Thursday, May 23, 2024

2024 GEM Award Finalist: 1315/1319 Fifth Street

The two Craftsman bungalows on at 1315 and 1319 5th Street are mirror images of each other. Built in 1920, the pair are among the last remaining mirror-image cottages in Coronado. The two were built by contractor John Edmund Alcaraz for Esther Sagar, a widow, for $2,600 each.

Alcaraz moved to San Diego with his family in the late 1800s and attended school in Old Town, most likely the Mason Street Schoolhouse, the first publicly owned school in San Diego County. He spent some time in Oregon, but spent most of his adult life in Coronado, working as a contractor and carpenter. From 1922-1927, Alcaraz was a member of the Coronado Board of Trustees, which is now the City Council. He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees, the equivalent of mayor, from 1924-1926. 

For a few years, he was also Coronado’s deputy marshal. A July 1919 story in the Eagle & Journal announced his resignation from the position. Alcaraz had accepted a job as foreman of a 22-home building project in Mission Hills, which would take about a year. “Alcaraz’s wages will be $6.50 per day, considerably more than the city has been paying him for his time,” the story noted. Alcaraz and his wife, Alice, were also the parents of nine boys, his last one born in 1921. After number eight was born, he told the paper he has enough sons to form a baseball team. 

Alcaraz constructed many Coronado homes, among them are five residential properties dedicated historic by the city of Coronado, including the bungalows on 5th Street.

The Craftsman bungalows had many owners and even more renters over years, notably many were women. Among them was Mabel Sawyer, also a widow, who lived in Coronado for 60 years. Her husband was the owner of the Sweet Shop, an ice cream parlor on Orange Avenue. 

For a few years in the 1920s, Rear Adm. Newton Mason and his wife lived at 1319 5th St. Their daughter and her husband, Capt. Samuel Brewer (captain of the battleship USS California during World War II), lived in the other bungalow. Mason retired from the Navy in 1919. At the time of his death in Coronado at age 94 in January 1945, he was the oldest living line officer of the Navy. Mason graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1869 and served in the Spanish American War and World War I, altogether serving 54 years in the Navy. 

The current owners remodeled the interior and restored the exterior, working with Tontz Construction. Inside, they the original doors and historical features. 

The exterior was brought back to its original condition. The window casements were rebuilt, using the original glass when possible. Cracked panes were replaced with vintage glass. The two front porches also needed repair, which was done to match the original woodwork. 

Drought-tolerant landscaping was added as well as a fresh coat of light sage paint and white trim. “We are very proud that we had so many neighbors come by and tell us what beautiful work we did on the home,” one of the owners said. “Historic properties are one of our passions, and we strive to make the community better as well as proud.”


In honor of the 10th Anniversary of the GEM Awards, the Coronado Historical Association is pleased to announce that there is a prodigious group of ten finalists for this year’s award, the largest group of finalists in the awards history. This year’s finalists include historic properties at: 1026 Flora Avenue, 1045 Loma Avenue, 1135 Loma Ave, 1315/1319 5th Street, 275 J Avenue, 350 D Avenue, 519 Ocean Boulevard, 520 J Avenue, 870 H Avenue, and 874 A Avenue. 

Established in 2013, the GEM Awards have become a tradition in recognizing homeowners who retain and maintain Coronado’s unique character. By choosing renovation over replacement, homeowners are celebrated for their unwavering commitment to preserving the island’s architectural history and fostering connections to the past. These awards serve as a public acknowledgment of their dedication to the past. This year’s Awards Ceremony, where the winners will be announced, will be held on Wednesday, April 3rd at 5:30 pm at the City’s Nautilus Room. Tickets can be purchased on CHA’s website or by calling 619-435-7242.

To delve into the remarkable preservation efforts undertaken by the nominees, CHA is spotlighting the history of each home.

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