The Villa Montezuma as a Product of Its Time
April 1, 1987
Front Cover: Termed “the most interesting and imaginatively designed Victorian house still standing in San Diego” the Villa Montezuma celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Built in 1887 at a cost of $19,000, it was occupied by author and musician Jesse Shepard for only two years. Shepard’s impact on the home, however, was far-reaching and today it flourishes much as he had intended it to — as a museum and community cultural center for San Diego. This special issue of The Journal of San Diego History brings current restoration activities and new historical facts surrounding the house and Shepard up-to-date. Courtesy San Diego History Center
This photograph, as well as those on the following four pages, are the only known views (c. 1887 – 88) of the Villa’s interior made while Shepard lived there. Seen here is a portion of the Drawing Room looking toward the Entry Hall; and, looking to the left, Shepard’s Bedroom.
The Drawing Room, with its corner fireplace. On the wall is the large oil painting of Shepard done during his visit to Russia — it can still be seen in the Villa. Through the doorway one catches a glimpse of the Music Room.
The second floor was used by Shepard as a gallery and a museum — a use it still retains today. The lavish wallpaper seen here has been reproduced and once again covers the walls and ceiling. In this area of the Villa Shepard displayed much of the memorabilia given to him by European rulers.
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Two of the Villa Montezuma’s fabulous art glass windows: “Summer” (left) from the Dining Room and St. Cecelia at the organ from the home’s rear stairwell.
By 1903 the Villa had received a coat of white paint. At this point in its history, the house was owned by Dr. George Calmus. His wife gave piano lessons in the Villa. Calmus disappeared in 1906, leaving not only his wife, but two unpaid mortgages on the property.