The Houses that Jack Built

Jack Stethem with the Little Free Library modeled on the 1887 Southern Pacific Depot built for Marie Wren

Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Jack Stethem and his wife, Joleen, came to Fillmore in 1964. Like his father, Jack became a painting contractor and Joleen worked at Fillmore High School while raising their family. Jack got his private pilot’s license and kept a plane at the Santa Paula Airport which he flew regularly. Jack also became active as a volunteer at the Fillmore Historical Museum, also serving as Vice President of the Board of Directors.

Jack and Joleen both retired in 2004. That was when Jack took up wood working. He started small, building boats for the children of friends, but slowly worked up to bigger projects.

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Jack with Trinity Episcopal Little Free Library

One day in about 2010, Marie Wren called Jack and asked if he could build a “Little Free Library” for in front of her home. Jack at that time hadn’t known that “Little Free Libraries” were a “thing,” but Marie educated him on their history and started him on this new path. They chose the Museum’s 1887 Southern Pacific Depot to be the model for her library. Soon other people were inquiring about Jack building libraries for them and he was off and running.

Since that initial project, Jack has built Little Free Libraries modeled on Trinity Episcopal Church, a home on Foothill Drive, the Hinckley House at the Museum site on Main Street, as well a as ones on Clay Street and B Street. When the Fillmore Library was closed during the pandemic, these little libraries saw much use.

Santa Clara "Little Red" School House on display at the Museum

On display in the Museum are replicas of the Santa Clara “Little Red” School House on Highway 126, a model of the Guiberson Barn and a diorama of a condor habitat, all Jack Stethem’s creations.

The Guiberson Barn model on display at the Museum

If you see Jack and Joleen on their daily walk along the bike path, leaving a trail of goodies for the local bunnies, quail and squirrels, stop and thank him for doing his part to make Fillmore special.