The Historic Arts and Crafts Homes of San Diego

Architecturally, San Diego has few showstoppers outside the Hotel del Coronado. A spate of historic buildings in the Gaslamp make for a nice walking tour from the William Heath Davis House Museum, and Old Town’s oldest buildings, along with the brightly colored houses of Heritage Park Victorian Village, are fascinating.

The truth is that some of the best architecture in town is found in private residences. The intriguing Marston House (3525 7th Ave., 619/297-9327, tours hourly Sat.-Sun. 11am-5pm; $10) was a tech-savvy home of the future when it was built in 1905. One of its chief architects, Irving “Jack” Gill, was a pioneer of modern architecture, particularly for the arts and crafts movement; his influence is felt all over town. The Lodge at Torrey Pines (11480 N. Torrey Pines Rd., 858/453-4420) was inspired by his work, and The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (700 Prospect St., 858/454-3541, Thurs.-Tues. 11am-5pm; $10 adults, $5 seniors and students, free students under age 25 and military families) in La Jolla is a home he originally designed for Ellen Browning Scripps.

The Marston House is a prime example of Craftsman architecture in San Diego.
The Marston House in Balboa Park. Photo © Wendy Cutler, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The term Craftsman refers to homes based on designs from the early-20th-century magazine The Craftsman, which relied heavily on arts and crafts practices. These affordable house plans became very popular in the early development of San Diego; many of the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown feature a great number of these homes, which are characterized by wood construction, wide porches, low gables, open beams, built-in cabinetry, stone chimneys, and stained or leaded glass windows. Craftsman homes range from large multiroom wonders to small bungalows. North Park’s Historic Craftsman Neighborhood (28th St. and Pershing Dr.) provides a great example of these homes, many of which have been lovingly restored by their owners.

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