Curtis Park loves its oaks. Predating the 90-year-old homes, massive trees still dot the historic neighborhood.
By design, Markham Way literally winds around several heritage oaks, some surrounded by street. According to residents, it’s the way this subdivision was meant to be.
“We had to fight City Hall over a water main,” said Lori Tibbett, whose home faces an oak in the middle of Markham Way. “They wanted to go straight down the middle of the street. We won – and saved the trees.”
Tibbett’s home – and those mighty oaks – will be featured next Saturday, April 30, during the 30th annual Curtis Park Home and Garden Tour. Attracting more than 1,000 patrons annually, this event has become a community tradition in history-minded Curtis Park.
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“Markham Way is one of our most special streets, as it was developed by the highly regarded (architect) Frank Williams in the 1920s, winding and curving around existing heritage oak trees, and lined with the most beautiful and highly crafted of his Tudor Revival beauties,” explained Janice Calpo, who helps organize the tour each April. “And this year, among the seven homes featured throughout Curtis Park, two of them are right at the center of Markham Way, facing each other with an original oak tree in the middle of the road between them.”
Tibbett and husband Richard Zacaroli bought their Tudor on Markham Way three years ago with an eye on history as well as its trees. Besides the heritage oaks, the property is shaded by a 150-year-old deodar cedar. Estimated to be two centuries old, the valley oaks also grew on the former Rohrer Ranch that became the Curtis Park neighborhood.
Originally this tract was called “St. Francis Oaks” in honor of the big trees. Surrounded by their urban forest, the stately homes with often whimsical touches give this block of Markham Way an almost fairytale quality.
The same can be said of the houses. For example, in Tibbett and Zacaroli’s home, quirky touches can be found in every room. Little wall nooks were made to display special treasures. With big beamed ceilings, the sunken living room feels cozy and inviting. The round front door looks like it should be opened by a hobbit.
“It’s storybook style,” Zacaroli said. “It feels like a cottage in the woods.”
“We fell in love with the house’s character and its charm,” Tibbett added. “We went from a 4,000-square-foot home with a three-car garage to this (smaller) house, but we really really like it here.”
Eager to discover their own house’s past, Tibbett and Zacaroli learned a lot from the neighbors. “We heard stories, like the cat lady who lived here with 78 cats,” she said. “But after the cat lady, a young couple lived here. They refinished the oak floors.”
In their fact finding, the couple also found the original 1927 Sacramento Bee advertisement listing their home when it was new. “You’ll marvel at its charm, its comfort and its convenience,” the ad read. “Throughout this home, you’ll find the most interesting features, and they are so numerous that you must come and really see for yourself.”
That’s also true now, note the homeowners. While honoring the house’s original design, they’ve filled the Tudor home with a sunshine-bright touch of Italy.
Tibbett and Zacaroli met and fell in love in Rome, where they both worked at an English-language high school; she was a teacher, he was the principal. Dozens of Italian mementos decorate their walls.
“We still love Italy,” Zacaroli said.
A longtime Auburn resident before her Roman adventure, Tibbett wanted to move back to California. On their return to the United States, they first lived in Chicago due to Zacaroli’s work. Eventually, they relocated to Sacramento and Curtis Park.
“We love our neighborhood and our neighbors,” Tibbett said. “We do lots of things together.”
Zacaroli now works for Corning Inc., specializing in hyperspectral imaging; Tibbett works for CCI Greenheart, a nonprofit foreign exchange student program.
“We have the perfect neighborhood for exchange students,” said Tibbett, who has hosted many in her own home. “We’re always looking for host families. (The students) love our house; they don’t want to leave!”
The couple both work from home with separate light-filled offices facing lush views of trees and flowers. Azaleas and rhododendrons bloom in abundance outside.
Another of those quirky features, a built-in “speakeasy bar,” is part of Tibbett’s office. “She insisted on the ‘Mad Men’ office,” Zacaroli quipped.
“What I like best about the house is the character, the history and the neighborhood,” he added. “It’s just fantastic.”
30th annual Curtis Park Home and Garden Tour
Where: Start at Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., Sacramento
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 30
Admission: $25 in advance, available online or at Sierra 2 Center; $30 day of tour
Details: 916-452-3005, www.Sierra2.org
Also: A free community festival will be held at the north end of William Curtis Park, Donner Way and 26th Street, Sacramento, featuring live music, vendors, antique cars, artists, food trucks and more.