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Sixties vibe: Restored ranch house gets its due in Petaluma

  • The living room of Chris and Linda Mathies' 1960's ranch house that was recently honored as a Heritage Home in Petaluma, Calif., on October 19, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Back in 1962, folk singer Malvina Reynolds dubbed them "little boxes made of ticky tacky." Driving along the freeway south of San Francisco, she looked up at a Daly City hillside and was moved to pen a satirical song about the suburban houses that "all look just the same."

But more than half a century later, architectural preservationists are beginning to take a fresh look at those boxy tract homes and other flat little ramblers of the period. For the first time, a 1960s ranch style house has been singled out for special honors by Heritage Homes of Petaluma, which is dedicated to saving the city's old architecture.

In September, Chris and Linda Mathies were given an Award of Merit during the organization's bi-annual Preservation Awards Ceremony for their restoration of a 1960 ranch house on Keller Street.

Petaluma Keller Street Heritage Home

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While not a tract house per se, the Mathieses' home is very much of its time, a single-story, 1,800-square-foot house that sits incongruously along a street of much older homes, including Victorians and bungalows.

The Mathieses bought the house in March 2010 for $509,000 and did a good job of renovating it without compromising its unique period features, said Kelly Collins, a Heritage Homes board member who oversaw the awards.

"They did a really high-quality job of restoring and making it a really beautiful modern space to live a modern life while leaving the late 1950s modern bones still intact. It's lovely."

The award was a historic moment for the organization, which was founded in 1967 to stand up for Petaluma's aging westside Victorians, which a lot of people scorned as creepy and old fashioned. Now, the group is reaching out to include mid-century modern homes that qualify as historic after passing the half-century mark in age.

"Petaluma is more than just your Victorian home. We need to try to bring in and show appreciation for people who have maintained and restored their homes from that era," said Alicia Wallace, a former president and current member of the board of Heritage Homes.

That also means drawing in more members and architecture from Petaluma's east side, which has traditionally been viewed as "new Petaluma."

Collins said those modest family homes represented the American Dream for the burgeoning post-war middle class and are part of the community's cultural heritage and history.


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