Ocean Beach Cottage Among Winners in “People in Preservation” Program

by on May 21, 2013 · 3 comments

in Culture, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Bacon St cottage at 1975 BacSOHO Awards to Be Presented May 23rd at Point Loma Assembly

Every year the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) runs their “People in Preservation” program to salute individuals and groups who have helped preserve important aspects of San Diego’s heritage, building by building, site by site.

This year the program winners include an Ocean Beach cottage built in 1922 and located at 1975 Bacon Street, and owned by the Wilson family who found an infestation of cockroaches, a falling wall and rotted flooring.  Here is what SOHO says about the cottage and family:

The Wilson family is being honored for their sensitive and loving restoration of a cottage in Ocean Beach. Built in 1922, the cottage is one of four, originally identical homes built in a row.

The Wilsons repeatedly turned to these sister cottages for dimensions, materials and features, inside and out, as well as historic photographs during the restoration process. They researched the original exterior paint colors (yellow and green), wooden porch seat, trellis and garden plantings, all of which are back in place.

Because they knew the next resident of the house uses a wheelchair, the Wilsons carefully considered how to make the house ADA-compliant without disturbing its historic appearance.

Their solution was to build a long ramp that can’t be seen from the street. The ramp leads to a deck and the back door, which they widened. Now the cottage is a shining, authentic example of the city’s diminishing stock of historic beach cottages. Alterations made for today’s occupant have extended the life of the cottage without compromising its historic integrity.

Also of note to OBcians and Peninsulans was another winner, the Loma Theater – now a bookstore.  The chief winner was the Chicano Park Steering Committee, which also received the highest award ever presented:

the Lifetime Achievement Award, for its 50 years of dedication to the legendary park that is central to life in Barrio Logan and its colorful murals by artists active in the Chicano civil rights movement from San Diego and around the state.

Chicano Park was born of struggle in 1970, when neighborhood sit-ins made clear the community’s opposition to plans to insert a highway patrol substation under the city-side end of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

The bridge’s massive concrete supports had already ripped Barrio Logan apart. After officials backed down and agreed instead to the 7.4-acre park the residents envisioned, spirited artists began painting large murals celebrating the park’s existence, Chicano heroes, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexican pre-Columbian gods and other subjects on the bridge’s towering concrete pillars.

The park that became a vibrant outdoor gallery and recreational area open to all was declared a City of San Diego historic landmark only ten years after its creation.

SOHO will present this year’s People In Preservation Awards, announce the annual list of San Diego County’s Most Endangered List of historic resources, and pay tribute to all those who worked for more than two years to save Balboa Park.

The ceremony will be held May 23 from 6pm to 9pm at Point Loma Assembly, 3035 Talbot Street. Tickets are $35 for SOHO members; $45 for the general public, and are available by advance purchase only by calling (619) 297-9327 or logging on to SOHOsandiego.org.

Here is what SOHO had to say about the Loma Theater:

The restoration of another flashy theater blade sign in brilliant neon colors is cause for an award to owners, SOCO, LLC. This sign lights up the night sky around the old Loma Theatre, now a Bookstar store on Rosecrans in Pt. Loma. The meticulous restoration delights SOHO member Waska Whelan, who tried unsuccessfully to find funding to put the shine back in the sign several years ago and who nominated it for this award. “I’ve waited years for this sign to be restored to its former glory and now it’s here,” Whelan wrote. “They did a first-class job and made it perfect.”

 Editor’s Note: check out PLHS grad, Class of 1966 Roger Showley’s May 18 article and U-T San Diego’s gallery of winners.

Here’s more from SOHO’s announcement:

SOHO often hosts the People In Preservation awards event in a restored historic building, but this year’s venue, the Pt. Loma Assembly building c. 1917 is one that is in process, being slowly restored. Alana Coons, SOHO’s education and communications director, explained:

“This venue gives guests a peek at the restoration work in progress and our presence is SOHO’s way of encouraging owners everywhere to restore or rehabilitate these fine old buildings that every community has and should value.”

The last un-restored venue used for PIP awards was the Balboa Theater; Pt. Loma Assembly is not in that state of disrepair so no construction hats will be donned as was the case that year. Assembly member Dottie Laub called in SOHO for advice and their board made the decision to begin fundraising to keep and restore their beloved building. We think everyone who attends will applaud them.

For 31 years, SOHO, the county’s largest and California’s oldest continuously operating preservation group, has saluted individuals and groups who have helped preserve important aspects of our heritage, building by building, site by site. Among this year’s winners are a Mission Hills couple who rid their house of the ugly disguise it took on during the 1960s and ’70s with a restoration producing stunning results; a man who rescued the dangerously deteriorated Log Cabin House, a popular University Heights landmark; a well-known Barrio Logan group that successfully nominated Chicano Park and its murals as a National Historic District; and the author of a book on Lilian J. Rice, a gifted but neglected early 20th-century female San Diego architect.

Bruce Coons, SOHO’s executive director:

“We are pleased to honor this diverse group of eight winners, who persevered in their preservation projects despite unfavorable economic conditions, unexpected discoveries, and the necessity for highly skilled craftspeople. 

These people breathed new life into historic structures as large as a four-story, 1914 downtown hotel built for tourists coming to the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition and as small as a charming, meticulously renovated Ocean Beach cottage a block or so from the beach. San Diego benefits from their hard work.”

Chicano Park Steering Committee will receive the highest honor that SOHO bestows at the annual event, the Lifetime Achievement Award, for its 50 years of dedication to the legendary park that is central to life in Barrio Logan and its colorful murals by artists active in the Chicano civil rights movement from San Diego and around the state.

Chicano Park was born of struggle in 1970, when neighborhood sit-ins made clear the community’s opposition to plans to insert a highway patrol substation under the city-side end of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. The bridge’s massive concrete supports had already ripped Barrio Logan apart. After officials backed down and agreed instead to the 7.4-acre park the residents envisioned, spirited artists began painting large murals celebrating the park’s existence, Chicano heroes, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexican pre-Columbian gods and other subjects on the bridge’s towering concrete pillars. The park that became a vibrant outdoor gallery and recreational area open to all was declared a City of San Diego historic landmark only ten years after its creation.

Several years ago, Caltrans, which maintains the bridge, began a mural restoration project, hiring the original artists, when possible, to do the work. The last mural to be restored was finished last summer. On the heels of this achievement, the Chicano Park Steering Committee, which helped facilitated the restoration, learned in January that the group’s nomination for the park to be designated a National Historic District had been approved. In the words of the committee, “¡Que viva Chicano Park!”

Council President pro tem Sherri Lightner will be doing the honors in a major salute to the people in the trenches, the many individuals and groups that dedicated themselves to saving Balboa Park from the destructive and irreversible Plaza de Panama plan. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who is expected to attend the awards reception, was a shining light at the end of a dark tunnel, who, with thousands of citizens and dozens of organizations, joined SOHO in opposing a “$45 million concretization plan” for Balboa Park, as a CityBeat reporter recently described the overreaching proposal to eliminate a few parked cars from the Plaza de Panama.

The inspiring stories of the 2013 winners are:

Dalia and Gordon Hunt are being honored along with contractor Jim Stafford for the stunning exterior restoration of their 1913 Mission Hills house. “From Muddled to Magnificent” reads the headline on an account of the project Stafford wrote. The Hunts bought a three-story house masquerading as an updated Arts & Crafts-style home. Its painfully bad features: vinyl siding, fake rock veneer and Tex-Cote paint that smothered all the texture and details in the brick chimney and wood trim. “Without flinching, [the Hunts] asked me to remove all of the aforementioned improvements and to bring the house back to its original condition,” Stafford wrote.

He and his crew removed the vinyl siding and were taken aback by what they found. Decades ago, the siding crew had knocked off many three-dimensional elements, such as corbels, knee braces and trim, to create a flat surface to install their product. Fortunately, old paint outlines of these elements and extant originals guided the restoration process, as did historic photographs of the house. Restoration brought the remuddled home back to being a handsome, English-influenced Arts & Crafts-style abode with half-timbering, wood shingle siding, exposed brick porch columns and 50 working windows, all freed from unattractive coverings or neglect, and carefully restored or replicated.

Another startling transformation of a mistreated house and City of San Diego landmark – this one flirting with demolition as a safety hazard – brings a People In Preservation Award to its owner, Daniel Ramirez. He brought the abandoned, ravaged Log Cabin House, as it is known in University Heights, back from the very brink. But saving this 1908 structure, officially the James A. Creelman House, took a village, starting with the University Heights Historical Society in 2004. It is now a great source of pride for the whole community.

The Wilson family is being honored for their sensitive and loving restoration of a cottage in Ocean Beach. Built in 1922, the cottage is one of four, originally identical homes built in a row. The Wilsons repeatedly turned to these sister cottages for dimensions, materials and features, inside and out, as well as historic photographs during the restoration process. They researched the original exterior paint colors (yellow and green), wooden porch seat, trellis and garden plantings, all of which are back in place.

Because they knew the next resident of the house uses a wheelchair, the Wilsons carefully considered how to make the house ADA-compliant without disturbing its historic appearance. Their solution was to build a long ramp that can’t be seen from the street. The ramp leads to a deck and the back door, which they widened. Now the cottage is a shining, authentic example of the city’s diminishing stock of historic beach cottages. Alterations made for today’s occupant have extended the life of the cottage without compromising its historic integrity.

Downtown, the San Diego Housing Commission spotted a four-story building ripe for restoration and renovation. The historic Hotel Sandford, which was designed by Henry Lord Gay and built in 1914, had been converted to affordable senior housing units in 1989. Remodeling done at that time was not kind to the structure and original features were lost. In 2010, the housing commission hired preservation architects to restore and rehabilitate the building inside and out, for a new generation of low-income residents and street-level shoppers. The Hotel Sandford now sports its original exterior colors, a continuous row of festoon lights under the cornice, restored arched windows and a rebuilt wood storefront at the main entrance on Fifth Avenue. Inside the main lobby, historic furnishings have been restored and the original decorative painting and stenciling replicated. Bringing the building up to 21st-century needs with energy efficiencies and earthquake retrofitting.

A grand dame of Broadway that’s attracted generations of San Diegans has been restored in stages by its owner, Jacquelyn Littlefield, and the nonprofit group she founded, American Regional Theatre at the Spreckels (ARTS). The grand Spreckels Theatre was designed by Harrison Albright and built in 1912 for John D. Spreckels. It has hosted live theater and then movies, and more recently concerts and comedians, changing with the times. For the building’s centennial last year, ARTS ambitiously completed three major restoration projects, for which this award is given. The grand lobby has been rehabilitated and polished to a fine glow that provides evening patrons with a glamorous entrance. The mezzanine-level seating is all new and the neon marquee and blade sign visible up and down Broadway were restored by Blake Sign Co. of Stanton, Calif.

The restoration of another flashy theater blade sign in brilliant neon colors is cause for an award to owners, SOCO, LLC. This sign lights up the night sky around the old Loma Theatre, now a Bookstar store on Rosecrans in Pt. Loma. The meticulous restoration delights SOHO member Waska Whelan, who tried unsuccessfully to find funding to put the shine back in the sign several years ago and who nominated it for this award. “I’ve waited years for this sign to be restored to its former glory and now it’s here,” Whelan wrote. “They did a first-class job and made it perfect.”

Journalist and historian Diane Welch of Solana Beach is being recognized for her book on Lilian J. Rice, a National City native born in 1889 who knew she wanted to be an architect at an early age. For a time, she worked for architect Richard Requa and is primarily responsible for the town planning that makes Rancho Santa Fe so charming to this day. Rice also designed a number of rustic Spanish-style or Pueblo-style homes and commercial buildings at the center of this village. Welch has pursued her goal of raising Rice’s profile through original research, which is ongoing, public appearances and lectures, and a blog. The jurors commended Welch for advancing public knowledge of architecture and regional history through Rice.

This year’s People In Preservation Awards jury included John Eisenhart, preservation architect and SOHO officer; Erik Hanson, a rare books seller and expert on San Diego architect Irving Gill and SOHO board member; Anthony Mendiola, a SOHO board member with international preservation experience and a Master’s degree in urban planning; and Janet O’Dea, a driving force behind the Mission Hills Historic District and founding of Mission Hills Heritage, as well as an active SOHO member.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Pat May 22, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Congratulations to the Wilson Family. You did a beautiful job on your cottage. You totally deserve this.

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avatar Debra May 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm

How refreshing that there are actually people out there who appreciate the charming beauty and true architecture that USED to exist back in the olden days. Far too many homes in OB have been either hideously, taste-lessly “improved” upon, or completely destroyed and replaced with nightmarish tract house type designs more appropriate for Santee.

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Ditto! Somebody should do a study on how many of the old houses that Ruth Varney Held listed in her book that still existed back in 1975 are standing upright today.

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