A recent college graduate, Shaun Vasquez Crittendon, who moved with his father to Porterville for a fresh start, said the two fell in love with a historical home and decided to take it on as a father/son project.
“My dad and I set out to restore this home, time period specific. We rebuilt the original sash windows, sanded down and re-stained wood work that had been painted over and bought all hardware to match the original Craftsman style,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez, who came from Orange County, talked about the pride Porterville has in its downtown area and of the new Tule River Eagle Mountain Casino. And said he has felt that same pride as he worked on the restoration.
“I feel grateful to be able to restore this home,” Vasquez said. “When you restore something like this, it makes you proud to be where you’re from. Porterville is like that.”
Vasquez said he's proud of Porterville and happy to call it home for the past seven years. But as much as he loves it, his hand has been forced to buy the family home in Orange County and will need to sell the Muller House and move back to Orange County. Vasquez also said he had never heard of Porterville prior to it being mentioned by a friend who helped care for his father.
“She said her mother had been widowed and she had to move back to Porterville to be at her side,” Vasquez said.
After learning of the small town, he thought he and his father could use a break from Orange County and make Porterville their home. He was 23, a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton, and about to start his first corporate job in public accounting prior to his father’s diagnosis of early-onset, medicine-induced Alzheimer’s.
“We came down and it was on the market,” Vasquez said of the house. “We had been looking around when we found it. One day we walked in and said, 'Oh my God!' This was the home of homes. The craftsmanship that has gone into this house is just phenomenal. It’s next level.”
The views, including one of the St. Anne’s Church, were amazing, he said.
“But the house was in shambles,” Vasquez said. “Still, dad saw something in this house.”
They bought the house in 2015 and took it on as a father-son project.
“The day after we bought it, a large tree fell and made a hole in the garage. I had so much to do with the house but I had to start with the hole in the garage,” Vasquez said. “We started little by little working on it. At first not very much. I was trying to balance everything. I was taking care of my father. People don't understand the mental toll it takes. But dad directed and watched me work. We were taking it slow. My main priority was taking care of dad.”
The home also had no air-conditioning when they bought it, Vasquez said, so he moved himself into the coolest room he could find — the basement.
“I re-did the pool and garage and added lattice to the top of the brick wall in the back yard,” Vasquez said. “I planted the bouganvilla. It was just a wall.”
Vasquez talked proudly of local companies he has contracted and talked highly of his crew — Nicolas Ferrer, Lenny Silacotto, Gustavo Estrada, Richard Dulay, and the last to join the team, Master Carpenter Bobby Robbins, who started in February.
In between work, Vasquez said he also shopped antique shops, and special ordered a few items, to furnish the home. Among some of the gems he found were antique wooden chests, an antique wooden spinning wheel, complete with a cornhusk and a spindle; and a Steinway Baby Grand piano.
After his father passed away on Christmas Day 2020, Vasquez really started working on all areas of the home.
He continued sanding paint off to reveal original wood around the doors and windows. And there was constantly something to do in the five bedroom, three bath home, which also has a butler pantry, an eating nook attached to the kitchen with windows that slide open to reveal a screened in area with large planters for fresh herbs and tomatoes, an office, a formal dining room, a balcony, a master bedroom converted into a family room, and a room that possibly served as a maid’s quarters, finished basement and an attic big enough to add another room, he said. In addition, the home is graced with a swimming pool, water fountains, statues, and beautiful flowers, including two rows of fragrant Mr. Lincoln Roses lining the walkway.
While he and his crew have been working on the home, Vasquez said people passing by have been honking and waving, and stopping to share stories about the historical home.
Neighbors too have shared stories with him. One gifted him with a 1914 postcard that had a photo of the home. Another neighbor, James Howell, who will turn 100 years of age this year, shared how at age 15 he would climb up the trellis to the balcony to talk with the young maid of the home.
Mr. Howell’s son, Travis Howell, said he has lived across the street “off and on for 75 years” and has been enjoying watching the restoration of the home.
“I’m very pleased to see it happen. It’s a beautiful home,” Howell said. “I am not even sure I have ever been inside. Once as a preschooler I attended a party but I believe we were outside.”
Next door to the house, Joe Faure Jr., who served as Porterville Mayor and Vice Mayor during his 1971-1975 tenure with Porterville City Council, said his father was a carpenter and helped build the house.
“They’re doing it right,” he said of the restoration. “They’re keeping the colors right, sanding back to the original work and not just a painting job. They’re restoring it. I’ve seen four owners go through there and they’ve taken care of hot spots. But these workers are doing it right. I’m very pleased with what they are doing. Shaun is doing a good job. He is doing it correctly.”
The architect who designed the Muller House, F.W. Griffin of Porterville, also designed the house where Faure now lives and designed many buildings and schools in Porterville at the time.
The east side of the Muller home has been completely restored, including new stucco, original window re-finishing, new air conditioning units, new stairs and new paint. The south side is ready for paint following foundation work, new stucco, new windows, and a rebuilt kitchen herb garden. And the front is being prepped for paint, Vasquez said. He hopes, he said, to be done by the end of June.
“Although my dad is gone, and I miss him every day, I am grateful for the decisions I made,” Vasquez said. “I am proud I stood by my father’s side when he needed me.”
But now Vasquez is reaching out to the Porterville community to help him on the homestretch of the project. After years of restoring it, he recently learned the home has drywall termites, discovered while repairing some of the window sills and other wood trimmings around the home. Fortunately, he said, no subterranean termites were present. However, it will need to be tented and fumigated, which costs approximately $5,000.
“This has been a very in-depth and lengthy process due to the historical significance of the home,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said he has been careful to budget for each expense and step in the Muller House restoration, however there are unforeseen additional costs.
“So I am reaching out to my community for help with this unforeseen cost when we are so close to the finish line,” Vasquez said. “If everyone who passed by and honked or stopped to chat, pitched in $5, this will not be hard to accomplish. Help restore the Muller House. Help restore a piece of Porterville’s rich history.”
Vasquez has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the expense. That page can be found at: https://gofund.me/e2fab3e5