RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA.com) — It’s gone from being a historic site to someone’s home.
The owner of what was once a firefighter’s watchtower gave KCAL9’s Tom Wait an inside peek and explained why she wanted to live in the unconventional dwelling.
“We’ve watched forest fires come through, two forest fires come through these mountains,” says Andree Mendenhall-Mahoney.
She’s the caretaker of the historic site; the watchtower is on Red Hill in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s a place that used to be the first line of defense against raging fires.
“I like being at the top of a hill. Maybe it’s egocentricity. Artists have to have to have some of that,” she says.
She calls this former fire watchtower a home. It was primarily a lookout station for the forestry service.
Mendenhall-Mahoney and her husband moved into the watchtower in 1966 after it was decommissioned. Mendenhall-Mahoney beams with pride as she talks about how her husband transformed the watchtower into a cozy home for their growing family.
“Jerry designed and built that. He’s deceased. He died 3 and one-half years ago. And I miss him very much,” she said.
According to staff at the Cooper Museum, the watchtower was named after Fletcher Manker, Upland’s first fire chief. Built in 1928, it was staffed with crews on fire lookout. During World War II, crews also watched for enemy planes. Eventually, the facility was taken out of service and sold by the county.
When the Mendenhall-Mahoney family moved in, the tower was cramped, but they made it work.
“It’s 8 by 8 feet, and there were five of us living here in the ’60s. My twins were born; it was wall-to-wall beds,” Mendenhall-Mahoney recalls.
The Mendenhall-Mahoney clan eventually expanded the house and watched as the neighborhood around them also grew. But one thing hasn’t changed, the family’s love for this space. They plan to keep the home in the family.
“It’s unique in a way. Us both being artists and my kids are artists. It’s just nice being unique,” Mendenhall-Mahoney says.