Historians Swing Into Action to Save "Tarzan" House

Historical society doesn't want developers monkeying around with late actor's home

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    NEWSLETTERS

    IOC/Allsport
    Johnny Weismuller waits for the start of the swimming competition at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.

    The Lake Elsinore City Council delayed a decision on whether to tear down a Southern California house that historians say once was associated with the late "Tarzan" star and Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller.

    The Council delayed a decision on the tear-down at Tuesday night's council meeting, granting a reprieve until Aug. 11, "to give the property owner and code enforcement staff time to reach a conclusion," city spokesperson Mark Dennis said.

    The property at 523 W. Minthorn St. has been vacant for more than 20 years, according to a staff report. The house sits on a hill in the middle of a proposed housing development, the report states.

    A prospective buyer leased the home some years back but the lessee took out walls, pulled out the plumbing and electrical systems and began remodeling without city building permits, the report states.

    The city tried to work with the potential buyer to submit plans for the rehabilitation but the person never officially submitted anything and left the house in a state of disrepair.

    The house is "in a questionable state of structural integrity," states the report.

    Over the years, the house has been vandalized and tagged by graffiti and recently, a code enforcement action was undertaken to remove a squatter from the property.

    The city has taken action to place the property into structural abatement so it can either be rehabilitated or demolished. However, owner Eric Lunde and the Lake Elsinore Historical Society have filed an appeal of that action.

    "After examining the house, it is our belief the house should not be torn down," said Ruth Atkins, president of the Lake Elsinore Historical Society.

    Weissmuller was born in Austria-Hungary in 1904. He was married six times and died in Acapulco, Mexico in 1984 after a series of strokes. It was unclear how long he may have lived in the Lake Elsinore house.