"Willis Home", about 1910 The Fair Oaks Bluffs, about 1905

Location: Private drive between Earnscliff Ave. and Natoma Ave., off Sentinel
Built: abt 1901
Burned: 1925

This is another article honoring the old homes of Fair Oaks that were destroyed by fire. This story comes about because of the fortuitous discovery of three seemingly disconnected items and a little detective work.

The photo above of the Fair Oaks bluffs was found in the California Historical Society in San Francisco. It shows three of the early mansions built just east of Fair Oaks Village in about 1901. On the far right is the Straith home (3) at the south end of Earnscliff Ave., and on the far left is the second story of the Hodge home (1) at the east end of Capitola Ave.. Both are still standing. Behind the Straith home is an imposing mansion (3) which no longer exists.

The second item shown above is a photo post card in the Fair Oaks Historical Society collection. It shows a home, which we had not previously identified, labeled "The Willis's house, a very large three story house." This house bears a very strong resemblance to the Bailey mansion in the photo of the bluffs (much enlarged), and we have seen no other Fair Oaks homes, or photos of homes, which are similar.

The third item is the newspaper article shown on the following page, discovered while doing other research, that writes about the burning of the Bailey home in 1925. It's a somewhat melancholy piece, but gives an interesting view of Fair Oaks history.

Research on the census shows that a Clarence Willis lived between the Rose and Tropper families in 1930. The Roses lived at Ramona and Toyon and the Troppers bought the Straith home, so the Willis home shown in the post card is in the right location. Other evidence suggests that after the fire, the property was in the hands of investors who built a caretaker cottage where the Bailey mansion once stood. The cottage was added on to during subsequent years, and significantly enlarged and remodeled after 1980 when the property was subdivided.

The remaining mystery is, who is "Doney" in the article. We can find no reference to a Mr. Doney in Fair Oaks historical records. Could it be that "Doney" is a nickname, possibly for a Mr. Donahue or Donald, or maybe a Donald Somebody. We don't have an answer for that. If anyone has any more information on that issue, or on the Bailey house, we'd love to hear from you.