The Deutsch Cactus Garden - History
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The Fresno Bee
November 27th 1993
Cactus collector's dream may come true
- Estate of Fred Deutsch, who wanted to leave a cactus garden for the public, is finally for sale.
By Felicia Cousart
The Fresno Bee
A sign in the front of the Fred Deutsch home and cactus garden on North Van Ness Avenue may mark the end of the home's legal limbo.
The two-story home at 4671 N. Van Ness Ave. is finally for sale.
But, more importantly, representatives for the estate are working to fulfill the late Fred Deutsch's dream that his well-known cactus garden be preserved and shared with the public.
Their efforts have led them into talks with the Discovery Center, the hands-on science and environmental education museum at 1944 N. Winery Ave.
"It's preliminary because we just heard about it," said Leonard Deal, a member of the Discovery Center's board of trustees. "But I would say all indications are it will happen."
That development would probably please Fred Deutsch, who died in 1980. His wish for a public cactus garden went back as far as the early 1960s. He had spent his life collecting rare species from Mexico and the southwestern United States. His wife, Perle, died in 1987.
The couple had donated their property to Fresno County on the condition that it would be made into a public park. But the county, based on neighbors' complaints about traffic and noise, later balked at that provision.
So Fred's dream became bogged down in a legal quagmire with Fresno County until 1992 when the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled the county couldn't keep the property because the condition of a botanical garden was not met.
David Knudson, a lawyer who has been working on behalf of the estate, said that since the appellate court ruling, representatives for the estate have been working on details of what should happen to the property. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Stephen R. Henry recently ruled, pending a final signature, that the house on the 1.2-acre site should be listed for sale but that the cactus plants Fred had collected,aas many as possible, be saved and removed for the purpose of a cactus garden.
A public garden cannot operate at the Van Ness site without a special permit. The bank handling the Deutsch estate made sure the plants were cared for during the lengthy court fight.
Meanwhile, the 2,381-square-foot home has been listed at $150,000. The two-story house has three bedrooms and 11/2 bathrooms, hardwood floors,tile roof and a fireplace.
But, because the home has been part of a case in the courts, its purchase carries some strings.
"Any sale is going to be subject to review by the court and the terms of the sale specifically with reference to the preservation of the cacti are also subject to review," Knudson said.
Deal said the estate's administrator, James Ford, must present the court by late January with a detailed plan for the cactus garden, including where it would be relocated, how that would be carried out and what would happen to any plants the could not be transplanted.
Deal said officials with the Discovery Center, which already has some cactus plants in garden areas, are happy about the development.
"I think the cactus fits in with the other displays of the Discovery Center," Deal said. "It fits with its mission of education."
If the sale of the home and relocation of the gardens are successfully carried out, it will mark the end of lengthy legal action.
Fred and Perle Deutsch had talked to county officials as early as 1964 about turning their home into a museum where the cactus garden and Indian artifacts could be preserved and displayed.
Legacy Proves Thorny Issue For Fresno County Supervisors
The Fresno Bee
February 8th 1989
Fresno County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to look at all the possibilities of holding on the the Deutsch cactus garden and Inadian basket collection but ruled out the possibility of issuing a permit to operate the garden as a public park. The county will negotiate with the executors of the Deutsch estate to see if it is possible to move the cacti to another location and whether the county can retain the rare basket collection in Fresno. The supervisors debated Tuesday whether they should hold public hearings to decide if a permit should be issued to approved the park or whether they should return the property to the Deutsch estate. But David Knudson, an attorney representing the estate, said the county has the deed to the property and the beneficiaries of the estate may not want the property bacl. No taxes have been paid on the property since the county acquired ownership in 1977 and the beneficiaries would have to start paying taxes on the property if it was returned.
Knudson said the county also accepted the gift for the benefit of the public, and it should show some responsibility for carrying out the intent of the Deutsches' gift.
The state attorney general's office could get involved in the issue to protect the public interest when a charitable donation is made.
Fred and Perle Deutsch gave the county their Van Ness Boulevard cactus garden and home near Rialto Avenue to operate as a park once they passed away. But the plan has been opposed for years by neighbors who say creation of the park would cause traffic and parking problems in this upscale neighborhood.
The Deutsch donation also included a collection of rare Tokuts, Miwok and Mono Indian baskets. Half of the collection was given to the county, and the other half to the Fresno Metropolitan Museum. Fred Deutsch's will stipulated that his half the basket collection should go to the University of California if the county returned the property.
The county previously approved a permit to operate the property as a park but revoked the permit in 1983 after considerable pressure from neighbor Richard Gunner and other prominent Fresnans, including the late Leon Peters, Karney Hodge and Gary Fisher.
Supervisors A. Vernon Conrad and Deran Koligian voted in 1983 to revoke the permit and indicated Tuesday that they again would not vote to establish the park in the neighborhood. Supervisor Judy Andreen also said she would not support issuing a permit for the park.