At Home With Vivian: 50 years of homes


I am one of those walkers you might see out and about early in the morning. I’ve made friends with many dogs out walking their owners. I wave at the regulars at Starbucks and Barrelista on Main Street as I pass by.

I live near downtown Martinez so I meander through the old neighborhoods. I love it. Martinez is home happy. No cookie cutter clutter downtown. Every home is unique. We have Victorians, bungalows, and cottages. The yards are well cared for. It is a pleasure to walk through this town and call it home.

As I stroll through the neighborhoods, I see beautiful homes and wonder if they are as wonderful inside as they are outside. Have you wondered too? Once a year, I get to satisfy my curiosity. And so can you. The 13th annual Martinez Historical Home Tour is this weekend. It’s an event not to be missed.

“50 Years of Homes” is the theme for the Martinez Historical Home Tour happening Saturday, October 12, 2019, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

My husband Jeff and I were introduced to the Home Tour project in 2010 when our little bungalow was invited to be on the tour. We’ve gone on every tour and volunteered as docents since then. We wouldn’t miss it. Ranging from period perfect to incredibly creative, the homes are always captivating and inspiring. I’ve been known to come home from a tour and completely rearrange my furniture.

The Home Tour began in 2007 as a fundraising event for the Martinez Historical Society. More features have been added over the years to include local music, museums and restored classic cars. As a special treat this year, the 30-piece Diablo Regional Concert Band, formed in Martinez more than a century ago, will be on the lawn performing (not with the original musicians) as guests arrive at the Shell Club House. Strike up the Band!! They begin at 10:30 AM. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy a free concert on the lawn.

Like the homes in Martinez, The Diablo Regional Concert Band has a long history. The band is the same, the name have changed. The Martinez Military Band had taken shape by the late 1880’s. In the 1890’s The Martinez Brass Band practiced in the Masonic Lodge’s lower hall and by 1910, the Martinez Liberty Band was practicing in the fire house. By 1919 the group had become the Martinez Municipal Band.

The band was important to the community. Without radio, television or modern media, the ensemble was received with enthusiasm by Martinez citizens. People came from all around to hear the music. The ensemble held concerts, performed for city festivities and even played at funerals if requested. Midcentury, the group became a marching unit as well and to this day still participates in community parades. In the 1950’s it became The Martinez Community Band.

Today, The Diablo Regional Concert Band is a self-supporting ensemble of 30 volunteer musicians. The band includes flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, baritone horns, French horns, tuba and percussion. Today, most of the musicians live in Costa County, from Martinez to San Ramon to El Cerrito. If you are interested in having the band play for a community function or if you are interested in joining, please call Cora Martens at (925)451-6222.

When I read about the homes on the Martinez Historic Home Tour web site ( and saw the ages of the homes on the tour this year, I thought of a meme I had seen on Facebook. “I went to my class reunion and couldn’t believe how many old people were there!”

When I think of “historical,” I think of anything before I was born. This year, half of the homes were built during my lifetime. Time flies by when you’re having fun. I remember the 1980s like it was just last week. Remember mullets, leg warmers and big hair?

The homes this year were built over a half-century span, from the early 1930s to the early 1980s, with the oldest architectural style actually being the youngest home. The homes cover styles from Neo Victorian, to Tudor Revival, from Craftsmen to Minimal Traditional, from California ranch to Postmodern architecture, and a Ranch style remodeled to a contemporary open floor plan. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview this year, and I can tell you that every home is gorgeous. You will enjoy traveling through Martinez history through architectural styles.

You will be enthralled with the many home owner collections. In one home you’ll see and hear a Wurlitzer organ and player pianos. In another house, crosses from around the world adorn one a wall. While in a third home, car, airplane, and railroad artifacts fill a bright and sunny room.

The gardens have unique plants, ornaments, and incredible views of the Carquinez Straits. We have the homeowners, Carrie Maldonado, Bennie and Marie Huie, Janis Zelmer, Bill and Becky Bryant, “Rob Schroder and Susan Hatch Schroder, Jeff and Elizabeth Thiel, and Jim and Edie Porter, to thank for graciously opening their homes for us this year.

The 2019 Tour homes are located just southeast of downtown Martinez on streets such as Ulfinian, Harbor View, Pine Street and Andrews Drive. All but one was built on the 70 acres formerly owned by the Christian Brother’s Novitiate and Winery.

In 1879, property near Vine Hill was purchased as the site of a Roman Catholic college, which was later erected by the Christian Brothers Society of St. Mary’s College and given the name of the De La Salle Institute. This became the birthplace of the world-famous Christian Brothers Winery. The Brothers produced wine in Martinez from the mid 1880’s until 1932. It all began with 12 acres of grapes that the brothers did not want to go to waste when the land was purchased to build the school –which was instead built in nearby Moraga. After the Christian Brothers moved to Napa in 1932, homes were built where grapes once grew.

To find out more about the 2018 Martinez Home Tour, check out their amazing website at Just keep clicking on the bold lettered words and you’ll find all sorts of cool information about historic homes in Martinez. (You can even see photos of my house in the 2010 previous home section. It was clean the day photos were taken!)

The Martinez Home Tour hours are from 10am to 4pm. Ticket purchases end at 2pm. The tour begins at the Shell Clubhouse, 1635 Pacheco Blvd. Every 10 to 15 minutes a shuttle bus will take visitors to the Home Tour area. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the tour. They may be purchased online at or in person with cash or check at these local businesses:

I’ve Been Framed

Peirano Jewelers

The UPS Store

Retro Now

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