The YMCA building in the distance remains. MTS buses look different. And the Art Deco bowling alley across the street is long gone.
In 1909, Amy Strong, a famous San Diego dress designer, hired master builders Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter to build her dream ranch house. They lived and worked on site from tents where they drew renderings and blueprints.
The home was completed by 1921. The Strong home is just off the road to Ramona at the base of Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock). It embodies the vision of this artistic woman, the talents of her architects, and the philosophy of the Craftsman Movement.
Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. The tiles are purportedly from the San Gabriel Mission. Inside and out the home has a truly organic and hand made feel to it.
It’s a split level home with exposed eaves – troughs hewn from unfinished eucalyptus trunks supported by gargoyle figures.
Eclectic motifs throughout were taken from Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs chosen for the home. Interior use of wood included lightly polished redwood planks recycled from vats for many of the doors and mantels, beams, and balustrades of twisted eucalyptus.
Other building materials of the main house included oak, rocks, flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco.
No chalk lines were used in the construction. There are no perfect corners and neither the roof nor floors are level.
Eucalyptus was cut from stands that dotted the property. Rocks were individually hand-picked by Mrs. Strong for their shapes and colors from the slopes of Mt. Woodson.
Mrs. Strong, her niece and their cook, did much of the painting and design-work themselves, inspired by Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs.
Light fixture and stencil detail
The Zodiac Room. The ideals of this masterpiece emphasized harmony between the individual and the environment, intense involvement of the artists with their materials, and the blending of the primitive with the sophisticated.
The 27-room Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter adobe and stone structure was completed after five years and $50,000 of 1921 currency.
Light Fixture Detail
Upper Level Passage Way
Light and Stencil Detail
“The Castle” is a multi-level, twenty-seven room 12,000 square foot home with eight foot thick walls, a Great Hall with a sixteen foot ceiling, a swing porch, pantry, four fireplaces, a dutch oven, dumb waiter, complete intercom system.
Mrs. Strong left natural, oak, and pine exposed; other woods were painted or polished. Some of the original floors and stairs were flagstone and a few of the floors were oak planks.
Main Entrance Detail
The goal was integrate and unify the rock and tree studded surroundings with both the exterior and interior of the home.
The finished exterior, the stone work, windmill, bricks and tiles, and arches reflect French, Dutch, Spanish, and Medieval styles. Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. Aztec, Greek, Roman, North American, and Oriental crafts, decorate the house inside and out.
The windmill is gasoline-engine-assisted. It pumped water from the springs to redwood storage tanks and the room under the windmill was used to cool meats and vegetables.
The site today in Romona is used for conferences, weddings and other functions spurred by the nearby golf course.
May is Historic Preservation Month. A good opportunity to reflect upon San Diego’s beautiful and historic train station. In the years following 1969 the Santa Fe Depot faced demolition not once but twice. Save Our Heritage Organisation had to save it two times from the wrecking ball. Saving our history is a never ending job. Invariably someone will come along again with a plan to demolish it. Therefore we always need to be vigilant.
For sure, there is a ton of questions I should have asked. But at age 16, I hadn’t honed my interviewing skills whatsoever. Nor did I take notes as I’m sure Mrs. Freeman shared with me a lot more information than I remember now. Harriet Freeman lived into her 90’s, passing away in 1986.
In February of 1947 Bill and Jeanne Soderberg, with baby Sam in tow, hit the road and struck toward a new life and livelihood in the Chicago neighborhood of Homewood, Illinois. No mention of the decision factors in this bold move. But considering Bill was mustered out of the Marine Corp at the end of July in 1946 he was probably looking for the best opportunities to earn the family bread. Weighing his skills as a carpenter and home builder he may have seen Chicago as opportunity where carpenters earned good Union wages. He possessed a Journeyman Carpenter Certificate.
It appears the genesis of the Chicago idea emerged during the Yule season of 1946
From Helen Hussey’s Diary. December 22, 1946 – “Jeanne and Bill over – they are thinking of going to Chicago!”
Helen’s diary reveals an extremely active time in 1946 for her, Sam Hussey, Jeanne, Bill, and Sam. Their lives and households interfaced on a daily basis. Sam and Helen Hussey had a very active social life with names such as the Kings and the Grandjeans. Husseys over to their place. Them over to the Hussey’s. M0vie going, concert going, site seeing, eating out a lot, night clubs “bar hopping,” nights listening to the radio and reading, and the ever consistent “sherrying” before bed.
Helen’s Diary. January 11, 1947. “Kids in for a minute. They expect to leave for Chicago around the first (of February).” Helen also mentioned meeting Hussey at the plant, then having lunch at Gotham. Then went to a cat show. “Good!” They went to the Shepards at night. Irene and Leon came to visit, as well as “the kids.”
1931 Model A Ford with fully loaded trailer in tow.
Helen’s Diary. February 11, 1947 – “Took care of the baby while Jeanne and Bill were over at their place cleaning and packing.”
Helen’s Diary. February 12, 1947 “Bill finished packing the trailer. They’re all here, all night.” Helen had been downtown shopping and bought Jeanne long underwear and jeans. She also bought yarn to knit a sweater and socks.
Helen’s Diary. February 13, 1947 “Another mad day. The Kings over at night to bid Kids good bye. Also Bob Beattie. Then the kids went to Bill Beattie’s house after 10. I had a hard time getting to sleep. Hussey bought Jeanne and me Valentines Candy.”
Helen’s Diary. February 14, 1947 “Up about 4:30. Kids left a little after 5:00. Found they forgot their food!
Washed a lot of clothes, and got the mess fairly organized. Nite, awfully quiet here without the Kids. Sam and I shared a bottle of sherry.” Helen started knitting a white sweater.
Helen’s Diary. February 16, 1947 “I miss the kids and wonder where they are tonight.” The day before “Sam to meet Harry Olsen, some new business deal. He stopped in on his way home and TALKED! Kings over with Sherry – quite a session.”
Helen’s Diary. February 17, 1947 “I wrote to Jeanne. Got a card from Jeanne mailed in Arizona. They discovered they forgot food at Riverside.”
Helen’s Diary. “February 18, 1947 “A card from Jeanne from Phoenix.”
Helen’s Diary. February 19, 1947 “Ash Wednesday. Wrote to Jeanne.”
Helen’s Diary. February 22, 1947 “Wire from Bill, safe arrival in Homewood!!” Helen writes it was a busy day with Gordon and the the Grandjeans there at night.
Helen’s Diary. February 23, 1947 “Lovely midsummer-like day. Wrote to Jeanne and sent airmail. Also sent them a wire.” Helen spent the evening reading, knitting, and listening to the radio. John King was there for a few hours.
February 24, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne and Tony.” Knitting at night
Helen’s Diary. February 27, 1947 “Cards from Jeanne.”
March 1, 1947 “I started knitting socks for Bill for Easter.”
Helen’s Diary. March 13, 1947 “Two letters from Jeanne.” The day before Helen mentioned having lunch at a drive-in, then to see a model Post War home on Wilshire. “Really something,” she said.
Helen’s Diary. March 15, 1947 “John King over in the afternoon and for dinner. Nite, Grandjeans over and stayed all night. Didn’t get to bed until 4 a.m.”
March 28, 1947 “I made Jeanne’s dress and knitted the baby’s socks.”
Helen’s Diary. March 29, 1947 “Packed and mailed kid’s Easter package.”
Helen’s Diary. April 1, 1947 “A letter from Jeanne. I wrote some to her at nite.”
This appears to be an accidental double or triple exposure which can happen in older cameras when one doesn’t realize you’re at the end of a film roll. Or if you fail to advance the film at any given point.
Judging by the number of similar shots featuring the packed Model A ford as a focal point, conceivably Dad considered this packing job to be a personal feat of engineering.
Helen’s Diary. April 11, 1947 “Went to an antique show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. Lots of things to see.”
April 17, 1947 “Went to the beauty parlor at 3:30 – did a Rotten job on my hair.” She went back the next day to have it redone. “Better,” she said.
April 20, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne.”
April 23, 1947 “Went downtown and bought the baby birthday gifts – train, t-shirt and cards. Hollywood at night with Sam. Then to the library and home for sherry.”
Helen’s Diary. April 24, 1947 “Received photos from Jeanne.”
March 1, 1947 “I started knitting socks for Bill for Easter.”
May 5, 1947 “Wrote to and sent Jeanne a package.”
Helen’s Diary May 10, 1947 “Got a card from Jeanne for Mother’s Day. ”
Helen’s Diary May 19, 1947 “Kings here for dinner then we went to the Wallace rally at Gilmore Stadium. It was packed. A terrific speech by Katherine Hepburn. Wallace was fine.”
May 21, 1947 “Up early, wrote a long letter to Jeanne. To Main Street to see Duel In The Sun.”
May 26, 1947 “Wrote a long letter to Jeanne.”
May 28, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne.”
Helen’s Diary June 12, 1947 “Letter and card from Jeanne, wrote to her.”
Helen’s Diary June 19, 1947 “Went to the Home Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. And stopped at Frank’s bar!”
June 21, 1947 “Letter from Jeanne and Bill. They want to come back to California”
Helen’s Diary June 23, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne and Bill. Went to Post Office.”
Helen’s Diary June 29, 1947 “Bill phoned. Jeanne arrives Tues 8:30 A.M. on the Chief!! Short notice. Have date that night at Grandjeans”
Helen’s Diary July 1, 1947 “Up early and drove and met Jeanne and baby. Train on time, 8:30. Kids look fine. Night at Grandjeans.”
Helen’s Diary July 2, 1947 “Hot day. Worked a lot in the garden. Nite, John King over for a minute. Jeanne and I took a walk.”
July 5, 1947 “Slept most of the day and finished doing the dishes. Jeanne and baby to Mrs. Teter.”
Helen’s Diary July 7, 1947 “Jeanne and I to the pictures. Odd Man Out with James Mason.”
Helen’s Diary July 10, 1947 “Jeanne over to Teters and came home upset.”
Helen’s Diary July 14, 1947 “I watched the baby while Jeanne went to Santa Monica.”
Helen’s Diary July 19, 1947 “Bill called from Blythe at night.”
Helen’s Diary July 20, 1947 “Lazy quiet day. Teter came over for Jeanne. Bill and Jeanne over in the evening. Sherry.”
Helen’s Diary July 21, 1947 “Kids over to pick stuff up.”
Helen’s Diary July 26, 1947 “Jeanne and Bill over for dinner. Nice evening.”
July 29, 1947. “To Main Street today. At nite Jeanne and Bill over.”
July 31, 1947 “Went downtown early for Month End sales. Terrific crowds. Bought shoes, P.J.’s, robe and seersucker suit. Jeanne here in the afternoon and left at 4:30. Claire here at night. Tom Collins.” They were on a Hi Ball streak for a while. Then Tom Collins. With Sherry in between.
Helen’s Dairy August 3, 1947. “Jeanne and Bill over again.”
Similar diary entries up until August 17, 1947. But then…
On August 17 Helen went on vacation. Hussey stayed home. She got on an air conditioned bus that would take her to Las Vegas where she won a dollar!
“Quite a bus driver from Vegas to Cedar City where we stayed at a nice hotel. There was a desert storm.”
August 18 “Arrived at Zion at 11:00. Nice lunch then I took a one mile hike. The scenery is out of this world. The night is a starlit wonder. Good dinner, corny entertainment after which we left.”
August 19 “Took horseback ride to Angel’s Landing, back for lunch and left at 12:30 through Kaibab Forest – heavenly. Arrived at the Grand Canyon at 5:30 Nite, Grand Hotel. Huge dinner and a cute show.”
August 20 “Huge breakfast. Wrote cards, walked to Bright Angel Point. Afternoon to a trip around the rim of the canyon to Cape Royal highest point. To a program at night. It stormed over the canyon today.”
August 21 “Most spectacular day. Mule trip down canyon. Had to turn back on account of the storm, but 5 hours on the trail. Evening one of the best sunsets seen here. Last day at the canyon. Leave in the morning at 8:30.”
August 22 “Left Grand Canyon and arrived at Bryce at 2. Lunch and Rim Trip. Bus driver, Don,a geology student. Nite to lecture and show. And meet the famous Hodes Church. Cold, cold at night.”
August 23 “Terrific walk in the morning. Left Bryce at 2:00 p.m. and lovely drive to Ceder Breake. Chicken dinner there. Arrived Cedar City around 9 p.m. Stayed the night at Escalante Hotel and saw some Indians from India.”
August 24 “Up at about 6:45 NICE breakfast. Left Cedar City about 8:45. Stopped at Las Vegas for lunch. Then Barstow for dinner. Vegas to Barstow trip hot and tiresome. Arrived in L.A. at 9:39. Sam met me and we took a taxi home. Had sherry and talked.”
By August 31 everything appears settled and routine. Bill went on a fishing trip. The day before Helen and Hussey went window shopping in Hollywood. They played records at Wallach’s Music City. Then went downtown and visited the Bradbury Building, Olvera Street, and home about 9. And drank sherry.
All in all a two great weeks for Helen!
The neon masterpiece stood at El Cajon Boulevard at College Ave in San Diego – Razed 1983. The Majorette Portion of the neon was preserved and is presented today by Save our Heritage Organisation at College Grove shopping center.