Old Town Charm in Salinas By Brett Wilbur
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Flowers trace the walkway leading to the front stoop at 338 Geil Street in Salinas. A screen door swings shut with a satisfying thud and the front door is left open to allow warm afternoon sounds into the house. White butterflies light on yellow flowers on the large front lawn. A bay window inside the living room lets the life of the neighborhood inside.
"The school is right across the street--I love the sound of kids playing," owner Valerie Peterson says. "To me, it''s a positive thing. It''s nice to sit in the living room and open the door and listen. There isn''t a heavy flow of traffic--just moms picking up their kids."
Large palms, oaks and maples line either side of Geil Street, which is a short distance from Oldtown Salinas. People walk to Main Street for work or pleasure, stopping to talk with neighbors pulling weeds. Kids clutching bundles of books walk in groups through the neighborhood on their way home from Salinas High and Washington Middle School.
The schools are in the Mission Park School District--"the best one in Salinas," Peterson boasts.
The neighborhood and its residents are an integral part of the warmth of the house.
"The day that we moved, we had four of the neighbors stop by to welcome us," Peterson says. "It''s a reassuring thing--the neighbors are really genuine."
A pair of elderly brothers who live next door walk over to the Peterson''s home on hot days bearing glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Other neighbors drop off homegrown tomatoes from their gardens.
"We couldn''t ask for better neighbors," Peterson says.
Besides the charm of the neighborhood, the house itself has a grandmotherly quaintness. The two-bedroom, single bath home is smallish--1,150 square feet--but the layout is very livable. Closets are generous and the rooms flow well: arched openings lead into the living room and the separate dining room. The kitchen has plenty of elbow room and a separate laundry area. The little details inspired the Petersons when they bought the home last summer.
"The archways and recessed parts in the wall add to the character of the home, and the fireplace really caught our attention," Peterson says. "And the hardwood floors added a nice accent to the whole house."
Those details and the scale of the home give it a "they-don''t-build-them-like-this-anymore" feeling: a telephone table is built into the hallway wall, and an old drop-down ironing board pops out from a kitchen nook; a wood-burning fireplace centers the living room.
Still, when the Petersons bought the house it was "a mess," says Betty Thomas, the Petersons'' real estate agent. "They really got it cleaned up and made it great."
Improvements include refinishing the wood floors, repainting the entire interior (after stripping 50 years of paint from cabinets) updating switches and knobs and replacing old doors.
"I really like this house--it''s warm and clean," Thomas says. "You don''t have to have ''new'' to have a house look nice."
Behind the house is a fenced yard that includes a brick patio off the kitchen. A church steeple pierces the skyline. The Petersons, avid gardeners, were about to start in on new landscaping in the large yard when Eric got transferred to Sacramento.
"My husband had a job opportunity we couldn''t say no to," Peterson says. "But we come down every weekend--I miss it."
The yard--with roses and some fruit trees--has space for more improvements. No doubt the new owners will take the next step towards maximizing the property''s potential.
"This is a unique older section of Salinas," Thomas says. "People put the effort into fixing up their properties."
338 Geil St., Salinas. Price: $315,000. Contact Susan Lubin-Brownlie of Coldwell Banker Gay Dales, Inc. at 424-0771 ext. 15.