Coming Home to History was the theme of this year’s ever-anticipated annual Mother’s Day Historic Home Tour of the Coronado Historical Association (CHA). Over 500 attendees hosted the event after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. While waiting to know the security precautions required to see if the event would be possible, the committee co-chaired by Mary Farley and Beth Fleming had to organize quickly in a compressed time frame.
Six homes were highlighted during the tour, ranging from Spanish Revival architecture to mid-century modern architecture. CHA notes that the diversity of the homes reflects a community that has remained true to the architecture through the decades. Farley, who has been involved with the event for 10 years, says some of the houses were slated for the 2020 tour before it was canceled, and more have been added. “It’s always a great opportunity to learn about your community’s history,” comments Farley, who says this is the CHA’s biggest annual fundraiser since the gala ended due to the pandemic. The event has a myriad of details to coordinate with over 100 volunteers helping to organize the event.
The Tudor style cottage at 1030 and 1032, avenue des Oliviers, built in 1924 for Mr. and Mrs. LE Edgar, was built by Oscar W. Dorman, and was revolutionary for its time, paying homage to English mansions of the 1500s. Notable military heroes who later lived in the house included Rear Admiral Allen E. Smith, who received numerous awards for his naval service, and his wife Margaret. Cmdt. John Christopher Mathews II and his family occupied the house for 50 years. The property also has a separate historically designated guest house.
Captain and Mrs. Henry GF Wallace built the house at 920 Adella Ave. for their retirement. He was a member of the Coronado City Council and served as mayor from 1938 to 1940, then returned to active duty in 1942. Designed by architect, designer, and inventor Charles Frederick Herreshoff, the house reflects Colonial Revival architecture popular during the first half of the 20and century. Walking through the lush gardens we found a garage which has been converted into an office and additional living space.
Mid-Century Modern is the style of 940 Country Club Alley, designed by George Wheeler, who was the principal architect of Westgate Plaza, Fashion Valley, and the downtown headquarters of San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The home’s first occupants were Seth and Susan Gunthrop. From the 1950s, the house was the site of the Crown Bridge Club’s weekly meetings.
1924 is the year when the house of 1038 G Ave. was built by entrepreneur John Edmond Alcaraz, who is said to have built at least 35 other properties here. Alcaraz also served as Chairman of the Board of the City of Coronado, now known as Mayor, from 1924 to 1926. Richard F. Carmen Jr. and his family were notable residents. Carmen was a top horse rider and known to frequent Tijuana racetracks. The house underwent a major renovation in 2004, growing from a small one-bedroom, one-bathroom Craftsman bungalow to five bedrooms, four bathrooms, which included expanding the first floor and adding of a second floor. The house has exterior Spanish influences but interior artisanal features, which include intricate window detailing and fireplace tiles by renowned artist Ernest Batchelder.
Steeped in naval history, 547 Ave A, is the well known home of Rear Admiral James Stockdale and his family, the fifth owners. His wife Sybil bought the house in 1963 when he was deployed in the Vietnam War where his plane was shot down and he was captured as a POW. Sybil bravely organized the other wives of POWs into what became the national Women’s League organization, to highlight the treatment of POWs and advocate for their release. Rear Admiral Stockdale returned home in 1973 and later received the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is currently owned by their son Taylor and his wife Ann who completely remodeled the Craftsman home from 2018 to 2020, brightening up the house by painting much of the dark wood trim white. The crown chandelier in the dining room where the original League of Wives met is quintessential Coronado. Taylor had a remarkable table in the house made from part of the A-4 plane his father was piloting when he was shot down, after bringing it back from a trip to Vietnam. The house won CHA’s Gem Award in 2021.
Recently renovated, 532 Marina Avenue, is an example of Dutch Colonial Revival architecture and was designed by La Jolla architect Edgar V. Ullrich, who also designed the Casa de Manana resort hotel in La Jolla. The house was built for Charles F. De Long, the nephew of Philadelphia millionaire Frank E. De Long, who invented the hook-and-loop fastener for clothing. Later known as the “Musical House” for six decades, the house was inhabited by Captain Stewart S. Reynolds, USN, and Mrs. Reynolds and their children, who harmonized before having breakfast. The captain and the grandmother, as they were called, were fishing friends of Ernest Hemingway. His son Nick Reynolds was a founding member of the Kingston Trio, a popular folk group in the 1950s and 1960s. The current owners have carried out a major renovation which included the removal and restoration of 688 original panes in the windows and doors. The house was also a presentation house for the San Diego Historical Society in 1998. This historic treasure features bold color choices like a turquoise and black tile kitchen floor and an upstairs “surf shack” that is used as a podcast office. Of particular note is the ban door under the stairs which was used to hide alcohol at that time. The blue plates surrounding the fireplace were lovely and started when the couple got their first plate after getting married at the Del, then collected them on trips around the world.
Sponsors this year included Coronado 365 Magazine, Kevin Rugee Architecture, Papenhausen Construction, Plant to Proser and Flagg Coastal Homes. I went with my husband, my daughter Cassandra and my friends, Carolyn and Melinda, and we loved seeing all the historic gems inside, but we voted the marina house as our favorite for updating. historic day with a coastal vibe, but we also enjoyed the historic naval history in the Stockdale home. We are already looking forward to next year’s tour.