Sunday, October 1, 2023

Awe-Inspiring Architecture at the CHA Mother’s Day Historical Home Tour

Carrie O’Brien, Ginny Jensen, and Co-Chair Mary Farley at the CHA Historic Home Tour where most people biked or walked.

Coming home to history was the theme of this year’s always anticipated Coronado Historical Association’s (CHA) Annual Mother’s Day Historic Home Tour. More than 500 attendees welcomed the event back after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic. Waiting to learn the required safety precautions to see if the event would be possible, the committee co-chaired by Mary Farley and Beth Fleming had to quickly organize in a compressed time frame. 

Six homes were highlighted on the tour, ranging from Spanish-revival to mid-century modern architecture. CHA notes that the diversity of the homes reflects a community that has stayed true to architecture through the decades. Farley, who has been involved with the event for 10 years, says that some of the homes were slated for the 2020 tour before it was cancelled, and others were added. “This is always a great opportunity to get to know your community history,” comments Farley, who says this is CHA’s biggest yearly fundraiser, since the gala ended due to the pandemic. The event has a myriad of details to coordinate with more than 100 volunteers helping to put on the event.   

The Tudor style cottage at 1030 and 1032 Olive Avenue, built in 1924 for Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Edgar, was built by Oscar W. Dorman, and was revolutionary for its time, paying homage to English manors from the 1500s. Among the notable military heroes who later lived in the home were Rear Admiral Allen E. Smith, who received numerous awards for his service in the Navy, and his wife Margaret. Cmdr. John Christopher Mathews II and his family occupied the home for 50 years. The property also has a separate historically designated guesthouse. 

Captain and Mrs. Henry G.F. Wallace built the home at 920 Adella Avenue for their retirement. He was a Coronado City Councilmember and served as mayor from 1938 to 1940 and then returned to active duty again in 1942. Designed by architect, designer, and inventor Charles Frederick Herreshoff, the home reflects the Colonial Revival architecture popular during the first half of the 20th century. Making our way through the lush gardens, we found a garage that was converted into an office and additional living space. 

Mid-century modern is the style of 940 Country Club Lane, designed by George Wheeler, who was principal architect for the Westgate Plaza, Fashion Valley, and the San Diego Gas & Electric Co.’s downtown headquarters. The first occupants of the home were Seth and Susan Gunthrop. Beginning in the 1950s, the home was the site of the Crown Bridge Club’s weekly meetings. 

1924 was the year that the home at 1038 G Avenue was built by contractor John Edmond Alcaraz, who is noted to have built at least 35 other properties here. Alcaraz also served as President of the Board of Trustees 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 prominent horseman and known to frequent racetracks in Tijuana. The home underwent a major renovation in 2004, going from a small, one-bedroom, one-bathroom Craftsman bungalow to five bedrooms and four bathrooms, which included enlarging the first floor and adding a second story. The home has exterior Spanish influences but interior Craftsman features, which include intricate window details and noted artist Ernest Batchelder fireplace tiles. 

Steeped with naval history, 547 A Avenue, is the well-known home of Rear Adm. James Stockdale and his family, the fifth owners. His wife Sybil purchased the house in 1963, when he was deployed during the Vietnam War, where his plane was shot down and he was captured as a POW. Sybil bravely organized the other POW wives into what became the national League of Wives organization, to shine a spotlight on the POWs’ treatment and advocate for their release. Rear Adm. Stockdale came home in 1973 and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is currently owned by their son Taylor and his wife Ann who did a complete renovation to the Craftsman home from 2018 to 2020, brightening the home by painting much of the dark wood moldings white. The crown chandelier in the dining room where the original League of Wives met is quintessential Coronado. Taylor had a notable table in the house made from part of the A-4 airplane his dad was flying when he got shot down, after he brought it home from a trip to Vietnam. The home 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 home was built for Charles F. De Long, the nephew of Philadelphia millionaire Frank E. De Long, who invented the clothing hook-and-eye fastener. Later known as “the musical house” for six decades, the home was lived in by Captain Stewart S. Reynolds, USN, and Mrs. Reynolds and their children, who harmonized before eating breakfast. The Captain and Granny, as they were known, were fishing pals of Ernest Hemingway. Son Nick Reynolds was a founding member of the Kingston Trio, a popular folk band in the 1950s and 1960s. The current owners completed a major renovation which included removing and restoring 688 panes of original glass in the windows and doors. The home was also a 1998 San Diego Historical Society Showcase Home. This historical treasure features bold color choices like a turquoise and black checkered kitchen floor and an upstairs “surf shack” which is used as a podcast office. Of special note was the prohibition door under the stairway that was used to hide liquor during that era. The blue plates surrounding the fireplace were charming and started when the couple got their first plate after getting married at The Del and then collected them from travels all over the world. 

This year’s sponsors included Coronado 365 Magazine, Kevin Rugee Architecture, Papenhausen Construction, Plant to Proser, and Flagg Coastal Homes. I attended with my husband, daughter Cassandra and friends, Carolyn and Melinda, and we loved seeing inside all the historic gems but voted the Marina home as our favorite for the historic update with a coastal vibe, but also appreciated the storied Naval history in the Stockdale home. We are already looking forward to next year’s tour. 


Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]