The Tower Home is a historic Craftsman-style bungalow in Fresno's Tower District
A historic Craftsman bungalow built for a pair of Fresno's early doctors in the Tower District was in shambles more than a year ago.
The dark mahogany wood in the house was caked in dirt. It looked like the previous owners let animals loose in one room. There was trash everywhere, said owner Jeff Osborne. But he knew the 104-year-old home of George and Jessie Hare was a gem.
Osborne and his wife, Britt Castanos-Osborne, bought the bungalow and a rear carriage house at 815 E. McKinley Ave. at an auction and spent nine months renovating it into an Airbnb. The goal was to "showcase Fresno's soul," Osborne said in a phone interview from Maine, where he is renovating a school bus into home. (Check out the bus @somedrifters) The couple splits time between Fresno and Brooklyn, where Castanos-Osborne is a Bohemian wedding dress designer.
"We are definitely into houses that have character and a soul and story to tell," Osborne said.
The four-bedroom, three-bathroom home on McKinley, known as the Tower House on Airbnb, has old-world charm with original built-in cabinets and bookcases. But the decor is a little modern, a little vintage and a little Bohemian. The outdoor patios, with custom wood stools, benches and tables, smell like the woody pines of the Sierra National Forest.
The house was built in 1914 for the Hares, who met as medical students at the University of Michigan. Jessie Hare was one of the nation’s first female physicians and was for a while the only woman doctor in the San Joaquin Valley, according to a Bee story in 2007. The couple came to Fresno in 1891 and opened Dr. Hare's Private Sanitarium at the corner of N and Mariposa streets. The hospital would later move to Van Ness Avenue and Stanislaus Street.
The Hares are credited with establishing the area's first accredited nurses' training program and the first operating room in Fresno. George Hare pioneered the use of X-rays in the Valley. The pair left Fresno in 1904 to start a sanitarium in Washington, D.C. They returned two years later, built the McKinley Home and set up practice on the second floor of the rear carriage house.
The Osbornes turned the doctor's office into a cozy and bright two-bedroom apartment where they lived while renovating the main home. The kitchen has a skylight that sends light bouncing off the walls. In the main house, Osborne kept all the original windows. He knocked down a few extra walls, but kept as much of the original home as he could. The master suite has a clawfoot tub for soaking.
Osborne said he loves the individual spaces and rooms in the house, which is different from today's popular open-floor designs. "We've had so many events with big groups of people. There's room where the kids can be and adult space … there's a formal dining room and the library with small, intimate space with music playing," Osborne said. "They have different environments. We lost appreciation for that."
The house is open at a good time, Osborne said, with downtown Fresno undergoing a rebirth and the high speed rail under construction. He hopes the house attracts guests who appreciate the history of the property and who want the urban experience of walking to restaurants and shops in the Tower or going downtown.
"The main idea is we're trying to bring up Fresno’s cultural center, which is downtown and Tower District," Osborne said, "and trying to offer something for people that appreciate that part of Fresno."
The Tower Home and The Carriage House
Address: 815 E. McKinley Ave., Fresno
Price: $230 a night for Tower Home; $145 a night for Carriage House
Details: Tower Home has original mahogany wood columns and built-ins, a large kitchen with booth seating, library and media room with record player, claw foot soaking tub in master bedroom. Carriage House has kitchen with skylight, dining area, two bedrooms and cozy living room. Both houses have individual outdoor seating and fire pit areas.