Good News, Bad News

The new Kulikoff house is the old Russell house, and the old Kulikoff house is history

Photo by Tenaya HillsFULLERTON: four-bedroom, two- bathroom house

OCCUPANTS: Kristy and Maria Kulikoff

YEAR BUILT: 1915

SQUARE FOOTAGE: slightly less than 2,000

PAID:$315,000 in 2002

This is a happy story about a family who gets a nice old house after years of wanting one, has it taken from them after years of threats, and then gets a better, older house nearby. Okay, maybe it's bittersweet.

Maria Kulikoff always wanted an old house—a semi-historic house—something built when presidents were still named Herbert or Warren or at least Franklin: something with hardwood floors, baseboards, fireplaces, wooden double-hung windows, five-panel doors and lots of crown molding.

And in late 2001, her dream came true: she and daughter Kristy found and bought a 1915 Fullerton bungalow with a brick porch, eaves straight from a Greene & Greene—even a 1950s Wedgewood stove left behind by the previous owner. It was on a quiet street opposite Fullerton High, with bungalows on either side.

"We moved in in February 2002, and the first letter came in October of that same year," Maria says, knee-deep in cardboard moving boxes. They move on Saturday. The letters were from McDonald's. The corporation has a franchise across the alley, on the northeast corner of Harbor Boulevard and Chapman Avenue, one block from Fullerton High. It wanted to move the restaurant to the corner of Pomona and Chapman avenues: right across the street from Fullerton High, two doors down from the Kulikoffs' home. Their home of eight months would become a parking lot.

The day the letter came was not a good day.

"I've always liked old houses, and I've always wanted to live in a historic home," Maria says. Her fondness for Craftsman-era and older single-family homes has even infected Kristy, who actually owns the house. Technically, her mom rents a room. The two were adamant about one thing: "We wanted to just restore it," Maria says, standing in the dining room with wainscoting that's as tall as she is (five feet). It runs all the way around the dining room, bracketed on the top with a neat little picture ledge.

Or, at least, it did. As you read this, all that hardwood—they think it's mahogany—is gone. If they can't take it with them, they'll leave it for the Caterpillars.

The letters, being from McDonald's, didn't stop. They went out to all the neighbors in that row of four or five homes, and slowly, everyone sold out and moved away. Not the Kulikoffs. They'd paid more than $300,000 for their home, and it wasn't just that they thought the corporation's offers were low—they couldn't imagine how to replace the peace of mind they got from living in a place that felt like home, even if it wasn't finished.

"We only finished two rooms: the living room and the dining room. We stopped when we got the letters," Maria says flatly, surveying the packing, which is far from done. She's been cleaning out the refrigerator, she says. On Saturday, everything must go: all the boxes and whatever they can salvage—windows, doors, the wainscoting.

Theirs is the last home remaining: chainlink fencing marks off the lots on either side. At one point, Maria says, McDonald's was ready to build a parking structure over their house, essentially—and the city offered to pay to move it. That would have meant cutting the house in half and leaving behind an addition completed sometime in the past 90 years. It wasn't worth it, and eventually, after the offers rose—to $725K, suckas!—they settled. And—just in time—they found a new place to live.

The Kulikoffs' new home is the 1898 Russell House. It's named for some guy named Russell; no one is quite sure who he was, and it's a fully restored Colonial Revival with a pyramid roof, dormer windows that turn the attic into a room, an integrated wooden porch, and round porch columns to hold the whole thing up. It's a Fullerton landmark, and it's virtually McDonald's-proof, having long since been added to the historical rolls. It even has a garage where they can stash all the materials they salvage from their old house.

You could say everyone wins: they get a great house that's already done, McDonald's gets a nice parking lot, and Fullerton High kids can take a few steps out of their lunch hour. Except the world, which loses another old bungalow, three juniper trees to the south and possibly a mature magnolia tree at the curb.

 
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