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The Duggan House -- New Home for a Gracious House

by Diann Marsh, from Eye on Santa Ana, Winter 1991.

In the late evening of September 1987, a two-story, Colonial Revival house was uplifted from its location on Sycamore and moved out onto the road, beginning a five-hour journey to a new location on Lacy Street. A large group of residents and City staff walked along as the house made its dramatic move through downtown Santa Ana. An ambitious effort to save a part of our City's past was underway.


In 1986 the Duggan House, with its large double parlour, impressive curved staircase with carved balusters, carved fretwork and woodwork, formal dining room, and four spacious bedrooms, was to be demolished to make way for a senior citizen's housing complex. The Historic French Park Association was given the house on the condition it be moved to a vacant lot in the French Park Historic District.


Living at the turn of the century, William Lee Duggan had been a "true Southern gentleman." His grand-daughter, Betty Hilligass, remembers that the family always had the traditional southern fried chicken and homemade ice cream for Sunday dinner. Moving to Santa Ana from Georgia in 1896, he built the spacious Colonial Revival home in the early 1900's, on the corner of Sycamore and Pine Streets.


Duggan was born in Macon, Georgia on November 13, 1862. Graduating from Mercier University, he taught school in Macon until 1893 when he came to California. Three years later, he settled in Santa Ana going to work for the New York Life Insurance Company.


Here he met Miss Clara Clyde, a Utah woman who had come to teach in Santa Ana schools. She was staying at the grand Victorian-style Richelieu Hotel at the corner of Fourth and Ross. The hotel was then owned by her relatives, the Avis family.


William and Clara were married on April 12, 1899 and set up housekeeping in Santa Ana. Their first daughter, Clara, was born a year later and Dorothy, their second, arrived in 1903. The Duggans had built their large two-story Colonial Revival home in a fashionable neighborhood that was being settled with the fine two-story homes of some of the county's most prominent citizens.


William served on the Santa Ana School Board and was active in civic and charitable organizations. He lived in the house until he died in 1930 at the age of 77. Clara stayed on for several more years, until she moved to a retirement home. She died in 1947 and the family sold the house that same year.


The home became a rooming house and served as a rental to several families. Someone covered the outside with asbestos shingles, altering the original appearance of the house. The next owner, Janseena Evers, had the asbestos shingles removed and the exterior repainted. She owned the house until 1986 when it was purchased by the City to be demolished or moved.


The Historic French Park Association, recognizing the fine architectural character, historic significance, and livability of the spacious home, was given the chance to save and restore it. A grant of $50,000 was given to the neighborhood to pay for moving expenses, placing the house on a foundation, and building a garage.


After the house was in place, the neighborhood association cleaned up the inside and held an open house, attended by over 200 persons. Proposals for the restoration of the house as a single family dwelling were submitted and reviewed. Jeff and Rolinda Biscotti were selected to complete the project. With the assistance of City staff, they began to work with the association to plan the restoration of the house and grounds.


After several years of hard work, the Duggan House is now the home of the Biscotti's and their two-year-old daughter, Victoria. In the process of restoration, they have added a large and charming kitchen, first floor bath, utility room, all new systems, and landscaping. They have begun to wallpaper and paint the rest of the rooms.


The Duggan House has once again become a gracious family home.

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