City Orders Demolition of Portion of Harding Way Mystery House

STOCKTON -- It is Stockton’s most mysterious construction project.

The humble little house at 745 Harding Way year after year just kept getting bigger.

“You start seeing the moldings around and the pillars and I'm thinking, 'Oh, someone is putting a lot of time into this,'” said neighbor Elizabeth Estrada.

After 30 years of add-ons, a part of it has come down.

“I was waiting for the finishing touches to see how grand it was gonna be," Estrada said.

The city posted a court-ordered demolition warrant Monday to tear down the home’s two-story garage and balcony Tuesday.

“It was really flimsy. It was safer to take the building down than to save it or re-build it,” said Blandon Barmby, who was a part of the demolition crew.

The city says it plans on posting a notice for the home next because it is hazardous and a nuisance to the public. That notice will give the owner 30 days to fix a long list of building code violations before it too is demolished.

The owner says they have added up to nearly $150,000 and at this point they don't see a way to save the house.

“I couldn’t imagine the house not being here,” Estrada said.

Estrada said that would leave a big open wound in the community.

“It’s not about the property or the land, it’s about the dream,” she said.

That dream was to turn the home into a palace for mother of seven, Carmen Cortez, and her learning-impaired adult daughter. Carmen’s son told FOX40 his family bought the property in 1988 and that all he ever wanted to do was to make it nice for them.

He put $200,000 in renovations into the house and tried to do everything by the book, but the code violations piled up and none of his fixes ever satisfied the city.

Carmen’s son couldn’t bear the sight of the demolition, so he didn’t stop by Tuesday. It’s a sore spot for him because his mother suffered a series of strokes.

She died in 2002, long before he could finish building.

It means something to him to see the project through, and it means something to his neighbors that he tried.

“It's greater than all the money in the world," Estrada said.