peek at it. It looks like piece by piece they are taking it apart. My grandfathers tree are all cut down. My grandfather died in the late 80's and my grandmother moved out and no one has lived in it since. Always said growing up that it would be a great bed and breakfast house!

  12. The City said today there are people working to rid the whole block of asbestos. By May 15 the house will be gone. The developer lives out of state and has not yet submitted a plan to the City - but plans to develop the whole block.
    An email from the City said:
    If you drove by the green house today, you probably saw workers in white hazardous materials suits around the green house and other buildings on the block. They are completing the asbestos removal and other hazardous material removal phase of the demolition. The green house, which you correctly identified as not being a historical resource, should be fully demolished by May 15th, along with the remainder of structures on that block in anticipation of redevelopment of the area.
    The property owner is located out of state, and is working to sell the entire block for new development. The City of Concord has not received a development application for the site, so I cannot tell you what will ultimately be constructed there. However, the City did require that the structures be demolished due to the code enforcement problems they created and their deteriorated condition.

    Sad - very sad.

    1. Yes, I drove by it today on the way to a funeral and saw the tarps on the ground and the workmen with suits and respirators. Later I went back by but no one would tell me much. They did tell me there was nothing to be saved inside--it was pretty well trashed up by homeless. I took a few pictures, but I'm too sad to post them. A sad day indeed. One bright spot--R. Guffey, the gal who left the comment about her Grandfather being its caretaker and planted the roses out front--the bush was dug up and gone--hopefully to a new home.

      Thanks so much for your information. It's nice to know I'm not the only one grieving its passing.

  13. Thanks Jan for keeping this house alive here as long as it could. It would be nice if the City would at least put up a little stood...

  14. Grieving, thats a good term for how I feel about this. It is a sad day when part of Concords historical identity cant be somehow saved.

  15. R.I.P. The home suddenly disappeared late Wed. 5-14. With modern mechanical precision it disappeared in hours. A Century's existence, pulverized in miniutes. What a shame it could not have been protected.

  16. A lost opportunity to save one of the few remaining architecturally and historically significant homes in Concord. Being overshadowed by the Galindo home and Masonic Temple projects certainly didn't help, but the final outcome was determined by the city's voracious appetite for redevelopment and an apathetic public.