Hundreds of excited people recently lined up-with great anticipation — like they were going to Disneyland. But Mickey and Minnie were nowhere in sight as the crowd waited for an “Open House” at perhaps the most unique structure in Southern California, the iconic 86-foot-tall residential water tower, off Pacific Coast Highway at 1 Anderson St., Seal Beach.
The near-beach tower, admired by hundreds of thousands of drivers on PCH daily, “is one of America’s tallest—from ground to ceiling—single family residential structures,” said new co-owner Scott Oslund, a resident of Coto de Caza and senior vice president of Lee & Associates.
“I’ve been fascinated by it for many years and am delighted to be able to help acquire and renovate it for a vacation rental. We snapped it up for $1.5 million this summer and have been restoring it,” said Oslund.
Barret Woods, co-owner, and senior vice president of Lee & Associates, described some of the renovation work.
“We’ve done a lot, including fixing the balcony and replacing a lot of rotten boards,” said Woods. “There’s been painting and varnishing; we’re still fixing light switches and getting new appliances.”
“This is structurally sound because the house weighs about one-tenth of what it did when it served as a water tower for steam engines,” Woods said. “There are 28 stanchions that once supported more than 75,000 gallons of water.”
The new owners said an original structure was built in 1892 and the tower was rebuilt in 1940. The Los Angeles Times reported that water was once pumped into the tower from a natural well in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands for residents to use in Surfside and Sunset Beach for more than 35 years.
When there was talk of tearing it down in the 1980s, people joined a “Save the Water Tower” movement to keep the historic landmark in place. George Armstrong, a Long Beach City College professor, and Dr. Robert O’Dell, MD, purchased the tower, had the top lowered and created a residence in it before hoisting it back up to become, what some call, “The World’s Ultimate Beach House.” Later, they sold it to retired Los Angeles Fire Capt. Gerald Wallace before the three-level, four bedroom, 3-and-1/2-bath unit went to the current owners.
The much-talked-about tower’s top floor has windows all around for a spectacular, unsurpassed 360-degree view of the Pacific Ocean, mountains and cities as far as the eye can see. What a place to be on the 4th of July when there are fireworks shows at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the Huntington Beach Pier, Disneyland and all over. You can see them all!
There are all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies, including a secret loft, located behind a bookcase in a near-ground floor bedroom. If you pull out the shelves, a staircase leads up to a giant sleeping area. Talk about privacy.
In one of the rooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the new owners put in a model train that runs along tracks up near the ceiling above a lounge and the kitchen/wet bar. Around the corner is a Pirate’s Room, with appropriate décor and a bunk bed, in honor of Hipolite Bouchard, who once ravaged parts of California.
There are historical plaques and illustrations around the building, with its retro-styled rooms and oak spiral staircase.
Visitors were stunned by the tower’s interior. “I’ve always wondered what it looked like inside and it was surely worth the wait in line,” said new Huntington Beach City Councilman Patrick Brenden, who toured it with his wife, Anto. “The interior is amazing with fabulous views and furnishings. I particularly like the outdoor deck facing the ocean. What a great place to lounge and enjoy the serenity of being so far above the surrounding structures. My compliments to the new owners, who respected the history while renovating it. Some of the wood was re-milled and put back. I look forward to returning soon as a paying customer.”
“It looks incredible,” said Hollywood Stuntman Dan McCoy, who went to several parties in the tower in the 1980s. “It would be a wonderful place to film a movie. I never get tired of that unbelievable view. It’s something you never forget.”
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