Saturday, February 4, 2023

CHA Highlights GEM Nominees: 1111 G Avenue and 855 Alameda Boulevard

CHA GEM logoBy Mary Farley, CHA Volunteer & GEM Committee Chair, and Jamie Jamison, CHA Board Member & GEM Committee Member 

This article is the second in a series about CHA’s Going the Extra Mile Award.

Each year, the Coronado Historical Association’s GEM Committee considers historic homes and properties that have been nominated by CHA’s membership and the Coronado community for Going the Extra Mile to restore a historic home. GEM Award finalists must have completed a recent restoration or renovation project true to the historic character of the home by December 31 of the prior year. The GEM committee is pleased to announce this year’s finalists in a series of articles over the next few weeks. The winner will be honored at the Annual National Preservation Month Symposium on Thursday, May 21, 2021. You can sign up for the FREE virtual event at These are Coronado’s GEMs. These owners truly Go the Extra Mile.

1111 G Avenue

Photo Taken by Mary Farley

Another true ‘jewel’ in our Coronado crown is our next home, 1111 G Avenue. Known as one of the ‘Three Sisters,’ it is located just off of Alameda Boulevard where it intersects with G Avenue and is set back on the property with its two sisters on either side. Sidney D. Chapin was the Builder of this 1914 Bungalow and William Templeton Johnson was the Architect. Johnson is considered a San Diego Master Architect. He is known for several San Diego landmarks including the San Diego Museum of Art building and the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. He was also one of the architects involved in the County Administration Building.

1111 G Avenue was designated a Historic Resource on April 5, 2006, and became a Mills Act historic home on December 24, 2019. This charming home is 1551 square feet and has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It may be the smallest of our GEM nominees this year, but it is by no means lacking in anything! Although the house is small, it is important to note that the outside space makes the home feel much larger. The front walkway and yard, now shared by the other two “sisters,” is solely part of the 1111 G Avenue lot and deed.

1900.10.01-87 – Photo from the Coronado Historical Association’s Collection. c. 1990

One of the former noteworthy residents of 1111 G Avenue was Commander Karl F. Smith. Commander Smith graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1908, becoming Chief Engineer and Fleet Engineer of the Asiatic Fleet in charge of the raising of German battleships after World War I. He rose to Inspector General of Aircraft at the start of the Bureau of Aeronautics. 

Commander Smith retired from the Navy in 1929 and lived here until his death in 1959. He was very involved in the Coronado community: he was a Mason; a warden of Christ Episcopal Church; served on the Board of Directors of the Red Cross; a member of the Military Order of World Wars, and served on the Coronado School Board from 1943-1947.

Twenty-five years ago, Doug and Jane Brandt, the current owners of 1111 G Avenue lived in another historic home in Coronado on 1st Street. A job location change led them to La Jolla for the next decade. Coronado still called and they answered, returning to settle on the island once more on B Avenue. They ultimately landed at 1111 G Avenue all thanks to a book club. As Doug explained, “My wife always loved 1111 G Avenue, and her friend and fellow book club member Betsy Jordan and her husband owned and took loving care of 1111 G Avenue. Betsy knew of my wife’s fondness for her home, so when Betsy was ready to make a change, she called to ask if we would be interested, and we jumped in with both feet.”

It was the perfect match. The Brandt’s love of remodeling and small homes was born in their home state of New Jersey. They loved to combine the old and new. In approaching the renovations to 1111 G Avenue they paid homage to the past with a “keep whatever you can” attitude while updating were needed to improve day-to-day life. This approach was honed when the Brandts lived in a historic 1925 home in Oregon. It was the Oregon weather that led them south. “On one of our monthly visits to the Coronado Marriott, we were in the pool when my wife declared it was time to make the leap and move to Coronado,” Doug recalled. It may have been a circuitous path from 1st Street, to La Jolla, back to B Avenue in Coronado that let them home to 1111 G Avenue.

After closing on the home in May 2018, Doug and Jane were able to live in the tiny guest house behind the main home while the work was completed over the next nine months. Not much had to be done to the façade. In 2004 the windows and wood and brick had been replaced, but the interior needed more love and attention. The kitchen and two bathrooms were updated and two wood-burning fireplaces converted to gas. The work uncovered original oak wood floors that had been sanded only twice before in over 100 years. It was so unique that their floor specialist had never seen anything like it before. Doug, having the experience of framing several homes himself in his short carpentry career after college, appreciated the craftsmanship revealed as they opened up the back of the house and pushed out the master. The framework is “gorgeous” and Doug and Jane wanted to keep as much of the original frame as possible. In opening up the ceiling of the master they discovered 1 x 8 inches pieces of pristine pine that had been sitting there for decades. The kitchen had conveniently been opened up and remodeled by the owner of the property before Betsy Jordan, who was a kitchen remodeler by trade. “We simply replaced appliances and cabinetry, added an island, and were able to keep the flooring in the kitchen as well,” added Jane. A skylight and high ceilings in the kitchen and throughout the home make the space feel much larger than the footprint would imply. 

The owners began their lives together in a small home. It was featured as BEST SMALL HOUSE for House Beautiful Magazine. Doug and Jane loved it so much, they bought it and moved in! So, the 1551 square feet they now call home at 1111 G Avenue is like coming full circle, but in a much better year-round climate than New Jersey (or Oregon) could ever provide.

855 Alameda Boulevard 

855 Alameda Boulevard. Photo Taken by Mary Farley

This GEM Award nominee located at 855 Alameda Boulevard, is a lovely example of the French Eclectic style and was built in 1936, and designated a Historic Resource in 2015. 

Architects of Hurlburt, Frank, and Slaughter designed the home for Margaret and Tom Keck. In 1937 the Kecks welcomed their son, Tom Jr. The younger Tom discovered his love of the ocean and went on to become an accomplished surf photographer, documenting the sport from the late 1950s to the present. Tom is an International Surfing Hall of Fame member and an inaugural member of San Diego’s Surfer Hall of Fame.  The Kecks lived in the home until 1946, during which time Mrs. Peggy Keck (later Clarkson,) was very active in the Coronado American Women’s Voluntary Services during WWII.

Mrs. Keck is pictured here at the far left. Photo from the Coronado Historical Association’s Collection. c. 1900.17.01-07

Another prominent former resident, Lieutenant Samuel C. Jackson, USNR, was awarded the Air Medal in 1945 for aerial heroism in “saving his Carrier Task Force from possible damage by shooting down a Japanese bomber which had sneaked out of cloud cover for an attack on the American ships.” Minnie Walbridge purchased the home from the Keck family in 1946. After her passing, then Lt. Kenneth R. Wiley with his wife Nancy made it their home in 1964 along with their five children. Wiley’s Naval career was highlighted by serving as Air Boss aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard in 1966, berthed at North Island, and as Air Wing Chief of Staff in 1968 when he led the effort to develop the Air Combat Maneuvering training program (Top Gun). He retired as a Captain. In retirement, Wiley put his electrician skills to work and worked for Lorton Mitchell’s budding design and construction firm.  

The current owners’ first home in Coronado was just steps away from the Pacific Ocean, on Sunset Park. As much as they enjoyed the seven years they lived in that home, they came to the realization that they would prefer a quieter setting with a larger lot. Wanting to remain along the coast, their search took them all the way to Santa Barbara, but they ended up finding their perfect home back in Coronado. 

With the purchase of their first home in Coronado, the owners forged a lasting relationship with Flagg Coastal Homes and Flagship Properties. Although 855 Alameda Boulevard was set with a buyer and Flagg was already engaged in the renovations, circumstances changed and an unexpected opportunity for the current owners presented itself. When John O’Brien walked them through the property, the spacious lot, quieter neighborhood, historic bones of the house, and already approved historic renovation plans all came together to be almost the perfect fit. The last piece was Amy Meier Design to complete the team. In their previous home, Amy Meier designed a casita and the owners were beyond thrilled with her work. As for the interior design of 855 Alameda, “Amy and her team are responsible for the clean, simple and overall calming interior,” the owner gratefully shared. 

As to the build itself, the owner described the kitchen as “basically brand new from the dirt.” The addition of a vaulted ceiling pulls light and space into the kitchen. Flagg combined the original dining room and front office space to open up a large first-floor living area and the original narrow oak wood flooring was saved and lightened. A bathroom was added to the second-story master by enclosing the roof space over the first-floor back porch. In the large backyard courtyard, an outdoor room along the southside alley wall was also fully enclosed to become a guest house. 

Venetian plaster walls throughout the upstairs and the narrow plank original oak wood flooring downstairs bring in an Art Deco quality reminiscent of the original 1930’s era of the home. The clean lines of the façade of the home, including the meticulous restoration of all the original hardware of all the doors, windows, and shutters as well as the complete rebuild of the balcony on the façade as an exact replication. 

The owner’s father was in the Navy and stationed in Coronado in the late fifties. When the family started coming to the Hotel del Coronado as a family every summer beginning in the early 70s, perhaps the seeds were planted for his ultimate return. The community of Coronado is grateful the owner and his wife returned to grow roots here and “Go the Extra Mile” to restore their beautiful historic home.