A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

I’m an old soul. Always have been. I gravitate towards old things and appreciate a good story. It frustrates me that the walls can’t talk… Why? Because I’d love to know what they have to say! I think I’d sit for awhile and just listen.

So, as a purveyor of all things old, I’ve always felt a little void not knowing the story behind our Rafterhouse bungalow. It’s kind of bugged me and left me with a sense of wonder.

Who built the bungalow? What did they do? Is it really a cistern in the basement? Is that where the drinking water came from? How did they board form all that concrete? Who dug the basement? I bet their arm’s were sore.. Well then who dug the cistern? I bet their arm’s were even more sore. How did they get materials out to the site? Was the concrete mixed with canal water? How did they get it from the canal to the house?

All I knew was that the bungalow was built in 1920… and that was more or less it…

That all changed a few weeks ago due to a chance encounter.

I was returning from a meeting and walking towards the front door when I noticed an older couple walk up from Devonshire (the side street) and begin looking in to our basement windows. We’ve actually had a lot of people walk up and stare in to the windows… (Note: we’re becoming used to it). The older gentleman asked if I lived in the house. Tough to answer since I don’t technically live in the bungalow but as a small business owner I am there enough to practically be deemed residency.. as thoughts ping pong back and forth in my head, I contemplate a response.

“No, but yes” I reply.

Smooth… totally not confusing at all…

“Well, she grew up in this house”, he replies.

Boom! Mind blown.

Enter Jerry and Doris SanFilippo. Two incredibly kind souls eager to see the bungalow. Doris SanFilippo (formerly Speer) spent the 1940’s, 1950’s and a good chunk of the 1960’s growing up in the house. Their stories were amazing and the time spent together was priceless. I felt as if the walls were finally talking and it felt really good. Towards the end of their visit they offered to mail out some early photos of the bungalow. And to their word, not more than two weeks later, a package of old photos and letters arrived. Here is the early story of our bungalow in photos.

Our story starts with this gentleman; Mr. Frank Avery. Mr. Avery was one of the original organizers of the Arizona Citrus Growers, an early organization established to market grapefruit and oranges. He became the organization’s first president and served a 10-year term. He died December 13, 1938.
This was the original home that sat on the property before our bungalow was built. The home dates back to around 1913-1914. You can see the original barn in the background. Doris said it burned down one day. That’s Mr. Avery sitting with his wife Emma Avery, along with another gentleman.
If you’ve ever wondered how they received mail back in 1913… well, here you go. Notice is simply says ‘Phoenix, Ariz.’ and ‘C/O Scottsdale Stage’. (Note: I find this absolutely fantastic).
Somebody had to dig the basement… This gentleman got it done.
Brick walls were eventually laid on top of the cast concrete basement walls. This is the view of the front patio.
Soon the roof structure was added and windows were installed.
And it began to look more and more like a home. How did they get materials to and from the site? Notice the early wagon in the photo? Amazing…
And soon construction was complete and Mr. and Mrs. Avery were able to sit and enjoy their front patio. Notice the diamond casement windows… This was one flashy home 100 years ago!
And they used to have an amazing view of Camelback…
There is a deed recorded in 1928 conveying title from Mr. Avery to Mr. George Speer. The home would remain in the Speer family until it was sold to Venue Projects in 2016. We then purchased it from Venue. This photos shows George with his daughter Doris. Behind them is 44th St., formerly known as Chicago Avenue.
How do I know it was called Chicago Avenue? First, it shows on the original recorded plat. Second, here is a piece of mail from 1930.
I’m going to end with this photo. Simply because it was my favorite of the bunch.

And just like that, in one chance encounter and one package in the mail so many questions were answered. I still have a few patchy moments in the history of the home that I need to stitch together. But a little mystery and intrigue never hurt nobody.

I also like this dog. I wonder what his name was?

Be kind,



About the Author

Me? Well, I’m Austin King and I’m your captain. I co-founded Rafterhouse in late 2012 and it’s been a wild ride ever since. I cherish what I do and feel blessed to get to wake up every day and do what I love. I live in the Arcadia area with my beautiful wife, Suzanne, and three sweet kids – Lily, Oliver, and Hazel. If you see me around, say hi.


  1. This is so cool! Thank you so much for sharing! I have a love for old homes too, they are so captivating!

    • Austin King

      Absolutely! Glad you liked it. Thank you for reading!

  2. How amazing!! I love this story. I watched you build that bungalow through IG and recently drove by it. It is spectacularly charming. Restoring old homes to their former glory is important work. Keep at it!!

    • Austin King

      Thank you! Really appreciate it! While we do a lot of new construction, there is something gratifying about saving and restoring the old.

  3. Theresa Blume

    What a story! I too love old things and wonder what they would say. I love the work you all do. My husband and I along with our six kids, are currently remodeling inside and outside, removing the add-ons. Stripped it down to the studs. Leaving the hundred year old part. Dug out the basement with a skidsteer. I can NOT imagine doing that with a shovel by hand. We are now getting it to the fun part. Electric, plumbing, HVAC, than sheet rock. It is a wild ride reworking a old farmhouse respecting the bones but making it work for our awesome kids.

    • Austin King

      Sounds like a very exciting project!! Good luck!

  4. Bob Beck

    I’m with you. The history of your bungalow is fascinating! Good job.

    • Austin King

      Thanks Bob! Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for reading!

  5. Joellyn Nusbaum

    Did you ever find out why it was painted pink? I love what you did with it but still kind of miss the pink LOL. Driving by as a kid it always stood out. So happy you saved it and restored it, so many are lost in Az to the mic-mansion

    • Austin King

      Don’t tell anyone… but a little bit of me misses the pink as well. Maybe one day we’ll give pink another try :)

  6. Susie Smith

    Thanks, loved hearing some history on the old home. Always wondered about it. Use to enjoy seeing horses roaming the lawn. I think it was their way of mowing the grass.

    • Austin King

      Yes! I think they were the lawn mowers as well!

  7. Thank you SO MUCH for restoring this old house. I live in the neighborhood and was REALLY wishing that this little piece of history would not get torn down. I was elated to see it get a gorgeous restoration and making it a historical showstopper on 44th Street. Every time I drive by I smile. BRAVO Austin and Rafterhouse!!!

    • Austin King

      Thanks for the kind comments. We really appreciate it. It’s a special property for sure!