Blue Traveler

An exquisite Victorian leaves Ohio behind for the West Coast.

By Kristin Ohlson

The Blue House in Medina, Ohio

Credit: Courtesy of Jim Siegel

Ten years ago, San Francisco businessman Jim Siegel bought 35 acres of prime real estate overlooking the Russian River in California's Sonoma County. Just a few miles past orderly fields of vines, the property sits near the top of a low mountain fringed with redwoods and ferns, the air redolent of river and mud as well as the sharper scents of bay and eucalyptus.

Siegel, a devotee of all things Victorian, planned to build a period-style vacation house there, tapping his vast assortment of Victorian salvage and whatever was available in antiques stores. But last January, Siegel browsed a Web site featuring historic properties for sale and noticed a house built in the 1870s. It reminded him of the Victorian farmhouses typical of Sonoma County?in fact, his 35 acres are part of an older estate that featured just such a Victorian before it burned to the ground in 1950.

The house on the Web was about the right size, at 3,222 square feet, and it was a double-bracketed Italianate, one of his favorite styles. The only hitch was that it was located in Medina, Ohio?2,400 miles away.

Nevertheless, three days later, Siegel flew out to look at the structure, called the Blue House by locals because of its Wedgwood-blue paint. "I fell in love with it as soon as I drove up the street," he recalls. "I was really sold when I walked inside, because everything was intact: the marble fireplace, the Victorian shutters with original fixtures, the beautiful walnut staircase and octagonal newel post that were all still perfectly dowelled together?everything."

Siegel decided to investigate moving the house to California. Not only would he have an authentic Victorian, but he would probably end up saving money, too. He figured that he would spend about $350,000 to disassemble, move, and reconstruct the house on his $300,000 lot. In Sonoma County?a scenic stretch of California's wine country?  $650,000 is a real estate bargain..