San Diego Then & Now: The Quartermass-Stensrud House
I have been interested in history since around the tenth grade. My wise old grandmother always told me to study history so that I wouldn’t have to repeat it. Considering that she was born during World War I, got married during the Great Depression, had her first two children during the Great Depression and another two during World War II, I think she might have been a little down on history. I am, too, which is why I don’t want to see the Republicans get in office and try to take us back to the 1990s, if not earlier. The world has changed, and we have to change with it.
To illustrate change, let me introduce this picture:
Look at the big house at the center right, a monster house for that time, ca. 1917. The house was built at 4008 University Avenue, at the corner of University Avenue and Fairmount Avenue.
According to public records at the Tax Assessor’s office, it was built in 1914. However, I found one source that said it was built in 1906-07. We definitely know that it was built by Reuben Quatermass. However, Reuben’s last name is questionable. Some sources have it as “Quartermass” but records available at Ancestry.com seem to verify that he is Reuben Quatermass, born ca. 1840 as Reuben Quatermall.
The 1880 Census shows Reuben as coming to the United States in 1860 and living in Indiana as Reuben Quatermass with his wife, Minerva (some sources say “Minervia”) Pierce. Appparently they were married in 1868, either in Indiana or Kansas.
The 1880 Census also shows Reuben as being born “around 1842″ in Michigan. However, if you look at Minervia’s Census entry, it shows her spouse as being Reuben Quatermass but has him being born “around 1843″ in Canada.
In the 1910 Census he is listed as Reuben Luastesmess, living in San Diego.
The 1920 Census has him back as Reuben Quatermall and living in San Diego with his wife, Margaret.
The 1930 Census shows him as Reuben Quatermass and living in Oregon, where he died in 1943.
I did find one source showing Reuben as being born in 1837. Regardless of what year he actually was born, he lived to a ripe old age.
What a tangled web, and people ask me why I don’t take the Bible literally.
The house was bought by Charles O. Stensrud in 1912, which kind of conflicts with the public records saying that it was built in 1914. Sources indicate that Stensrud sold the house in 1929 to his son-in-law, William Konrad, who had it moved to the corner of 56th Street and Adams Avenue, specifically 5602 Adams Avenue, where it still stands today:
Rueben Quatermass was a developer with the Columbia Company in early San Diego, as well as a department store owner. The area, known as City Heights, was rapidly becoming one of San Diego’s streetcar suburbs serviced by the San Diego Electric Railway. In 1907 there were 475 homes in City Heights.
Charles Stensrud was involved in real estate and banking for East San Diego when City Heights incorporated under that name in 1912. Later he became the East San Diego City Health Commissioner and was a driving force behind getting University Avenue paved.
From 1912 to 1929, the home served not only as a single family residence, but also as a boarding house and a funeral home. In 1929, William Konrad, the owner of the home and the son-in-law of Charles Stensrud, had it moved to 5602 Adams Avenue in the El Cerrito neighborhood, 2.9 miles away.
Konrad owned a hardware store in El Cerrito, and just a year earlier, San Diego State College announced that it would be re-locating to Montezuma Mesa, just a few blocks away from El Cerrito. Expectations were high that many professors would buy homes in El Cerrito. The house looks conspicuously out of place in a neighborhood of modest one-story stucco and wood Craftsman homes.
With 3,619 square feet, and located so near the San Diego State College, the home served as a fraternity house in 1931-32 and 1940 for Kappa Phi Sigma and Eta Omega Delta, respectively. It also served as a boarding house during World War II.
The house has been designated a Historic Site by the San Diego Historical Resources Board and is known as the Quartermass-Stensrud House (note the spelling of “Quartermass”). It is a four-bedroom Colonial-style hipped cottage that also has a partial basement and a “usable attic.”
The current owners bought it in February 2000 and have been restoring it to its original form and function. Some interesting items about the restoration:
No money has been found in any of the walls. At least, not any that anyone is telling us about.
A 1907 Glenwood stove was found, renovated, and converted to gas for the kitchen.
Aspects of modernization had to be undone, such as black paint on the moldings and popcorn ceilings complete with gold flecks.
There are over 100 diamond pattern Queen Anne windows in the house.
Most of the windows had uniquely shaped, but rotted, wood muntins which required painstaking work to reproduce.
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Posted on September 2, 2012, in Halls of History, History, Manmade, Photos, Then & Now and tagged 5602 Adamas Avenue in San Diego, Charles O. Stensrud, historic san diego pictures, reuben quartermass, reuben quatermass, san diego then and now, william konrad. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.