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A hidden 19th century Napa home springs back to (spectacular) life

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1405 Cedar front with fountain

This home at 1405 Cedar Ave. in Napa has been restored. The 1.25-acre parcel is listed for sale for $2.9 million. 

The 146-year-old Victorian farmhouse, located on a dead- end street along Napa Creek, isn’t the most visible residence in downtown Napa.

In fact, unless you have a reason to travel down Cedar Avenue off Jefferson Street, you might not know it even existed.

But the house, at 1405 Cedar, happens to be one of the oldest homes, and on one of the largest residential lots, in the city center.

And after an extensive renovation by not one, but two, sets of owners, the one-acre parcel is now for sale for $2.995 million. 

Commonly known as the Jordan Farm, it was home to a Napan named Lester Jordan for more than 70 years. Jordan was known for his gardening hobby and was one of the early successful prune ranchers in the valley. He also owned a large transportation business in Napa. 

1405 Cedar Ave. as seen in the 1970s

1405 Cedar Ave. as seen in the 1970s. 

Following Napa Creek just south of the alphabet streets, the triangle-shaped piece of land stretches from Jefferson Street to halfway down the dead-end block.

“It’s a really interesting property,” said listing Realtor Ellen Politz.

She’s not just saying that.

Ellen Politz and her husband, Jeff Politz, owned the property from August 2014 to October 2015.

Today, she represents the home’s current owners, Lori and Dave Sanson of Walnut Creek.

Politz recalled when she and her husband first saw the Jordan Farm home for sale in 2014.

“We just fell in love with it,” she said. “The Victorian charm, the beautiful woodwork, all the detail -- it’s a one-of-a-kind property.”

“There are only a certain number of these homes, the grand dames of those streets,” she said.

1405 Cedar from above

An aerial view of 1405 Cedar Ave. in Napa. The larger property - 1.25 acres - is for sale for $2.9 million. It includes two homes and extensive outdoor areas. 

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges when they bought the property.

First of all, the house was in complete disrepair and the property was overgrown, said Politz.

“When we bought it there was a beehive in the walls upstairs that was oozing honey all over the ceiling,” recalled Ellen Politz. “It took the bee guy four days to get all the bees out.”

“We thought we’d fix it up,” rent it for a number of years, then retire to the home, she said.

The Politzes bought the house from the Joseph and Billie Henriksen for $856,000.

In a twist of timing, the Politzes closed on their purchase just five days before the Aug. 24, 2014 Napa earthquake.

The house did not escape damage.

“It was definitely ominous when we walked in there and saw 50 percent of the plaster on the ground” as a result of the shaking, Ellen Politz said.

But, “It wasn’t insurmountable,” she said. “We were still so new into it. We had all the energy behind us.” Their attitude was, “We’ll get through it.”

Because the walls in the home were essentially “opened” up by the damage, the scope of the project changed to include, among other things, upgrading the electrical and plumbing systems.

1405 Cedar from kitchen II

The newly renovated kitchen at 1405 Cedar Ave. in Napa.  

After more than a year of work, the Politzes decided to sell the house.

The Sansons bought the house in October 2015 for $1.3 million. The two are far from real estate rookies. The Sansons’ company, DeNova Homes, has built thousands of houses in Northern California since 1989.

After their purchase, the Sansons continued the renovations and completed the project.

“They are the ones who gave it all the sparkle after we brought it back to life,” said Ellen Politz.

The renovations are extensive, the Realtor said. The whole house was taken down to the studs. Every system was updated. The carriage house was also completely remodeled as a separate residence.

1405 Cedar Ave. bedroom

One bedroom at 1405 Cedar Ave. in Napa. The house and property are for sale for $2.9 million. 

“They did a different job than we would have done” design wise, but the Sansons “took it to a whole other level,” said Politz.

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“It’s stunning,” she said. “Absolutely stunning.”

Politz said the couple is selling the home because “they are looking to do something different.”

Napan Bill Coffield grew up in a house at the end of Cedar Avenue, near the Jordan Farm. For a few years, in the 1960s, his parents even owned the Jordan property.

1405 Cedar outside backyard

The backyard and outdoor area of 1405 Cedar Ave. in Napa. The home is for sale for $2.9 million. 

“It was a neat, big ol’ house,” Coffield said. A barn was originally next to the street before it was moved to its current position, he recalled. A water tower and other outbuildings were located on the property as well.

Cedar Avenue is part of what’s called Spencer’s Addition, a neighborhood west of Jefferson Street that evolved from the 1890s until World War II.

A large cedar tree, now gone, is believed to be the namesake of the street. “It was huge,” recalled Coffield.

“My aunt and uncle lived down the street across from the Jordan house. We knew all the people on the street. That’s just how it was in those days.” Napa’s mayor at the time, Ralph Trower, lived on Cedar Avenue as well.

At the Jordan Farm “I used to go ‘steal’ the cherries from the cherry trees when the tree was ripe,” he said. The farm included cherry trees, walnuts and possibly almonds, he said.

At one point, the parcel could have been as large as five acres.

Lester Jordan had horses and chickens, he remembered. He’d even plow the land with a horse.

1405 Cedar bathroom

One bathroom at 1405 Cedar Ave. The large home and additional unit have been renovated and is for sale for $2.9 million. 

“As a kid, we used to go up and down the creek on our rafts. Catch a lot of fish. Yeah, it was a good place to grow up.”

Jefferson Street was pretty quiet in that era, he recalled. “There wasn’t a lot of traffic in those days.”

He’s seen the Jordan house since the renovations were completed.

“It’s very nice,” said Coffield. “I like to see old things get fixed up.”

“I guess they modernized the kitchen and whatnot. They spent a lot of money doing it but it needed it,” said Coffield.

As for the asking price, “I think it’s probably worth it,” he said. “Those old houses are hard to come by anymore.”


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.