Close
Request mobile website view
Subscribe | Log In
Welcome back!
My Account | Log Out

The story behind the unusual building on Sonora’s Mono Way


The Bird House on Mono Way in Sonora was constructed by Realtor Hal Bird in the late 1960s. (Maggie Beck / Union Democrat)
Realtor Hal Bird found a birdhouse he liked and in the late 1960s asked a friend and contractor to build a life-size replica on Mono Way in Sonora. (Maggie Beck / Union Democrat)
Robin Johnson / provided Robin Johnson has an array of postcards along with birdhouse her father used as a prototype for his real estate office. A photo of Hal Bird is shown as well.
Robin Johnson / provided Robin Johnson holds the prototype for the real estate office her father built in the 1960s.

QUESTION: What's the story of the little fairytale chalet across from Timberhills Shopping Center on Mono Way? That little house has looked empty the entire time I have lived here.

ANSWER: It's known as the Bird House, constructed by Realtor Hal Bird in the late 1960s. Bird had come to Tuolumne County in 1955 as a California Highway Patrol officer. When he retired, he bought the yellow ranch house that's still located behind the chalet, his daughter Robin Arechiga Johnson, of Jamestown, said.

He wanted to build an office in front of the home for his real estate business and

Continue to read this article and more, subscribe now

Subscribe and get unlimited digital access.

QUESTION: What's the story of the little fairytale chalet across from Timberhills Shopping Center on Mono Way? That little house has looked empty the entire time I have lived here.

ANSWER: It's known as the Bird House, constructed by Realtor Hal Bird in the late 1960s. Bird had come to Tuolumne County in 1955 as a California Highway Patrol officer. When he retired, he bought the yellow ranch house that's still located behind the chalet, his daughter Robin Arechiga Johnson, of Jamestown, said.

He wanted to build an office in front of the home for his real estate business and being one to enjoy playing off his name, he found a bird house he liked and asked Harold “Swish” Peterson, a contractor and friend, to build a life-size replica.

“He (her father) was clever and had a good sense of humor,” Johnson said.

The two-story structure was built for $2,400, property records show.

Johnson said her father, who was a president of Sonora Pass Vacationland and Tuolumne County Board of Realtors, invested in the property because he knew development was headed that way.

As his real estate business grew, he added offices on the second floor and constructed a bathroom close by with full running water and toilet. He designed it to look like an outhouse from the outside.

When he retired in 1992, he and his wife, Honey, moved to a house he built in the Golden Oaks subdivision in Jamestown. He rented the Bird House to a car dealer.

Bird died in 2000, and the almost two-acre property was sold to Phillip Davis, owner of Sonora Mattress. Davis' store was located nearby, and he intended to build a new store on the Bird property, but Julie Davis, his daughter, said he was told he wouldn't be able to tear the Bird House down because it was historic.

It's not on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is listed on a website called theimaginaryworld.com as the world's largest bird house.

The Bird House is vacant, but the house behind it is rented. Phillip Davis, who died last August, left the tract in trust for his nine grandchildren.

Phillip Davis Jr. said the property is not on the market officially, but the family is willing to consider offers.

The miner, whose picture for many years graced the masthead of The Union Democrat, wants to hear from you. Anything you're curious about? Wondering whatever happened to something or someone? Want more information on a certain subject? Send your questions to editor@uniondemocrat.com.