Located at the intersection of R and Tulare Streets, this Victorian house was built on land once considered the outskirts of a newly incorporated town named Fresno. The house was built and owned by Dr. Thomas Richard Meux, an army surgeon and Private in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Born in Wesley, Tennessee, Thomas Meux and his family moved to Fresno in 1887 for the drier weather after his wife became chronically ill. The family quickly became an integral part of the Fresno community and lived in the house until 1970… making it the oldest house in Fresno continuously owned and inhabited by one family (Thomas Meux and then his daughter, Anne). It was put on the National Register for National Register of Historic Places on January 14, 1975.
The only way to see the house is by tour… or during special events.
Being from the East Coast and studying French for most of my school years, I had a hard time understanding some of the words pronounced on this tour. The biggest being the family name, Meux, which is pronounced as me-ew-ks like mucus without the second u. At the very beginning, we were told to wait on the fawyer (like “lawyer”) and it took me a moment to realize the lady was saying foyer (foy-ay). Each time I heard an odd pronunciation I felt the French inside me flinch.
But I digress.
This little house is a hidden gem in the city. The parking lot was easy to find, the house was quiet, and the docents were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the Victorian era. No question phased them… not even the ghost question, which they won’t confirm nor deny but did say they don’t want the stigma of a haunting attached to the house.
However, one docent did say something strange. Before the house was a historical landmark, it sat empty for a few years and was used by squatters. But, these people would only stay in the basement and wouldn’t go upstairs. I thought this really interesting for two reasons: firstly, the upstairs and what fixtures and furniture remained was untouched and historically true (the wallpaper and carpets were very much darkened but still Victorian).
Secondly, if you were squatting in a house, why wouldn’t you go upstairs? What would keep you in the basement? Perhaps the heat? Maybe you wanted to escape notice? Perhaps something else? The docent did say that normally when a house is taken over by homeless in Fresno, they take over the whole house and not just the basement. The basement is not part of the tour.
The Meux family and this house (1888-1970) were around the same time as the Forestiere Underground Gardens (1906-1946); it’s likely they knew or knew of each other. When I asked La Niña which house she would prefer to live in, she thought about it and chose the Meux Home… because she could see herself reading in the sunroom and wandering/exploring the nooks and crannies. She said she couldn’t see herself living underground with fruit trees.
As an added bonus, in Fresno, Trolley Creek Park has two miniature versions of the Meux house that kids can play in.