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Published November 7th, 2012
Old Yellow House Progresses through Historic Landmark Designation Process
By Laurie Snyder

The new owner of Orinda's Old Yellow House continues to clear hurdles in his bid to "preserve the historic character of the structure," confirmed Orinda Planning Director Emmanuel Ursu recently. Members of the City's Planning Commission unanimously agreed at their October 23 meeting to recommend that the Orinda City Council approve the application by James P. Wright to designate the building at 209 Moraga Way as a Historic Landmark.
Ursu noted that Orinda's Historical Landmarks Committee has also approved architect-owner Wright's request, adding that Wright has spent a significant amount of time researching the structure's history. According to the staff report for the Planning Commission's meeting, the home was built "in 1894 by Alexander Jenkins, a retired sea captain who sailed with Samuel Merritt from the Bay Area to Alaska to collect ice for San Francisco residents," and later purchased by Moraga School Board Trustee Charles A. Nelson in 1918.
When Nelson's "family moved to Orinda to the historic 'old yellow house,'" - reads Muir Sorrick's "The History of Orinda" - "Moraga Road was still an unpaved wagon road. Nelson often had to harness a team of horses at night to pull a stuck motorist out of the mud during the winter months, while the oldest Nelson boy held a lantern for his father." (Nelson's younger son, Ezra, shared his own recollections of growing up in the house in the June 6 edition of the Lamorinda Weekly.)
The staff report explains that the "structure is historically significant since it is largely preserved as originally built and remains one of the oldest existing homes in Orinda. The house will be repainted to reflect its original yellow color, which is thought to be the same color as the old railroad stations. The house was built near the graded track bed of the California and Nevada railroad and has doors and windows similar to those of the old railroad stations.... The structure represents a unique visual feature of the neighborhood in that it is located adjacent to a major thoroughfare and serves as a visual reminder of the historical heritage of the City."
The Orinda City Council is likely to act on Wright's Landmark status request sometime in the next several months. For more about the project, check out Cathy Dausman's June 6 article, "Greening the (Pink) Old Yellow House" - available through the Lamorinda Weekly's online archives: www.lamorindaweekly.com/html2/archive.html.


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