Real Estate Blog

Visalia Realtor to restore Huntington Boulevard house that was site of deadly fire

Visalia Realtor Diego Espinoza-Martinez recently bought the Dan and Mary Chamberlain house on Huntington Boulevard in Fresno and has plans to restore it after a deadly fire.
Visalia Realtor Diego Espinoza-Martinez recently bought the Dan and Mary Chamberlain house on Huntington Boulevard in Fresno and has plans to restore it after a deadly fire. blee@fresnobee.com

Realtor Diego Espinoza-Martinez had plans to buy, fix and sell a Tudor Revival home that burned in Fresno’s Huntington Boulevard Historic District over the summer.

But when the 27-year-old from Visalia pulled up to the Dan and Mary Chamberlain home, 3946 E. Huntington Blvd., he knew immediately that he had to keep it despite all the work needed to restore the property.

“Unlike the 100-plus other projects that I buy every year, this one was too special to sell,” Espinoza-Martinez said.

Most of the steeply pitched roof on the 85-year-old home, east of Cedar Avenue, is gone after a July 11 fire started in a back bedroom and spread to the attic, the Fresno Fire Department said. The charred wooden roof trusses remain, poking up from behind the front of the house which is still intact showing the whimsical storybook facade that makes Tudor homes so likeable.

A woman identified by the Fresno County Coroner’s Office as Theresa Valencia, 52, was found dead just behind the back door. A neighbor said the woman lived in the house.

None of that bothers Espinoza-Martinez who has been in the real estate business since he was 17. The house is a gem in a sea of homes that too often look alike, he said.

“There’s a lot to them,” Espinoza-Martinez said as he looked over the house and the neighboring homes on the two-lane street separated by a grassy median where Fresno’s elite once lived. “Today, they’re not going to build with trusses like that. You’re not going to see it anymore.”

The house was listed for about $65,000, Espinoza-Martinez said. He paid around $90,000 and estimates that another $80,000 to $100,000 is probably needed to rebuild and restore the house.

“Maybe we overpaid for it,” he said with a smile then confidently adds “in the long run, we’ll be fine.”

The 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house is named for Dan and Mary Chamberlain. Dan Chamberlain was a civil engineer and owner of Progressive Map Service. He was also an avid photographer who hosted parties to share travel photos in the basement of his home. After his death, Mary Chamberlain remarried architect Fred Swartz who was a member of the Allied Architects and worked on the design of the Fresno County Hall of Records and the Fresno Memorial Auditorium.

Espinoza-Martinez, who owns Varo Inc., a property investment company, and is a member of the Kevin Blain Real Estate Team for Keller Williams Realty, has submitted demolition permits to the city of Fresno to take down the trusses. He plans to keep as much of the original walls of the house as possible and will restore it according to the historic district’s building standards.

The house will serve as Espinoza-Martinez’s Fresno home and an overnight stop for his colleagues who travel for work. He lives and works in Visalia.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.

BoNhia Lee: 559-441-6495, @bonhialee

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