When Paul and Mary Bartlett had their fill of sailing the world on their boat, the Fresno couple decided it was time to live permanently at Landfall – their home in the Auberry foothills.
Paul Bartlett, a pioneer in California’s radio and television broadcast industry, took a lot of pride in the house he built with his father, H.D. Bartlett. The original portion of the home was designed by Beverley David Thorne, the San Francisco Bay Area architect who gained notoriety after designing the Oakland Hills home of jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.
“It’s an architectural statement, a testimony to (Paul Bartlett’s) imagination and that’s how he regarded it,” said Peter Bartlett, Paul’s son. Paul died in 2002. “He just wanted to create something with a certain amount of imagination, and I think he pretty much did.”
The nearly 3,000-square-foot house at 41984 Radio Lane, east of Mono Wind Casino and at the top of the Meadow Lakes community, is part mid-century modern, part old-world luxury on 72 wooded acres. Let me explain.
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Paul Bartlett bought 40 acres of land on the top of the mountain in 1941 and added another 40 acres later (at one point he owned 350 acres total) to use as a site for FM radio and television broadcasting. In the early days, a studio and transmitter were built on the property, Peter Bartlett said.
His father built and managed radio station KFRE in 1942 and gained control of the station a decade later, according to a Fresno Bee story. In 1947, he built KRFM, the first FM station in Northern California, later called KFRE-FM, and radio station KERO in Bakersfield. He also started KFRE-TV, now KFSN (Channel 30.1).
In the 1950s, Paul Bartlett sold all the stations but kept some of the land and built a home with a dramatic view. He even convinced the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to rename the road along the crest of the mountain “Radio Lane” to honor the role the area played in local broadcasting history.
The house is made of steel and built on cement piers at the top of the land’s 10 flat, usable acres. It started out with two bedrooms and two bathrooms with lots of cubbies and compartments for storage, much like you would see on a boat, connected to a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a galley kitchen. This is the portion designed by Thorne, who is known for houses that appear to float off the ground.
This is the only Thorne-designed home that Realtor Sharlynne Childers of Realty Concepts, who is listing the property for sale, knows of in the Central Valley. The price: $699,000.
“It’s going to take someone really unique who wants this,” Childers said.
The family appreciated the one-of-a-kind home, but the appeal is waning with each generation, said Peter Bartlett, 75, a retired Fresno doctor. And Bartlett said that at his age, the upkeep is getting harder.
The interior walls are teak with a pine panel ceiling. Brightly colored beams and some walls are painted in teal and coral – the colors of Bartlett’s boat. A redwood deck juts out from the living area as the land slopes below. It feels almost like you’re walking along an ocean pier.
The second half of the house was built in the 1970s to provide more luxury and comfort. Thorne did not design this part of the home. A dining room, a library with walnut bookcases and parquet flooring – wood arranged in geometric patterns – a master bedroom with two full bathrooms and a second-floor den with a large viewing window were built on the other side of the kitchen.
The house is about 120 feet long and 20 to 25 feet at its widest point, Peter Bartlett said. The architect added tall beams to the top of the second-floor den “so the house didn’t look so long and flat.”
To build a similar house now would be expensive, he said, but “it’s visually stunning, and that’s what (dad) really wanted to create.”
Address: 41984 Radio Lane, Auberry
Size: 2,920 square feet
Details: Partially designed by Beverley D. Thorne with mid-century modern architecture, three bedrooms, four bathrooms, library with walnut bookshelves, 72 acres, galley kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows in main living area, redwood deck, second-floor den with large viewing window.