Santa Fe Depot San Diego 1969

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.

The 1924 Samuel and Harriet Freeman House By Frank…

I was barely 16 in March of 1972 when I met Harriet Freeman. She was gracious about not only letting me see her home inside and out but to photograph it as well. This collection includes shots from a later visit in September 1972 as well.
The Freeman House was the last of four Frank Lloyd Wright concrete block houses built in 1924
March 1972
The street view of many Frank Lloyd Wright homes is often the most understated and minimalist part of the home.
September 1972 – Pepper Tree de-branched. Samuel and Harriet Freeman had long ago divorced. But the love for house lived beyond their marital bond. They continued to living in the house after divorcing.
Upper level room.
Photo from March 1972. Rudolph Schindler designed the furniture and other interior fixtures. Mrs. Freeman expressed a fondness for Schindler she didn’t necessarily feel toward Wright himself. While intellectually she admired Wright, it was Schindler she felt in-tune with. She credited him for making the residence “feel like home.”
March 1972
Harriet told me Greta Garbo stayed at this house when the German actress first came to the U.S.
View of Highland Avenue and Hollywood
The horizontal sweep of mullions supporting planes of glass that meet in a clear mitred corner – the corner window. A character defining feature in Wright’s catalogue, appearing here for the first time without the aid of stiles to support the horizontal mullions between the panes of glass. That distinction alone qualifies this house as being among the most important historic sites in California. Having said that, sadly, the home under purview of USC is crumbling to dust and is in shockingly dire condition.
The “front door” to a Wright house is frequently discrete.
March 1972

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.

Aztec Bowl San Diego

Aztec Bowl is long gone. But the neon sign was incorporated into the residential buildings that took over the site. Also wood from the bowling alley lanes were used for flooring in the residential units. Aztec Bowl was on 30th Street, West Side, just south of Meade Avenue.

The Campus Drive In

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.

Historic Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park

  1956 Kodachrome Slide  Courtesy Erik Hanson

That relatively small sign on a wooden post reads “Scripps Cove Park.” Documents show that in 1887 it was designated as La Jolla Park.  It was also known as La Jolla Shoreline Park. Those names changed on October 18, 1927 – the 91st of birthday of La Jolla and San Diego regional philanthropist  Ellen Browning Scripps – when San Diego Park Commissions dedicated the park to her and renamed it the Ellen Browning Scripps Park. It was, in a manner of speaking a ceremonial renaming. An official change came in 1961 when it was designated in the charter as Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park.

Besides being one of the most actively used parks, especially for one so relatively small, it is one of our great cultural landscapes with it’s nature growth of tress and shrubs. The “soldier row” of Mexican palms, the twisted and turning Australian tea trees, and the single-trunk dragon trees.

With a look to the future new plantings of the Mexican fan palms are spaced between their elders as the life expectancy of those historic trees draws nearer. A gift that will keep giving for generations to come.

Special thanks to Historian and Researcher Vonn Marie May for her discussion with me about one of her passions. Historic landscapes. I’ve included her article from La Jolla Historical Society TimeKeeper newsletter below. 

Belle Baranceanu

A scanned article from the San Diego Union February 11, 1980

I attended the artist’s reception on that night of February 13, 1980. I’d known Belle since 1974/1975. I met her through my school mates David and Erik Swanson. And through their grandmother Alice Sue Hardin, grandfather John Byrd Hardin, grand aunt Ettilie Wallace, and parents Anthony and Peter Swanson.

I probably can’t count the number of family dinners, birthdays, and holidays I shared with this family with Belle right there too. Being I was the teenager with a car I was often tapped to give Belle a ride to here or there on occasion. She loved to hear me play tapes of Bach while driving along.

 

Belle was part of that dynamic cultural pool of talent in San Diego during the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. She knew Lloyd Ruocco, Sim Bruce Richards, Dan Dickey, Donal Hord, James Hubbell, Phil Foster – just to name a few. My list is no where near comprehensive.

As a young teenager I’d hear these names a lot. Saw some of these individuals come and go, particularly at Ettilie Wallace’s house where I twice had a room there. It wasn’t until later in life I began to fully appreciate that they weren’t your average circle of friends.

Bell had a hearty infectious laugh. Great sense of humor.

All along the long halls of the County Administration building hung Belle’s work. I remember Ettilie Wallace had devoted a lot of her time and energy putting this show together.

I asked Erik at what point in his life did he realize Belle was such a great and important artist. “Tonight,” he said.

And she knew James Britton.

Click on image to see in full size.