336 N. Ivy Ave.
Block No: B
Lot No: 45
Construction Year: 1888
Architectural Style: Victorian
Style Detail: Queen Anne
Style Altered? No
Location Changed? No
Subdivision: Ocean View Subdivision
The first owner of this property and the house upon it was S.R. Palmer who sold it to Mrs. W. Bushnell in 1895 who sold it to Herman Zerell in 1900. In spite of the previous owners, the house has always been known as the “Zerell House” because of the length of time that members of the Zerell family lived there.
The house is on Lot 45, Block B, of the Ocean View Tract, one of the earlier tracts to be subdivided and J.S. Keefer, the owner of the tract, made sure that the sale of the lots in September of 1887 was widely advertised.
S.R. Palmer built the house in 1888 (Monrovia Planet, 13 Aug. 1887) and kept it for eight years, selling it to Mrs. Bushnell in 1895. In the 1897 tax records, the lot is valued at $75 and the house at $600. The low value of the property reflects the depressed land values of the time. Almost all the properties in Blocks A & B of the Ocean View Tract were valued at $65 or $75. On the other hand, the low evaluation of the house reflects its small size. For comparison, two other houses, one in Block A and the other Block B in the Ocean View Tract were valued at $1,400 and $1,250, respectively.
In 1900, Mrs. Bushnell sold the house to Herman Zerell and his wife Jacobina. The last Zerell to live in the house, Mary Alice Zerrell Siebert, died in 1988. According to Herman Zerell’s granddaughter, Dorothy Zerell Jefferson, except for plumbing and a little electrical, the house’s interior and exterior had changed very little in eighty-eight years. I was in the house right before it sold in the late 1980's and it certainly seemed that way to me!The house is located on a steep hill just below a reservoir and has a fantastic view. Dorothy Jefferson says this: “I recall standing in the middle of the street, as a child, looking to the south, and asking about the landmass that seemed to be out away from the coast. My father told me that it was Catalina Island, 26 miles off the California coast. So, in fact, the tract really did have an ocean view.”
The house is a two-story Queen Anne Victorian, and for most its life, it has been a very small Victorian. “Modest” is the term usually used. The Zerells raised four children in that house and when they came back as adults to visit with their own families, finding a place to sit together was difficult. Dorothy Jefferson describes it this way: “The adults would squeeze into the dining room to talk. In the dining room the large round oak table was the focal point. People would sit around it, or on the leather couch next to the wall. Grandpa sat in the matching leather chair, and grandma in the dainty rocker. Most of the younger group would sit on the window seat in front of the big bay window, if they hadn’t figured out a way to be apart from the adults.
”On the opposite side of the room was a very large buffet, and there was just enough room between all the furniture for a person to squeeze through sideways.”
Mary Alice Zerrell Siebert, one of the four children of Hermann and Jacobina, became a widow in 1939 and moved back into the house at 336 N. Ivy. She continued living in the house after her parents died (her father in 1944 and her mother in 1949) almost up until the time of her death in 1988. Apparently, she didn’t put much money into the house as Dorothy Jefferson remembers her uncle Ben, Mary Alice’s brother, saying, “The house is being held up by termites holding hands in the foundation.”
When the present owners, who had been living across the street, purchased the house from Mary Siebert, she was living in a nursing home and there were almost ninety years of “stuff” that had accumulated in the house. According to Dorothy, it didn’t seem as if her aunt never threw anything away. At one point, the new owners opened the house for an estate sale and that was the time I was in the house. I remember being overwhelmed at the thought of the electrical and plumbing work the house was going to need, not to mention the poor condition of the exterior wood.
Fortunately, one of the owners was an architect and the restoration has been exquisitely done. An addition to the of back of the house and a tower typical for that style of house were designed with architecture that flows with the original. The interior retains many of the original Victorian architectural features, but has been updated to accommodate modern living with six children.
If one looks closely at the picture where Hermann and his wife are sitting on the front porch, one can see the porch brackets which the news owners replicated in their restoration. In the third picture, the south side of the house can be seen. Hidden by the trees is an outside stairway to the second story of the house. What can be seen there now is an addition, not a replication, of a tower commonly seen in this type of house. Though not original, it is definitely in keeping with a Queen Anne Victorian style of house. The Zerells would have pleased, I’m sure!The house received Historic Landmark status in 1998, is featured in the book Monrovia’s Heritage An Architectural Heritage, and has been featured on the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group’s Mother’s Day vintage home tour twice.