US Poet Laureate Philip Levine's California home for sale for first time in 50 years

Photo of Anna Marie Erwert
Front view of the three-bedroom home.

Front view of the three-bedroom home.

MK Fresno Photo

Nestled among orange trees in one of Fresno’s most long-established residential neighborhoods is 4549 North Van Ness Blvd. Since the early 1970s, it’s been the home of former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Levine and his family. Now, this piece of literary history is for sale, asking $500,000.

The living room has plenty of bookshelves and a fireplace.

The living room has plenty of bookshelves and a fireplace.

MK Fresno Photo
A view of the kitchen.

A view of the kitchen.

MK Fresno Photo

The home is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow spanning 1,599 square feet. Built in the 1920s, it’s one of the original homes in Old Fig Garden and enjoys the gracious property lines that mark Fresno’s early single-family homes. The more than 3/4-acre lot features lawns, gardens and citrus trees. These trees bore locally famous oranges during Philip Levine and his wife France Levine’s tenancy.

“Our mother was always giving away those oranges,” son Ted Levine told SFGATE. “She would put them in the mailbox for the mail carrier.”

The dining room looks out into the backyard.

The dining room looks out into the backyard.

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One of the home's three bedrooms.

One of the home's three bedrooms.

MK Fresno Photo

Phillip and Frances lived in the home in the heyday of Philip Levine’s literary prowess. Shortly after completing a Jones Fellowship at Stanford University, Levine began teaching at the Fresno State University, where he would remain until 1992, though he also taught at UC Berkeley, as well as Columbia, Princeton, New York University, Brown and Tufts. Levine served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets from 2000 to 2006 and was appointed to a two-year term as U.S. poet laureate in 2011. His work won wide acclaim throughout his lifetime, including the National Book Award for Poetry in 1980 and 1991 and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1995.

A view of the Old Fig Garden home's bathroom.

A view of the Old Fig Garden home's bathroom.

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Frances Levine, known as Franny to those who knew her well, was "in her own right, a painter and sketchbook artist, a gardener, a chef and cookbook writer, and a community volunteer,” according to her obituary, as well as a tremendous supporter of and contributor to Fresno State. Philip Levine died in 2015, and Frances Levine died this past June.

The back of the home has a small deck.

The back of the home has a small deck.

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A view of the expansive backyard.

A view of the expansive backyard.

MK Fresno Photo

It may seem far afield to read about a Fresno property, even one that housed such literary history, but consider this: In March of 2021, the Los Angeles Times announced that the nation’s hottest market was Fresno, California. In July 2022, Fresno home prices were up 11.9% compared with 2021, selling for a median price of $375,000. 

The very office where Philip Levine listened to jazz and wrote award-winning poetry.

The very office where Philip Levine listened to jazz and wrote award-winning poetry.

MK Fresno Photo

As the median home price in San Francisco creeps toward $2 million, you can buy a three-bedroom home, where once Philip Levine wrote award-winning poetry from his study, on nearly an acre of landscaped property, and you can do it for $500,000. 

The home is nestled in Fresno's Old Fig Garden. In March of 2021, the Los Angeles Times said that the nation’s hottest market was Fresno. 

The home is nestled in Fresno's Old Fig Garden. In March of 2021, the Los Angeles Times said that the nation’s hottest market was Fresno. 

MK Fresno Photo