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FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Holiday Home Tour features ‘A little piece of heaven’

vagabond ranch 12_4_13

Jim Kelly knocks on the ceiling of a room in his Vacaville home Wednesday. The house was originally built in 1864, making it one of Vacaville's oldest. Jim and his wife Kelly now use the room as a guest space. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

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From page D1 | December 08, 2013 | 1 Comment

VACAVILLE — One of Vacaville’s oldest homes will be featured on the Vacaville Museum’s Yuletide Traditions Holiday Home Tour.

The North Alamo Drive residence, neatly tucked behind tall trees, was built around 1864 for William and Mary Towson, some of the first fruit ranchers in the area.

The original building still stands, located behind but attached to what is now a 3,700-square-foot home. Current owners, Jim and Laura Kelly, still use the older portion of the home.

The lower floor features what was the original entry, a small kitchen and central room. The upstairs was one room. The two floors are connected by a very narrow, angled staircase. The original stone fireplace is still in place but its opening has long since been covered.

The Towson family grew to include nine sons and four daughters. Additions to the home were made over the years, including major work in 1910, the Kellys said.

A few years ago the Kellys, who moved in 10 years ago, remodeled the second kitchen, which was added in the mid-1940s. They had to get through four layers of linoleum to redo the floor.

The Kellys are the fourth owners of the home. They purchased it from the late Ray Willhart, who lived there for almost 45 years with his wife Jan Willhart. The Willharts also spent time remodeling the house they called Vagabond Ranch, according to his March obituary.

There have been several more remodels on the home, including the removal of a widow’s walk once the Kellys discovered the house didn’t qualify for historical designation because of the numerous changes.

The couple has strived to keep the home true to its historic roots. Original leaded glass remains in the sitting room and dining room windows. Some early flooring can still be found in a closet in the dining area.

Many of the interior doors have been in the home for years. They are sensitive to the weather, Laura Kelly said, adding that in cooler temperatures they are harder to open and keep ajar.

The family spends most of its time on the lower level where the kitchen, dining room, sitting room, den, master bedroom and bathroom are located. The sitting room has picture windows nearly taking up one wall.

Other bedrooms are upstairs. One is still occupied by Madison Kelly, the couple’s 17-year-old daughter who is a senior at Vacaville Christian Schools. Son Matt Kelly, 20, is serving in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.

A third bedroom welcomes guests.

The “dormer” room, which includes part of the original home as well as the 1910 addition, includes a bed, sofa, TV and some bookcases.

“We use it for students or young girls who need to get their feet on the ground,” said Laura Kelly.

There’s one bathroom upstairs. It sits next to a small office.

Laura Kelly is frequently asked if she’s had any ghostly encounters in the historic dwelling. Quite the opposite.

“The house really has a great feel to it,” she said. “It’s so peaceful. It’s a little piece of heaven when you come in the driveway.”

Sitting on 1.5 acres, the property also includes a three-story water tower, the original outhouse and a circa-1950s greenhouse.

The Kellys have made some interesting finds over the years, including wagon wheels, old glass and a hidden fireplace.

Most of the interior work is done and the Kellys have been concentrating on the landscaping. Getting the grounds in shape was the impetus they needed to share their historic house with the community.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Yuletide Traditions

Vacaville Museum Guild Holiday Home Tour

  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Purchase tickets for the self-guided tour at the Vacaville Museum, 213 Buck Ave.
  • 447-4513
  • www.vacavillemuseum.org.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
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