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Though mortgage papers show the house being built in 1928, Thoedore Ruschhaupt of the Ruschhaupt Brothers Fresno Soap Works, listed this address on his 1917 draft card. There was a fire at City Hall in 1928 effectively destroying all building records and making all records begin with a 1928 date. In 1928 the home was inhabited by Philip Conley, the son of William Conley, the youngest Superior Court Judge in California history. He was elected at just 27 years old in Madera County.
Philip Conley’s first wife, Lucetta Conley, passed away and Philip remarried Phebe McClatchy. Phebe came from a long line of fiercely independent women. She was the granddaughter of Phebe Rideout Briggs, whose husband owned railroads, steamships, a lumber mill, a flour company, several farms and founded a chain of banks that ultimately became Bank of America. After his death Phebe Briggs became president of the bank — unheard of in those years. Her first husband, Carlos, was the son of CK McClatchy, who owned the Sacramento Bee and founded the Fresno Bee. Phebe’s family was considerably wealthy and provided the $100,000 to CK McClatchy to help him purchase the Fresno newspaper.
Phebe Conley attended Vassar as did her mother. She was a training teacher at Fresno State and her son, James McClatchy, dedicated the Phebe Conley Art Gallery to his mother at Fresno State through the James B McClatchy Foundation.
The home stayed in the Conley family for three generations ending with Thomas and Marilyn Conley. They raised their 4 boys in this home. Marilyn Conley was also a very independent woman, having graduated from USC with a teaching degree. She taught in the Fresno City School district for 10 years and was instrumental in the creation of Fresno public television.
After Marilyn’s death, the Conley family sold the home which was then bought and resold a few times. Several years ago a young art teacher finally bought the home and restored it beautifully. She created the secret garden out front for her toddler. There are several ceramic hearts and stars and painted rocks left here as gifts to the home by that little girl…see if you can spot any on your way out but please leave them be.
Much of the home is still original. The double hung windows in the parlor still work, using a rope pulley system and old latches. The woodwork is original, though it’s been painted over throughout the years. The front door was replaced sometime in the late 30’s as that’s the year its hardware was on the market. In the dining room a push button was installed by a swinging door that would activate a bell to call for the servants.
The floor in the kitchen is likely original and the farmhouse sink very old. The heat exchange screen is also said to be original. The downstairs bedrooms were built for the servants and the door in the ceiling is where the bell was located for the pushbutton in the dining room. It isn’t functional at this time but is on the table for you to see.
The library used to have its own bathroom but it was torn out in the last remodel. The light in the closet is several years old, and we were told it was one of the oldest fixtures in the house. The downstairs bedroom, bath and library were added in the 40’s. The original house ended at the wall between the living room and the library. The laundry, downstairs bedroom, bathroom and library were added to house the help in the late 40’s.
The house has a dramatic slant as 100 years of settling take their toll on the
foundation. You can feel it in the master bedroom. The upstairs area includes the master bedroom and bath and the closet and gym.
The house has a very friendly ghost and the owners try to decipher if it’s Marilyn or Phebe. Windows left open in an unexpected rain are closed when the owners return. Lights flicker and dim. Plants unexpectedly topple over. Playful footsteps can be heard from upstairs when no one is there. Overnight guests of the current owner report hearing laughter and bumps in the night. Whoever the ghost is, she likes to play tricks and hide and seek, once hiding an air pod in the guinea pig cage!
Whoever is haunting the house, the current owner has no problem sharing the home with an independent woman like herself…provided any shoes or dresses borrowed make their way back to the pièce de ré·sis·tance–her closet. She is pleased to be the grateful recipient of such a beautiful home and intends to keep it that way until she haunts it herself someday.