A small white frame house at 422 19th Street blends in with surrounding dwellings in such a way that it goes unnoticed by the casual observer. Its backyard is cut off by Interstate Five Freeway and the side yard is paved with cement. The two front entrances tell us that it is now a duplex. A fate such as this is not uncommon among the older homes in Sherman Heights today. Most of the dwellings in this area are examples of the 1880’s, 90’s and early twentieth century.
A second glance at the 422 19th Street house reveals a delicate French window, New England clapboard siding, twelve-paned windows of wavy glass and a simplicity lacking in other structures of the area. All of these features indicate an earlier period of architecture than surrounding structures.
Thorough examination of the house, old photographs and public records all give evidence indicating that the 422 19th Street house is the first residence built by Captain Matthew Sherman near its present location in 1868.
One of the main factors relating to this building’s survival is that it was moved to its present site in 1904 from a position which would now be in the edge of the north bound lane of Interstate Five Freeway. The house’s first location is shown on a U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey map of 1902. At that time there were only two houses in this block bounded by Island, J and 19th Streets. The Sherman house was owned by Ida and Clarence Hunt who acquired it and lots 7, 8 and 9 of block 23 of Sherman’s Addition in 1895. The house faced J Street on lot 7 as it did in the 1873 Title Insurance and Trust Company photograph. From 1899 to 004 Clarence Hunt is fisted at 2728 J Street, which is the old position of the house. City sewer records show that the house was located on lot 8 and connected to the sewer by July 15th, 1904. The 1905 city directory lists Clarence Hunt at 430 19th Street which would be the lot on the North side of No. 422, meaning that Hunt either lived at that address on lot No. 9 or that because lot No. 9 adjoined the house it was assigned that number. A Title Insurance and Trust Company photograph taken in 1906 shows the house at its present site. To further substantiate the move, the author crawled beneath the floor of No. 422 and discovered several large tree stumps and foundations of used brick that were assembled after the house was in place. Round nails used in the cribbing and posts beneath the house and square nails in the sills and floor joists were also good evidence that the house had been moved.
Even though the house has been remodeled several times, its basic identity still shows. Sherman’s obituary column in the San Diego Union mentions that this house was the first new dwelling in Horton’s New Town. Although Sherman bought the land in 1867 he did not build the house until the Spring of 1868 as the Augusta Sherman memoirs indicate. County tax records show that Sherman paid taxes on improvements on this property by April 1868, meaning the house was finished by then.
With no lumber yards or planing mills in the area it is safe to assume that the material came by steamer from San Francisco. All finish work was pre-cut and milled before being shipped. The 1873 photograph of the Sherman Family on the front porch shows the finer details of the house. The basic structure has a certain continuity to it, as if assembled from blueprints, but the porch and balcony seem to be added and not part of the original plan. The steep roof and bandsawed bargeboards beneath the eaves as well as the ridge crests show the Gothic Revival influence of the 1860’s.
The house remained unchanged during the Sherman’s occupancy which terminated in July 1880, when Sherman sold it for $2,400 to a Mr. Ogden from Arizona. Sherman then moved to his vineyard in El Cajon Valley. Originally the house consisted of two stories and a one story section on the side and across part of the rear of the house. A recent analysis of the structure revealed that the 2″x 4″ studs and rafters and 2″x 6″ floor joists are douglas fir as well as the tongue and groove flooring. Redwood was used for the 4″ x 4″ sills at the base of the walls as well as for all exterior wood plus trim. Siding is clapboard type. One six-pane French window still exists in the front wall. Several of the original twelve-pane windows are still in place. The front door which contains two glass panels has been moved to the left and replaces a French window. Other original doors are still intact with hardware; cast from rim locks made by the Norwalk Lock Company. The interior of the house was finished with lath and plaster from the time it was built, until several years ago when the deteriorating plaster was removed and plywood paneling nailed over the old lath. Some of the original interior picture frame type molding around doors and windows is still in place, along with the stairway and ornate banister. The fireplace and some inside walls have been changed. There is no subflooring, only the tongue and groove of which there are two sizes used, probably because of a scarcity of lumber. Most of the exterior decoration has been removed. Irregular edges on the eaves show where the bandsawed bargeboard was split off with a chisel or hatchet. The porch ceiling appears to be original but the floor and brick posts date from the 1904 move or later. Additions from the 1890’s to the 1920’s are attached to the rear of the house.
This house with its remodeled features which serves as a duplex rental unit today deserves to be saved and restored in the future. It is historically significant as the first house built by Captain Matthew Sherman and the first newly constructed house in Horton’s New San Diego. From a standpoint of esthetics it is probably the one and only existing example of 1860’s Gothic Revival architecture in San Diego today.
United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (San Diego Quadrangle) 1902. Addition of 1904.
Sewer record Number 6897. July 15, 1904. City of San Diego.
Augusta B. Sherman Memoirs. San Diego History Center, Serra Museum Library.
San Diego Union, July 5, 1898. Sherman obituary.
San Diego County Tax records, 1868. County Tax Assessor office.
Rurik L. Kallis is an instructor of Art at United States International University, California Western campus. He received his B.A. degree in Art at California State University, Northridge, and a M.F.A. degree in Ceramics from University of Southern California, Los Angeles. A native San Diegan with an interest and feel for San Diego history, he has recently been a member of the research committee of the historical site board. He and his wife Marjorie are in the process of restoring a large victorian ranch house built in 1895 in Lemon Grove.