Tuesday, July 23, 2024

2024 GEM Award Finalist: 350 D Avenue

In 1937, two years before the start of World War II, Alferd Jaeger built a house on D Avenue that would become a lookout for Japanese planes after the war spread to the Pacific theater. The house, at 350 D Ave., was the first residence built on the west side of D Avenue and reportedly the first home in Coronado to have a rooftop deck.  

That rooftop deck became a lookout used by the Ground Observer Corp, volunteers in a Civil Defense program, scanning the skies over San Diego during World War II, according to Hildegarde Jaeger Stubbs, Alferd Jaeger’s daughter. 

Note: The original building permit says “Alferd” as does a letter in the HR application from an interview with Jaeger’s daughter. There are a couple of mentions of Jaeger in newspaper stories – they all spell his name “Alfred.”

Jaeger came to Coronado in the mid 1930s to landscape Ira Copley’s estate, the former Spreckels mansion, which is now the Glorietta Bay Inn. Jaeger was born in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, which at the time was part of Germany. According to Stubbs, her father went to Brazil in 1924 to landscape the grounds of the Palace of the Grand Pará for Pedro de Alcantara Orleans e Braganca, the grandson of the exiled Brazilian Emperor Pedro II. The monarchy of Brazil was overthrown in 1889 and the royal family had fled to Europe. Jaeger and Pedro de Alcantara allegedly met in Zurich. In 1921, the exile was rescinded, and members of the royal family were allowed to return to Brazil. While Pedro de Alcantara did return to Brazil around 1924, some reports say he was traveling and didn’t settle into the palace until around 1930.

Jaeger went to Brazil, where he met his wife Hilda, and the couple started a family there. He was called back to the United States by job offers in Los Angeles. According to Stubbs, Jaeger went back to Brazil in 1933 and brought his family to Coronado. 

With the help of contractor Emil Johnson, Jaeger designed and built the house on D Avenue, Stubbs said. The home’s vernacular style includes many Spanish elements. Jaeger did much of the carpentry in the house and landscaped the property. 

Jaeger also kept rabbits in his yard. A 1942 Eagle & Journal story said the city health inspector told the city council that he had inspected the hutches of Jaeger and found them unsanitary. The inspector recommended that raising small animals be banned from residential areas. The council asked the city attorney if unsanitary hutches and kennels could be made a misdemeanor. 

The Jaegers sold the property in 1943 and moved to Los Angeles. Over the years, numerous military officers and their families lived in the house, including Cmdr. John Eubanks, Cmdr. W.R Bartlett, Lt. Cmdr. R.D. Oakley, Cmdr. Edwin Rosenberg, Maj. Albert Bibee and Lt. Cmdr. George Kelly.

When the current owners bought the property in 2019, the house was almost completely in original condition. It had no dishwasher, no HVAC and only 70 amps of electricity. The single shower would run cold when another faucet was turned on. But it also had beautiful light fixtures, stained glass in the living room, hardwood floors and lots of doors and windows to bring in light and air. Plus, the view from the rooftop deck had a 360-degree view.

The home called to them on many levels. They liked the large backyard, which hadn’t been subdivided and had mature trees, and home’s history, especially the connection to World War II. The father of one of the owners graduated from West Point the same year as the house was built and was a World War II pilot in the Pacific theater.

The home remodel was spurred by the need to create a safer access to the rooftop deck. Since that needed more first-floor roof space, the owners decided to enlarge and update the kitchen and master bedroom, adding a master bath. The original wood floor was refinished, and the mechanics of the home were updated. The project was completed with the help of architect Mark Vacha, interior designer J Hill Interiors, and Tontz Construction.

On the exterior, all the windows and doors were kept original whenever possible. The ones that weren’t salvageable were replaced with one constructed to match the originals. A glass-panel railing was added to the rooftop deck to bring it up to code. The front door was hand-refinished and most of the home’s light fixtures are still original.

The homeowners’ favorite part? The now easily accessed rooftop deck with its 360-degree view and amazing sunsets.

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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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