By Alex Groves
A historic building in San Juan Capistrano recently got a little bit of TLC with help from the developer of a neighboring project.
The 650-square-foot Constable Carl Stroschein House, also known as the “Little Yellow House,” has a new coat of paint, a spruced up yard and some indoor renovations after developer Bill Griffith and his family finished the first phase of a planned restoration.
The Griffiths, owners of the adjacent Plaza Banderas Hotel site, began leasing the building with the right to eventually buy it in March of this year and completed the first phase of renovations last month. They had been trying to obtain the building and get it fixed up since last year.
Griffith said the home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, had been vacant for some time after a man who had lived there died and it had fallen into disrepair as a result. Both exterior and interior fixes were needed.
So the Griffiths met with the man’s family members who now owned the home to determine what their goals for it were and whether they’d be willing to sell it.
Griffith said that it was his work on other historic San Juan Capistrano buildings such as the Egan House and Esslinger Building that won the family over.
“There were several people interested in the property but we were selected to take it over and restore it,” Griffith said. “Our immediate goal until the hotel was completed was to stabilize it and improve its exterior appearance.”
In addition to redoing the front and back yard areas and painting the home a creamy shade of yellow called “solar wind,” crews replaced rotting and termite-riddled wood inside the home.
A shed to the rear of the property, also on the Historic Register, was fixed up and painted yellow as well.
The building is currently being used as a site office and meeting space during construction of the Plaza Banderas project until a more permanent use for the site can be decided.
Though the home looks quite different than it did even a few months ago, Griffith said the fixes are only the first phase of planned renovations.
He said the next phase will involve coming up with a permanent use for the home that ties in with the hotel and decorating it to match that use.
According to a news release from project spokesman Laer Pearce, the home was built in 1927 on what was then a 40-acre ranch by Carl Louis Stroschein for himself and his new bride Ruth.
Stroschein would eventually go on to become Constable for the San Juan Township, a position similar to being a sheriff. It was his job to keep the peace, prevent unrest and investigate public offenses committed within the township.
The township’s boundaries ran north to El Toro, east to San Juan Hot Springs, south to the San Diego County Line (except for San Clemente), west to the ocean and north to South Laguna.
Stroschein was elected as constable in 1938 and held the position until 1953. His 15 years in office are more than any other Constable of San Juan Township, according to Orange County records.
Today the home sits on a portion of land that is much more modest than a 40-acre ranch – a 60-foot by 100-foot lot flanked one side by a couple of decades-old orange trees.
Griffith said he has a deal in place with the family members who used to live in the home as children.
“If we ever decide to relocate or replace those orange trees, they asked that they have first dibs on them because they had been there so long,” he said.
Though Griffith says he has many different ideas on how he would like to decorate the very small home, he says that whatever’s done with the home should keep with its modest origins.
“The outside is quaint, but it’s not grandiose in any way so the inside would have to be thematically similar,” he said.