Welcome to Jones Ranch 2008 | March 21, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

- March 21, 2008

Welcome to Jones Ranch 2008

Historic Alamo ranch house was worth the wait

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

When Tommy Mota used to drop off his son at his friend's house on Via Romero in Alamo a few years back, he always noticed the charming old home on the corner across the road. It was set back from the road, surrounded by lawns, and had an old-fashioned wraparound porch.

"I grew up in an old house, in Oakland," said Mota, who was living in Danville at the time. "My parents were antique collectors."

The impressive home was an old Jones family ranch house, built in 1919 for James Cass Jones and his wife Flora May (Stone) Jones on Rancho Romero. A photo in "Be It Ever So Humble..." by Alamo historian Virgie Jones, whose husband Al was raised at the Jones ranch, shows the house in the early 1920s surrounded by vineyards.

"They picked this site for the artesian well," explained Mota, noting that he still uses the well water.

Jones chose the location well for the ranch house 90 years ago. It sits on a knoll with sweeping views of the Valley and Mount Diablo. In the early 1990s, Branagh Development created the Jones Ranch subdivision, building 22 homes and leaving the original homestead on a double lot.

Members of the Jones family lived in the house until 1996, when it was sold to Bill and Barbara Ingram. The Ingrams redid the plumbing and electrical plus did extensive remodeling, including the master bedroom suite.

"We're the third owners," said Mota. "We moved in three years ago."

He and his wife Lucrezia have three children: Dominic, 11; Jake, 9; and Jenna, 8.

The house was built by Fred Burnett of Alamo to generous proportions with broad central hallways both upstairs and down, making it as gracious as the newer mansions that surround it. The wraparound porch is screened on the southside and accessible from the family room, a feature Mota says his family uses a lot in the nice weather.

Originally the driveway was adjacent to the house on the north side and the stairs led from the driveway up to the porch. Now there is a detached garage behind the house with a driveway leading from Via Del Rey.

"We moved the stairs from the side to the front of the house," Mota said.

The large front door opens to a spacious entryway, where a chandelier hangs over a round antique table with a large bouquet of fresh flowers. Wooden doors with glass panels lead to the living room on the left and the formal dining room straight ahead; the stairway to the second story is on the right. The house is built of redwood - the framing, the interior of the walls and the exterior siding. The walls and windows are southern gumwood, and the floors are fir.

The entire house is decorated in period fashion, with comfortable furniture and antique accent pieces, some from Italy where Lucrezia was born. Music plays in speakers throughout the house and yard, a system installed by the Ingrams.

Tommy Mota proudly points out the original features, such as the windows with their slightly wavy glass, and the original plaster in the dining room.

"I love old stuff," he says, pointing out an antique bicycle by the large stone fireplace in the living room. "It was an inheritance from my grandparents."

The adjacent family room is spacious, its off-white beadboard redwood walls matching the wooded window shutters. Bookshelves cover two walls, and a closet has been converted into a bar with wine storage.

"I'm thinking of a wine cellar in the utility room," Tommy said.

The house is actually four stories, Lucrezia noted, including the basement, which is a utility room, and the attic.

"We could make the attic a room," she said.

They also have laundry facilities upstairs.

Tommy and Lucrezia remodeled the kitchen, converting to gas and installing a large farm sink and granite counter tops. They had a custom glaze applied to the walls for an antique look until the cream-golden-brown color looked perfect.

"It made the kitchen pop out. Everything was white when we moved in," said Lucrezia. "And we added a mantle over the stove."

A long 1910 antique table serves as an island in the kitchen, which has a rooster theme - with ceramic roosters, rooster plates and a rooster backsplash behind the stove.

There is a second staircase in the back of the house, attesting to its original lifestyle with hired help, although the Mota family uses the back staircase as well as the front.

"It's the quickest way to the kitchen," said Tommy with a smile.

Upstairs the three children have bedrooms that reflect their interests: Dominic's room has a baseball theme; Jake's has red walls and airplanes; and Jenna's is painted a yellow-green with flowers above the molding, and a white canopy bed. Each of the rooms has a huge closet, designed for maximum storage of clothes, toys and miscellaneous.

The master suite overlooks the front of the house and the bathroom is state of the art with a whirlpool tub, double sinks and two shower heads. The modern interacts charmingly with old-fashioned touches such as glass doorknobs.

"Look at these hinges," Tommy said, pointing to an antique brass hinge on the closet door. "They have a lot of detail. The fixtures are beautiful."

An extra large storage space has been converted into a home office at the front of the house.

As spacious as the house is, a lot of living is done out back in the game room over the garage.

"It was built in the 1950s and I finished it off," said Tommy.

It has a complete bath and kitchen facilities so could be used as an in-law unit, Tommy said, but it serves for the children's recreation, with a 60-inch television and a pool table.

"They can watch movies and can make as much noise as they want," Tommy pointed out.

Here, too, nostalgia reigns - with an old Coca-Cola machine in one corner, a jukebox in another, a vintage gas pump, and an old-fashioned sled hanging on a wall. Skylights in the slanted roof provide soft lighting and the walls are also beadboard.

The backyard patio has a complete kitchen under a latticed covering. Everything is waterproof except a TV screen that recedes into the counter.

The pool was built more than 50 years ago.

"It opened July 4, 1952," said Tommy.

The Motas redid the plumbing, added a spa, and installed solar panels on the adjoining changing rooms. On the opposite side of the yard, they added a workout room, appearing on the outside as a charming little cottage.

The home is surrounded by mature trees - deodar, cedar pines, maple and oak trees, as well as blooming plants and flowers.

"Only our house can have flowers," Lucrezia said, explaining that deer eat those in the neighboring yards. They assume it is because deer don't like the taste of plants watered by their well water, which contains calcium and sulfur.

Tommy especially likes the history of the cedars.

"They were brought to the back yard from the Jones property in Pinecrest, maybe in the 1930s or '40s," he said.

The Motas open up their yard each May for the American Association of University Women garden tour but even in February everything looks shipshape.

"We do our own maintenance," said Tommy.

This is a time-consuming job for each of them, but one they love after their years of waiting for their dream house to come on the market.

The Jones Ranch house has withstood the test of time, and the Motas have restored it to its former glory - and then some.