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November 8, 1915 — George Blum Sr. puts his master masonry skills to work on his own 2-story ranch house — his second consecutive family home on his Aliso Canyon property. The date is hand-written on the back of this original 4x2½-inch print. Another caption written probably in the 1990s by Blum's granddaughter, Elizabeth (Blum) Billet, reads: "Building of Big Stone House between 1912-1916." When Elizabeth and husband Ray Billet operated the ranch, the photograph was displayed in the barn, which doubled as the sales counter for their ranch products, chiefly peaches, pears, plums, lilacs and honey.
The 5-bedroom, 2,628-square-foot house has both a basement and a large walk-in attic which, in person, make it seem more like a 4-story house than a 2-story house. The basement and ground floor are walled with hand-cut stone. The upper floor and attic are of wood.
A stonecutter by trade, George Blum Sr. arrived in the United States from Switzerland in 1880 or 1881 and brought some of his most precious masonry tools with him. Others he made and purchased here.
In 1891, Blum filed for a homestead on 160 acres in the Aliso Canyon area of Acton. During the time he was "proving up" his homestead (i.e., getting his ranch up and running), he lived in Los Angeles with his young family and took masonry jobs.
Blum is known to have worked on L.A. County's "Red Sandstone Courthouse," under construction from 1888-1891, and on St. Anthony's College in Santa Barbara, which was under construction from 1898-1900 and featured four stories (plus basement) all of stone. Ironically, earthquakes would wipe out both buildings — the Santa Barbara seminary in 1925 and the L.A. County courthouse in 1933. The seminary was rebuilt; the courthouse was not. (A new county courthouse was eventually built in a different location.)
The government granted Blum's homestead patent April 22, 1901. By that time, he had built his original homestead house, which still stands on the property. Initially it was a one-story structure of hand-cut stone. He added a second story of wood as his family started to grow. By the 1910s the family needed much more living space, which brings us to the photograph shown here.
Further reading: The Blum Ranch Story, 1891-1991 by Ray and Elizabeth Billet.
LW3804: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased by Leon Worden from Billet Family/Blum Ranch estate sale, 2/24/2020.