Florence Low / Bee file, 2012

The restored study of the Didion House in midtown Sacramento glowed with polished wood as it awaited visitors on a home tour in 2012. The remodeled and restored home is on the market for $1.65 million.

Midtown's Didion House back on market after rehab

Published: Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 15, 2013 - 7:17 am

A storied Sacramento landmark has slipped onto the real estate market, bringing a chance to own a piece of local history.

The Didion House – a one-of-a-kind mansion in midtown's Poverty Ridge neighborhood – has been offered for sale for $1.65 million. The three-story home once belonged to the family of author Joan Didion, who lived there while a student at McClatchy High School.

"It's a fabulous house," said Realtor Sheila Van Noy, who is handling the listing for Dunnigan Realtors. "That house was a labor of love. I don't think I've ever worked with a seller who cared so much about a house."

Owners Chris and Julie Dolan paid $1.125 million in 2008 for the house, which at that time had been left vacant for two years and needed many repairs.

"This is my husband's dream home," Julie Dolan said last year when the house was featured on the Sacramento Old City Association tour. "He has incredible vision. He's a Renaissance man and he could see all this house has to offer."

But Chris Dolan, a San Rafael-based attorney, found his work demanded too much time away from Sacramento.

"Because his work is now more in the Bay Area, it became too hard to keep such a marvelous house long-distance," Van Noy said.

The Dolans invested heavily in restoring the four-bedroom, three-bath home to its original glory – and then some. With a commanding presence at the corner of 22nd and T streets, the 4,600-square-foot house has a home theater, a full basement, a large sun room and an office. The only thing missing: No garage. (See photos of the home at www.sheilavannoy.com.)

During the restoration process, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems all got high-tech upgrades. "Green" insulation was installed. The modern kitchen area now combines three former rooms (including a butler pantry and service porch) to accommodate family dining and entertaining. The attic became a media room with components tucked behind paneling.

Yet the mansion retains its original 1910 charm. Designed by Seadler & Hoan and built by Seller Brothers, the eclectic house combines Colonial Revival with simpler Prairie School style in a unique California blend. Tiffany velvet lines the dining room walls. Redwood paneling retains its rich luster. Brass and mica accents catch the light from the home's many large windows.

Van Noy, who also represented the Dolans when they first discovered the Didion House, saw the whole transformation.

"They brought the house back to life," she said. "What impressed me the most was their attention to detail because the house is so special."

Craftsmen were equally moved as they worked on the restoration, Van Noy noted.

"These grown men were close to tears when they saw the staircase – some of the wood is over 300 years old," she said. "Instead of replacing the dentil molding – which would have been easier – they patiently removed all the old paint. There must be a dozen pocket doors; some are 3 inches thick. There are inlay floors, upstairs and downstairs."

Now the Didion House awaits its next chapter.

Said Van Noy, "I've been in this business for 25 years and never seen another like it. It's truly one of a kind."

Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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