Victorians of the Cleveland Addition
Continue on Second to Walnut and turn left, going west across First till reaching Front and then turn right for a brief stroll up a Victorian lane. The old homes on this street were part of the “Cleveland Addition” of the 1890s and date the beginning of the neighborhood.
On the left at 3536 Front is Historic Site #188, the Wiard Residence, built in 1898. The architect is unknown. The style is classified as Late Victorian.
Across the street, 3551 Front is slightly older and represents an earlier version of Victorian design. (Historic site #186). Built in 1893 for a Pennsylvania couple who came to San Diego in retirement, the Moore House is in the Queen Anne style with Eastlake ornament. Its tower originally looked out on almost barren hillsides and canyons as well as the bay, Coronado, and Point Loma. Nearby 3545 Front enjoyed a similar view.
Strolling back south on Front again to Walnut, turn right and go all the way to the dead end at Albatross. On the left you’ll note the witch’s hat spire of 321 West Walnut, the Queen Anne Tower surmounting a Late Victorian built in 1892.
Architect Irving Gill
Turning north, a few steps will take you to 3506 Albatross, the canyon-side setting for one of Irving Gill’s first “cube” houses. Built in 1909, it represents a turning point in the career of an architect who is mentioned in the same breath as Frank Lloyd Wright in discussions of the development of modern architecture during the first quarter of the 20th Century.
In 1916, Gill wrote, “We should build our house simple, plain and substantial as a boulder, then leave the ornamentation of it to Nature, who will tone it with lichens, chisel it with storms, make it gracious and friendly with vines and flower shadows as she does the stone in the meadow.”
This house, and the ones we’ll see next, show how Gill developed after he designed the Marston House at 7th and Upas. The Marston House, one of the city’s most inspiring Craftsman homes, is regularly open for tours scheduled by the San Diego Historical Society.
Heading south on Albatross across Walnut, we come to 3415 Albatross (Historic Site #64), a Gill design built in 1912. It is one of four Gill homes in a row, including 3407 Albatross (Historic Site #65, built in 1922), 3367 Albatross (Historic Site #63, built in 1913), and 3353 Albatross (Historic Site #62, built in 1905). Gill designed these and other cottages around a canyon, with original landscaping by Kate Sessions. Gill created mansions for the wealthy in San Diego, Newport and elsewhere, but this early canyon grouping is an example of his commitment to creating simple, appealing and practical living conditions for everyone. The homes were rental properties for Alice Lee and Katherine Teats, prominent women in the community whose civic instincts found in Gill a worthy exponent.
From this spot head west on Upas for a block, then left on Brant for another block, passing examples of Craftsman and early tract homes like those you’ll find in Mission Hills. At the corner of Thorn, look leftward at 335 West Thorn, a Georgian Revival of 1924 with a pleasant Southern Plantation feel. Across Thorn Street from it is 338 West Thorn, built in 1913 and designed by William Templeton Johnson. Another of this architect’s buildings, 3264 Curlew, is visible from here if you look west on Thorn. Both these homes are well-proportioned examples of a domesticated revival style.
Walking west on Thorn, at the corner of Curlew you’ll find another Revival style home at 435 West Thorn. [shown at right]
More intriguing is the design of 3240 Curlew, which blends the Craftsman-style side entry with the modernizing stucco walls popularized by Gill. Classified as an Early Modern house, it was built around 1912 and is presumed to have been designed by Richard Requa, who was a superintendent for Irving Gill and went on to local fame in his own right.
Next door, at 3226 Curlew, the 1912 design has been attributed both to William Sterling Hebbard and to Hazel Wood Waterman. This home was the Historical Society’s Designer Showcase House in 1977.
The Bankers Hill prize for original design on a grand scale rightly belongs to the Sweet House at 435 West Spruce. (Historical Site #200). Built in 1914 for prominent San Diego attorney Adelbert H. Sweet, the design by Frank Mead and Richard Requa is classified as Spanish Eclectic. So bold and original was the plan that contractors were afraid to bid on the house because nothing similar had ever been built. As a consequence, the architects supervised day laborers in the construction. Though obscured by the mature landscaping, the corner house and its cottage companion to the south on Curlew share a walled garden and incredible balcony views.
At 3170 Curlew is a home designed by Hazel Wood Waterman in 1912. Coming to architecture late in life, her work as a draftsperson in Irving Gill’s firm proved a doorway to unknown talent and worthy commissions, including the Wednesday Club at Sixth Avenue and Ivy Lane (north of Upas).
Turning east on Spruce, the home at 407 West Spruce is another example of William Templeton Johnson’s work from 1929. A few years earlier, he had completed work on the San Diego Trust & Savings Bank Building at 6th and Broadway downtown.
A quick step down Brant Street to the dead end brings us to 3100 Brant, built in 1908 by William S. Hebbard, formerly partnered with Irving Gill.
Spruce Street Bridge
Back at Spruce and Brant is the entrance to the Spruce Street Bridge, designed in 1912 by Edwin Capps, an engineer who also served as Mayor of San Diego in 1899 and 1915. Another point of access to the streetcar, the bridge helped to open up Bankers Hill to development. From the middle of the bridge, 70 feet above the canyon floor, today’s lush landscape almost obscures the landing aircraft, downtown spires, and busy traffic of the bay… a world apart from the eroded brown hillsides of a century ago.
At the other end of the footbridge, on your right at the corner of Spruce and Front, is a classic Craftsman that belonged to San Diego’s Mayor during the development of the first Balboa Park Exposition. 3162 Front Street started out as a design by the famed Pasadena architects Greene & Greene, but after an argument with the contractor they withdrew from the project. Today the design is credited to local architect Emmor Brook Weaver.
A little to your right at 3147 Front is a 1911 design by Richard Requa for Charles Martin. (Historic Site #118). This home is classified as Early Modern. Next door to the south, 3133 Front is a blend of Craftsman and Early Modern.
Turn around and head north on Front to see several more interesting homes. There’s 3333 Front, Historic Site #184, built in 1906 by the same architect who designed the Western Metal Building in the Gaslamp District, Henry Lord Gay. At 3411 Front, a charming Victorian is a humbler version of the fancy houses we already saw just up the street. And overlooking the canyon at 3404 Front is a home (now being remodeled) which may be one of the canyon cottages that Gill first planned in 1905. As noted in Bruce Kamerling’s important book, Irving Gill, Architect, Gill built another of the cottages on this side of the canyon during the 1920s.
Turning the corner to First and heading south once again toward our starting place at Quince, you may have a new sense of Bankers Hill. The low-lying white buildings on your right were designed by Irving Gill in 1909 as the Bishops School daytime campus. (Today they belong to the Self-Realization Fellowship.) Just past the Showcase House you may spot a Craftsman home that you didn’t notice before and, just before you reach the bridge (and its incredible view), on the left is a two-story Mediterranean-style apartment at 2929 / 2931 First.
More To See
No tour can show it all. To catch glimpses of other Bankers Hill treasures, go to Second and Laurel to see the Christian Science Church designed by Irving Gill and recently restored. At First and Kalmia, note the Victorian Long-Waterman House and at 2nd and Nutmeg discover the Craftsman design of Hebbard and Gill from the late 1890s. You’ll find more treasures on 7th Avenue across from the Marston House. Don’t forget Hazel Waterman’s Wednesday Club at Sixth and Ivy Lane and, for a nature break, enjoy a stroll through Maple Canyon Park.
This is the end of the Bankers’ Hill Walking Tour.