By Rurik Kallis
When you tell the age of a house you usually go by the doors, fixtures, etc. As far as the house itself goes, you cannot go on that alone because all during the boom period in San Diego there were so many different types of architecture that it would be hard to list the designs of the whole buildings.
Hardware and light fixtures, however, were basically the same for five- to ten-year periods, so whatever the style of the building you can usually tell its age by these items. Wire nails were used in San Diego in 1895 in the Arnold mansion on Sixth Avenue; this is probably the earliest use of wire nails in San Diego. Also wire nails were used in the Bryan mansion in Lemon Grove in 1896, and this house probably was the first stucco home here.. Square nails were used as late as 1899, and many houses built in the Nineties have round and square nails, as they were using both types for five years or so.
Flat, wide siding was used in the Seventies and Eighties, and not so much of it appeared in the Nineties. Some flat, narrow siding was used in the Eighties, but much more of it was used from 1895 to 1905. Flat “novelty” siding appeared in the Nineties and was not used after 1900. Wide rounded shiplap siding was used from 1890 to 1900 and infrequently to 1905. Small rounded shiplap was first used in 1896; it was common from 1900 to 1915 and is still in use. Wide plain shiplap was used at Julian in the Seventies; it was not used much until the late Nineties, and on to 1915. It is still used. Rounded novelty siding, with wide and narrow widths alternating, was used in the 1912-1925 period.
Battens on the outside of “B & B” houses from 1880 to as late as 1910 were not always plain, but had their edges feathered off in a reverse curve. This type was used on the La Mesa depot (San Diego, Cuyamaca & Eastern Railway, later part of San Diego & Arizona Eastern) in 1888.
During the late Nineties buildings became very simple. The old State Normal School was built in 1899 and all of the hardware is quite plain. The old library was built in 1901 and kept its original hardware, which looks modern even today.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The foregoing brief article should be re-read, with serious thought, by those who feel that modern ‘teen-agers are interested only in jive, hot-rods — and getting into trouble.
Rurik Kallis first came to our notice when he dropped in at the museum one day with some “boom-days” builders’ hardware from a house then being demolished. He proceeded to discuss types of siding, the relative eras of the old “cut” nail and the present wire nail, and other items which reflected not only a keen interest in old houses (and old railroads and old hand-blown bottles) but also the result of obviously effective study of his bobby.
That was last autumn, and Rurik was 17. Since then he and his family have moved away from Lemon Grove, but he still visits San Diego from time to time, and he kept his promise to supply us with the material on old houses, with sketches for illustrative purposes.