The Villa Montezuma as a Product of Its Time

April 1, 1987

The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Spring-Summer 1987, Volume 33, Numbers 2 & 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

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Villa Montezuma  
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

Villa Montezuma  
The Villa Montezuma shortly after construction.
Photo# 79-SDHC-513

Boom Town San Diego, c 1887
Villa Montezuma is barely visible (extreme upper right) in this c. 1887 view of “Boom Town” San Diego. The intersection seen here is Twentieth and F Streets.
Photo# 3682-A

Jesse Shepard  
Jesse Shepard, the spiritualist, musician and author for whom the Villa Montezuma was built.
Photo# 582-8

Villa displays some of its new landscaping  
The Villa, in a rare, early view from the northwest corner, displays some of its new landscaping — some of which Shepard planted himself.

Drawing Room  
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.

Music Room   Music Room
Two views of the large Music Room which occupies the entire east side of the house.

second floor was used by Shepard as a gallery and a museum  
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.

graceful staircase  
The graceful staircase to the second floor is one of the Villa’s most beautiful architectural elements.

newspaper article  
April 16, 1928 newspaper article, with a description of the Villa by Lawrence Waldemar Tonner.

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art glass window  
The large art glass window in the Music Room depicts the Greek poetess Sappho.

Summer   St. Cecelia at the organ

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.

Villa Montezuma  
Villa Montezuma, c. 1890s. The original exterior is still unpainted.

Asta  
The figure of “Asta” in the detail does show some repainting.

Corner fireplace in the Drawing Room  
The corner fireplace in the Drawing Room.

 
A close-up of the second floor gallery wallpaper — with its many intricate patterns.

Dining Room fireplace  
The Dining Room fireplace is perhaps the home’s most elaborate with its beautiful blue tile.

Reception Room  
The Villa’s Reception Room has been recently redone with many oriental pieces.

Music Room  
The magnificent Music Room contains a fireplace as well as a number of large art glass windows.

Villa had received a coat of white paint by 1903  
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.

Laundry Room  
The lower portion of the house contains service areas such as the Laundry Room with its period “labor saving” devices.

kitchen  
The kitchen.