Even though San Diego was “discovered” in 1542 and “founded” in 1769, lacking in a historical perspective are old buildings.
Progress over the millennia sent buildings to the scrap heap of history in favor of new and improved.
The oldest buildings that remain are seven structures moved from their original locations to the Victorian Village (also called Heritage Row) in Heritage Park.
The seven structures include six homes and one temple, all built between 1887 and 1896.
Interestingly, the Heritage Park web site indicates that only two of the seven structures are San Diego Historical Landmarks. I know for certain that three of them are, and I won’t understand it if I discover that not all of them are registered historical landmarks. That would be weird to save a building, spend lots of money moving it, putting it in a place called “Heritage” Park, taking care of it, but not designating it as a historical landmark. Yep. That would be weird, weird, weird.
One that I know for certain is registered is San Diego Historical Landmark #8, the Sherman-Gilbert House, the first structure moved to Heritage Park in the Spring of 1971.
The house was built in 1887 and first owned by John Sherman, a San Diego real estate developer and cousin of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Cousin John Sherman should not be confused with brother John Sherman, a significant politician and three-time presidential candidate.
The house is in the Stick Eastlake architectural style, sometimes referred to as Victorian Stick, a style that was popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Several characteristics of the Stick style include interpenetrating roof planes, bold paneled brick chimneys, wrap-around porch, spindle detailing, “panelled” on blank walls, and radiating spindle details at the gable peaks.
There are few survival examples of the Stick Eastlake style; the Sherman-Gilbert House is one of them.
From 1892 to 1965, the home was owned by sisters Bess and Gertrude Gilbert, significant San Diego patrons of art and music. While they owned the house, they brought internationally famous entertainers to receptions there, including Yehudi Menuhin, Artur Rubinstein, and Ernestine Schumann-Heink.
The house was marked for demolition in 1969. Concerned citizens formed the Save Our Heritage Organization and were granted a reprieve to raise funds and move the house from its original location at 139 Fir Street in Bankers Hill.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, moving historic structures in order to save them was commonplace. It’s now considered inappropriate to move them, which also means that sometimes historic structures are demolished rather than saved, usually in the name of progress such as highways, skyscrapers, and shopping malls.
For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.
For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,