The central Fresno house where famed Armenian-American author William Saroyan spent the last 17 years of his life may soon be turned into a museum to host literary and cultural events.
The simple stucco tract house at 2729 W. Griffith Way, just west of Cooper Middle School, was purchased last summer by the Intellectual Renaissance Foundation based in Studio City, according to Fresno County public records.
Armenian news agencies on Monday reported early plans from the foundation to renovate the 1,228-square-foot house built in 1964. The organization belongs to Artur Janibekyan, a Moscow-based media mogul born in Armenia who is a big supporter of Armenian arts and culture.
The house, which has had three different owners since Saroyan’s death in 1981, was a rental home for years and attracted squatters. Last summer, the boarded, vacant house fell into foreclosure and was scheduled to be sold at auction, but it was purchased before the public sale, said Berj Apkarian, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Fresno.
Public records show Brian J. and Fatima B. Mosby of Fresno bought the property in May and sold it to the foundation in August.
The Fresno consulate has been collaborating with the foundation since last year to create a new museum and cultural center for “people to truly enjoy what William Saroyan represented as an author, as a writer and as an artist,” Apkarian said.
“The Republic of Armenia and its Ministry of Diaspora and the consulate are very much interested to preserve this historical property,” he said.
While details about the project were not available Monday, Apkarian mentioned possibly relocating the house outside of the residential neighborhood where it currently is located.
The three-bedroom, one-bathroom house is on the local register of historic resources. A plaque honoring the Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author was installed outside the house in 1989. It lists 10 pieces of Saroyan’s work written while living in the home.
“This is fantastic news for the Armenian community, but most of all for the Fresno community,” Apkarian said. “Restoring an icon’s house is a great project and it should bring, hopefully, visitors and create excitement in the community.”
Larry Balakian, who was involved with the William Saroyan Festival in 2002 and the centennial in 2008, was pleased to hear about the preservation plans and encouraged people to embrace it.
“I think anything to preserve the William Saroyan legacy in this community, worldwide, is definitely the right step forward,” Balakian said. “I think the entire community needs to embrace the project.”