From Icon to Private Residence:
The Fascinating Story Behind the Famous PCH Water Tower House (pictures below)
Though two Orange County, California locales tend to argue over which lays claim to its residency – that is, Seal Beach and Sunset Beach (a little city outside Huntington Beach)– the formidably iconic PCH Water Tower House stands on its own as a jaw-dropping example of stunning architecture, mysterious intrigue and what can only be described as “the world’s ultimate beach house.” While the structure has always attracted hordes of curious types and tourists alike, investors who bought and refurbished the Water Tower House recently opened the doors of the landmark property to the public for a one-day tour – and to say visitors got an eyeful is something of an understatement.
Nestled at 1 Anderson Street just off the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, the PCH Water Tower’s tank was originally built in the 1800s to service steam engines along the coast of the Golden State, and was replaced in the 1940s during a “save our tower” movement redesign campaign. The tank held more than 75,000 gallons of water for a few more decades, and in 1980 developer George Armstrong and his partner anesthesiologist Robert Odell purchased the termite-infested pile of wood and its 35-by-35-sized lot for $59,000. Armstrong’s son Dan, a building contractor, joined the project to create a house that would replace the tank but replicate its look.
By the time 1995 rolled around, the home that was once a fully-functioning water tank was sold to Gerald Wallace for $800,000, who attempted to sell it in the late 1990s for $3.5 million and again in 2004 for $5 million, in 2006 for $8 million and in 2008 for $4.5 million…with no one ever purchasing it. The current owner, Scott Ostlund of Coto de Caza, a commercial real estate agency in Orange County, snapped the iconic property up for a cool $1.5 million along with a partner, and the duo continue to make all kinds of alterations to the main structure to this day.
“It’s a little bit like Disneyland,” Ostlund recently said about his work on the PCH Water Tower House. “In other words, it will never really be finished.”
During the aforementioned tour Ostlund recently offered to the public, the plethora of visitors who showed up were treated to such sights as retro-styled rooms with hefty weathered-esque pieces, mini trains that chug along on tracks near the ceilings, a curved 145-gallon aquarium and bar and plaques celebrating the tower’s history. One plaque in particular touts it as one of the world’s tallest homes at approximately 100 feet, while even a bathroom – dubbed “Burlap and Barrels” for its vintage décor – is affixed with a plaque referencing how commodities were transported in the early days of the original tower.
Meanwhile, broad, sweeping windows opening outward and a wraparound deck provide unobstructed 360-degree views, from a vast stretch of the Pacific Ocean to the mountains beyond, making this 2,800 square-foot three-bedroom home quite the attraction. Additionally, a so-called “party room” boasts a fire pit that could double as a functioning table (or be mechanically lifted to the ceiling to make room for a dance floor), adding yet another magnetic element to this other-worldly water tower-turned-residence.
The Water Tower House was rented out for parties or vacations for about $4,000 per week during the Wallace tenure, and Ostlund says he plans to continue offering the four-bedroom house as a vacation rental. Most recently, the owners placed the home on vrbo.com, where it’s offered for $675 or $995 a night and $4,500 or $6,750 a week.
In the end, it is perhaps Ostlund himself who sums up the Water Tower House experience the best:
“We really tried to have some fun with it…we wanted to give some authenticity to the house and wanted to tell more of a story about it.”
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