Backstory and Context
After her husband died, Mrs. Stevens remained in the house until her death in 1948. At that time their son Horace became the owner and kept the property until the late 1970s when he sold it to Douglas Gfeller Construction Co. and it was turned into a business park.
Stevens, a wealthy businessman and a partner in the San Joaquin Fruit Co. with C. E. Utt and James Irvine, hired two Los Angeles architects, Costerigan and Merithew, to design the Queen Anne cottage which was constructed of redwood shipped by boat from Eureka, Ca., to McFadden’s Landing in Newport and brought to Tustin by horse and wagon.
The home, lovely both inside and outside, stood among several acres of oranges and avocados. An extensive garden of exotic plants and trees as well as a habitat for animals collected by Stevens surrounded the dwelling.
The garden housed a large aviary filled with exotic birds which Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, who were enthusiastic travelers, brought home from their travels around the world. Neighborhood children were welcome to visit the gardens and delighted in checking on the birds or hunting for brightly colored feathers.
Billy, a talkative parrot who lived in an orange tree, was well known for whistling at girls who walked down Main Street.
Other popular residents in the garden include a bird of paradise, a golden cape pheasant, finches, canaries and many noisy parakeets. The children found a large loquat tree near the aviary an excellent perch for watching the birds and eating the tasty fruit.
Visits to the squirrel cage and the toucan cage were part of each trip to the gardens. Usually one or both of the Stevens’ two dogs, an Irish setter and a Gordon setter, tagged along with the children.
A tour of the garden always included the lath house which was filled with exotic ferns and the cactus garden bordered with rocks and pieces of petrified wood. After being told about a child who fell into the cactus, the children were very cautious in this area.
A colorful bed of purple violets, a strawberry guava, a heliotrope and many camellia bushes were other “must sees” for the young visitors.
Lucky children who were invited into the house came out wide eyed, awed by the many treasures and the beautiful paintings collected by the Stevens on their travels. Their extensive art collection is now housed at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. The grand piano, possibly the only one in Tustin, the mahogany Victrola and the stack of National Geographic magazines, which they were encouraged to read, fascinated the youngsters.
Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, who were known for their generosity, also shared their garden with other Tustin children. The house, now part of an office complex known as Stevens Square, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984.