The Celebration of the OB Red House Centennial

by on July 13, 2015 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights


Roof line of Red House, 5113 Cape May. (Photos by Patty Jones)


Red  House today

Tom and Jane Gawronski hosted a celebration of the centennial of one of OB’s most famous old houses – the historic “Red House” o- n Saturday, July 11th. In attendance were some of OB’s most well-versed historians and socially-minded folks.

The Red House celebration was complete with speeches, beverages, a birthday cake and song, with tours of the house – since rehabbed and remodeled from the days during the 1970s when it earned its reputation for being a center of the anti-Vietnam war movement and grassroots politics in OB -.


Jane and Tom Gawronski

Tours were conducted by the Gawronskis and the current occupants, Aaron and JoAnn. Yours truly was the MC and welcomes and introductions were made around 2pm, as a small crowd of 20 to 30 people milled about the great, well-shaded front deck area or inside the craftsman living room. Tom Gawronski gave an historical accounting of the house, as he and Jane had bought it in 1998 and had lived in it for 5 years.

Since then, as Tom recounted, they had rehabbed it, and spent a lot of money in maintaining it. Also very proud of the Red House, and the other OB cottages they have saved, “These cottages,” Tom admitted, “are money pits.”

Former resident of the house in the Seventies, Bob Burns spoke of efforts to save it from developers who wanted to raze it to the ground. Patty Jones read a moving letter from “Bob” who had lived on the block also during the 1970s and who had many fond memories of the place and the entire neighborhood.


Tom recounts their efforts to rehab the house.

In attendance were many of OB’s circles – and others – who appreciate its history, including Kathy and Ray Blavatt, Pat and Susan James, the Groschs, the Perottis, former Red House resident Larry Remer, writer Doug Porter, Norm Howard – an attorney who traveled down from northern California.

More Stories and Myths About Red House

During the centennial celebration, more old stories about Red House were told – some were myths and several were genuine – from old newspaper articles.


Jane brings out the birthday cake. That’s Frank to her right and that’s neighbor Barbara in back.

It appears that the original owner may have been one Samuel L Morrison, who passed away in Red House in the year1941, at the age of 80. The house was originally built in 1915.  Another man, a Scotsman, Andrew Dunn, also died in Red House in 1964 after living in this country for 40 years.

One amazing old newspaper article from the San Diego Union in 1980 recounts how Red House obtained historical status. The OB Planning Board voted to designate it as such at one of their meetings at the request of a group called the Committee to Save Red House. The article went on:

The planning board voted 6-2 to recognize the woodframe structure for the role it has played as a meeting place and general haven for activists since the days of the Vietnam War protests.


Former Red House resident Bob Burns.

It goes on state that a developer Wolfgang Hahn wanted to chop 2 rooms off the building in order to divide the lot to construct condos next door.

Hahn had planned to raze the Red House to build four condominiums but the San Diego Region Coastal Commission rejected his plan. The action to deny the request was based on a desire to preserve rental housing for low and moderate income families.

 Another SD Union article from 1977 told how Tom Kozden, a then-resident of Red House, was arrested on inciting a riot and resisting arrest when he was grabbed by undercover cops at a party outside Red House. (Grass was alleged to being sold at the house.) Kozden had been very active in OB’s community movement against police harassment of activists and OBceans in general.


Larry Remer, Tom Gawronski, Frank Gormlie, Norm Howard.

Then there was the article by former OBcean David Helvarg (who also worked on the original OB Rag) who described how Bob Burns in 1980 obtained 173 pages of FBI files about their “intensive surveillance” of Red House during the 1970s. There were supposedly another 899 pages about Red House denied to Burns.

Some myths: no, the People’s Co-op did NOT start in Red House’s back yard.

And, no, the OB Rag did not start at Red House. It did have a work office in a shed in the back yard for a number of years a few years after it first began publishing.


Patty Jones, Carin Howard, Pat James, Kathy Blavatt, Colleen Dietzel.


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