Historical preservation project results in quite a yard sale

Ray's Murrieta Cafe was operated in some form from the early 1900s until 2006 on Washington Avenue in Old Town Murrieta. Murrieta 24/...

Ray's Murrieta Cafe was operated in some form from the early 1900s until 2006 on Washington Avenue in Old Town Murrieta.
Murrieta 24/7 photos: Doug Spoon

No doubt about it, this is not your typical yard sale.

Murrieta's second oldest home and an iconic cafe dating back more than a century have produced a treasure of antique and historical items, and some of them are available for sale this weekend in Historic Old Town Murrieta.

The familiar white columns and storefront of Ray's Cafe sits at 24770 Washington Ave., where it has been closed since 2006. The house next to it, known as the Lakeman house, is about 130 years old and most recently was the residence of Ray Bezanson, whose family operated the cafe from 1950 until the City of Murrieta closed it for code violations.

The house, which had fallen into disrepair, was red tagged in 2016. The City was about to take possession of the property when a friend of the family and local historian stepped in. Through the efforts of Connie Cain McConnell and cooperation from the Bezanson family and city officials, the Murrieta Valley Historical Society was given permission to clean up the property.

"The city gave the family a deadline to bring the place up to code," Jeffery Harmon, president of the Murrieta Valley Historical Society, said about the late Ray Bezanson's son, Skip, in ailing health, and his sister Muriel. "We've been here for four months now, cleaning the place up. We've taken a lot of trash and vegetation out of here. A lot of stuff was left behind."

Some of the items removed from the house and cafe will be given back to the Bezanson family. Some items of historical value will become property of the Historical Society. Much of the rest was placed into 10 large dumpsters. Waste Management donated four 40-foot dumpsters and two 20-foot lowboy dumpsters.

Additional dumpsters are being paid for through purchases at the yard sale, which began Friday morning and continues Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.

Recently, a buyer was found for the property. The buyer has posted a sign on the front of the cafe, soliciting offers from someone to lease it and turn it into a restaurant, Harmon said. And the adjacent house?

"They would like to turn it into a bed and breakfast," Harmon said. "One of the investors used to flip houses. He said, 'I can do it.' "

According to Harmon, the house was built by the Burnett family from a kit that was transported to Murrieta by train and assembled on site around 1885. He said Ernest Lakeman bought the property in the early 1900s. When Washington Avenue became a county highway and traffic increased, he opened up a fruit stand at the side of the road. Later, he built an ice cream parlor.

"By 1920, it was known as the Lakeman Lunch Room," he said about the cafe. "By 1922, he had sold it to the Eiler family. The Eilers were German Americans, so they served American cuisine with a German flair."

In 1950 the business was named Ray's Murrieta Cafe by Bezanson, a musician who played 15 years with the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort orchestra. When he died in 1973, his son Skip operated it as a bar and grill until it was closed in 2006. Skip Bezanson continued to live in the house until it was red tagged.

Harmon said many musical instruments were found inside the house and will either be returned to the Bezanson family or will become property of the Historical Society. Items displayed in the back yard for sale this weekend include a variety of tools, kitchen items, appliances, books, knickknacks and bar furnishings. A vintage organ and an old cement mixer were discovered under a tarp outside the house when Historical Society members cut through heavy brush growing around it.

After spending four months cleaning up the place, Historical Society members hope it can be preserved as part of the city's legacy. Since the society was formed in 2016, its members are working hard to preserve local landmarks and increase awareness of the city's history.

"Right now, third grade students learn local history," Harmon said. "They always go on a field trip. So where do Murrieta students go? Temecula. They're going to Temecula to learn Murrieta's history. It's time we started teaching our own kids where the history is, right here."


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