Real Estate News

Fair Oaks home on American River bluff listed at $1.4 million. Its history is priceless

A historic home built in 1899 on the bluffs of the American River, and lovingly and painstakingly restored by a local family, has hit the market for $1.425 million.

The 4,680-square-foot Victorian manor at 3910 Edgvale Court in Fair Oaks was built from 1899 to 1900 by wealthy Chicago clothier George Straith, who moved to Fair Oaks to retire.

Tim Carmichael and his wife Carmel Comstock now own the house overlooking the American River. The couple put a lot of years and money into completely restoring the house, making sure the renovations match the original architecture and design. While mirroring the past, they brought the home up to date with amenities.

“This grand historic manor has been beautifully restored to complement the original architecture but provides all of the modern features of today’s urban farmhouse including energy efficiency,” according to the official listing.

“It was just a shell,” said Lisa Paragary Engelken, the listing agent with Nick Sadek Sotheby’s International. “They restored it from the ground up.”

Carmichael and Comstock stumbled upon the abandoned home by accident. They had been looking for another nearby home at the time. The vegetation had grown so thick around the house that some longtime neighbors didn’t even know it was there. A fantastic history was being obscured.

“The property deteriorated continuously from the 1980s forward, until the place was so overgrown that many of the neighborhood residents didn’t know there was a house there,” according to fairoakshistory.org.

“Carmel went to Earnscliff Avenue and saw a chain-link fence around a boarded-up, old Victorian,” he said. “She looked at it the next day and we put a bid in. I was captivated by the front veranda. It had grand bones, but no running water, no electricity, no stair to the front veranda. You had to crawl up a ladder to the front porch. We had no idea what we were getting into, but fell in love with idea of bringing this house back to life.”

They moved into the home in 2013.

Carmichael works on energy and environmental policies for Sempra Energy. Comtock is a home interior designer with an artistic flare. They had a melding of the mind during the reconstruction.

“My wife is an artist and I’m an environmentalist so we had this tug of war with aesthetics and modern amenities,” Carmichael said.

“Being an artist, (Carmel) literally restored (the house) to perfection, exactly as in 1899,” Paragary Engelken said.

They installed the most energy-efficient heating at the time, tracked down sinks from the Victorian era and somehow found 42 new dual-pane, double-hung, lead-weighted windows. The brand new, modern Pella windows ended up costing $1,000 each, but they matched the look of the era. The couple took the original trim off the windows for installation and put it back on again.

Also, the entire kitchen wing is new, but its wood flooring seamlessly matches the original, century-old look found in the rest of the house, another artistic Comstock touch.

The Victorian manor has five bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths and sits on .76 acres. The property lies in a private gated enclave that offers access to the American River via an easement trail, a perk that caught Carmichael’s attention.

“That river access is really rare,” he said.

The house also has a bonus room and library with a fireplace, a bright gourmet kitchen with white cabinets, marble counters, stainless steel appliances and a huge breakfast nook area. From a roof-top terrace, there are 360-degree views of the area.

The Fair Oaks history website has photos of the interior of the home around 1910. The video above shows details of the restored house.

Before the renovations started, the structure had to be moved 300 feet back from the river to allow parcels in the gated neighborhood to be subdivided. The house was set down in exactly the same direction it had always faced.

Many people have shown an interest in the historical property. Docents from the Crocker Museum and Governor’s Mansion have toured the home. Master carpenters want to see the craftsmanship inside the walls. And then there are what Carmichael calls “house tourists.”

“House tourists, if you will, who heard about the house and wanted to see it, literally come up to the front door and ask, ‘Can we have a look,’” he said. He does not turn them away.

“The historical society and neighbors were very anxious about what we were going to do about this house. We got serious questions about what our plans were, were we going to be respectful and honoring of the history,” he said. “When they saw we were going to modernize, but not take away from grandeur of home, we got lot of respect from the community and historical society.”

Outdoors, the lot is ideal for farm-to-table gardening with raised garden beds, fruit trees and an area for a chicken coop.

“Certainly the appeal (to a potential buyer) would be somebody who values its history, but it has such aesthetics (and) modern appeal,” Paragary Engelken said.

Somebody interested in farm-to-fork living with their own organic fresh eggs, vegetable and herb gardens and “lots of fruit trees” right on the property would enjoy the place, too, she said.

The house was first listed for sale in September 2018 at $1,695,000. It hit the market at the reduced price of $1.425 million about a week ago, according to realtor.com.

Meanwhile, after five years of solid work on the place, Carmichael said, they are looking at moving into a smaller home but staying in the area.

“We love Old Fair Oaks,” he said. “Our intention is to downsize and stay there.”

David Caraccio is a video producer for The Sacramento Bee who was born and raised in Sacramento. He is a graduate of San Diego State University and longtime journalist who has worked for newspapers as a reporter, editor, page designer and digital content producer.
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