Why I am involved in restoring the Lowell neighborhood

Employee News & Views Editor: December 12, 20135 Comments

People might wonder why a guy who spends his days with complex finance for billion-dollar healthcare network would pick up power tools in his off time to restore houses in one of Fresno’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. But I have a passion for the Lowell neighborhood.  I love the stories of the founding families of Fresno who lived here long ago.

My first restoration was a 1895 split-wing house built by a Civil War veteran.  In almost any other city these homes would be highly desirable, even coveted.  Look at East Sacramento, Pasadena, Berkeley, and Highland Park in LA.  I feel Lowell’s time is coming.  A younger, smarter generation is seeing the advantages of urban community with more connectivity, less commuting, smaller homes, and a simpler lifestyle.  I want to be on the forefront of that change.

I love old buildings and have since I was a child living in Europe.  Centuries old structures, many rebuilt after WWII because the area was so rich in culture and history.  I return every year to further my understanding and appreciation of architecture and history in the Old World.  I mostly grew up in Sacramento with the richness of the Gold Rush era, Victorians and Old Sacramento, with its details and differences of each building, all around me. That all changed after WWII.  Mass production and the tract house have forever changed the architectural and social landscape of America.

Fresno started late, incorporating in 1885.  The Victorian construction era was winding down and the Arts and Crafts movement was beginning.  In Fresno, not much of the Victorian era remains due to the proximity of downtown and progress. By 1900, mass production Arts and Crafts kit homes from Sears made owning a home affordable and many were built.  Those homes are plentiful in the Lowell area.  Most of the homes are bungalows and four squares; cozy homes from a simpler time.  Families sat on porches and visited with the neighbors walking by.  We don’t have that in the suburbs.  People stay inside watching TV, surfing the internet, and drive to River Park miles away. I know more of my “neighbors” in Lowell than I do in Woodward Lake.

I am also a business man.  The neighborhoods surrounding Community Regional Medical Center are important to the success of our flagship hospital.  In order for Community Regional to grow, people from elsewhere need to feel comfortable about coming downtown.  Rundown neighborhoods are the reason urban hospitals left the downtown areas across the nation.  As the largest employer downtown – and largest private employer in the region – the Community system believes it is in everybody’s interest to improve downtown neighborhoods and revitalize commercial areas.  Community believes in preservation so much that it went to the expense of moving and restoring the historic Eaton Flats (1917) building that currently houses Community’s Foundation.

Preservation in Lowell, and all of Fresno, is necessary to connect Fresno’s past with its future.  We are just the current caretakers, perhaps, like in Europe, people will travel to Lowell to see our preserved history in the centuries ahead.

Stephen Walter
Executive Vice President
Chief Financial Officer

Community Medical Centers

5 responses to Why I am involved in restoring the Lowell neighborhood

Giving back.

I was very touched to read your story. Glad to see someone like yourself doing for others selfishly & also to preserve houses with such wonderful history! Not originally from here, but have lived here for 25+ yrs. I have seen lots of growth in many places, & now with people like you revitalizing the poor areas we can help many families & preserve the beautiful houses. As I learn about Fresno's historical nature, I become more proud to be here. You're an amazing man with lots of love & compassion. Blessings to you for what you are doing!

Value of historic homes

I enjoyed reading about your love of old homes. We do not seem to place value on historic buildings like other cities and states. I love historic architecture and was not even aware that the area was referred to as the Lowell area. We are in agreement that the neighborhoods surrounding CRMC are important to the success of the hospital. I hope others are able to view this neighborhood and others like it in such a positive way.

Lowell neighborhood

I am so glad to hear that someone is preserving some of these homes. My grandfather built a Sears kit bungalow for his bride in a small town in Illinois, and my mother and her sister grew up there. I love to go back and visit it. So much history exists here in Fresno, and you are doing a good thing by helping to restore it. Do you ever gather a bunch of employees together for a group work day on the houses?

Why I am involved in restoring the Lowell neighborhood |

I just could not leave your web site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the standard information an individual supply for your guests? Is gonna be again regularly to inspect new posts

Group work day

Hi Jennifer. No I don't personally, but I like your idea. Maybe I can do something in 2014. Thank you for the idea. There are many opportunities to serve the Lowell neighborhood. OnRamps Church is always looking for volunteers. Good people.

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