Media Life: History for sale at Auburn’s ‘big yellow house’

House was built in 1905 by Auburn entrepreneur
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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If you drive through the Lincoln Way-Auburn Folsom Road intersection — or walk it for that matter — it’s hard to miss.

Many call it the Big Yellow House, for lack of a better name.

Built in 1905, it’s got plenty of old Auburn charm. In the shadow of the courthouse in the waning light of day, it helps Old Town Auburn’s many century-old-or-more structures link the past with the present. And it’s for sale.

Lyon Real Estate’s Gayle Morris drew the Journal’s attention to the Big Yellow House’s “for sale” status. The sturdy example of pre-World War I architecture can be yours for $949,000 — including carriage house.

Morris said there are plenty of historical nuances to appreciate in the house, which these days has been split into offices, with a basement apartment.

Those accoutrements of the past include gracefully curved ceilings, wood molding that shows a craftsman’s eye and original windows that show off their 113-year-old age with waves and warps in the glass.

With the help of Auburn historian April McDonald, Morris has taken a deep dive into the home’s past and come up with some interesting snippets of information. The original owner of the house was Thomas Ward James. Born in Wales, the enterprising immigrant originally mined in the Foresthill area and then set up a series of businesses in Auburn after moving to the city in 1899. Those businesses included a saloon, cafe, livery stable, barber shop and garage. At one time, James owned the entire block of building where Station A post office now is located. Some locals still refer to it as the James Block.

He would build the Big Yellow House at 1373 Lincoln Way in 1905 but would sell it only six years later. The new owner was hotelier and Placer County Clerk Elliott West. After West’s death in 1935, chiropractor Victor Willey would buy the house. He’s the one who enclosed the front porch you see in the circa-1910 photo.

In all, the house has had just five owners over the years and will soon have a sixth.

There’s plenty of history and plenty of opportunity waiting for a new owner.

Gus Thomson and Media Life can be reached at or 530-852-0232. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.