Victorian Buildings of Heritage Park

Heritage Park near San Diego State Historic Park in Old Town is an almost eight acre county park developed to preserve examples of San Diego’s historic Victorian architecture. The Victorian Buildings of Heritage Park include Italianate, Stick-Eastlake, Queen Anne and Classic Revival styles.

Wheelchair accessable Heritage Park was a joint effort of the county and the Save Our Heritage Organization when the expansion of downtown San Diego after WWII threatened the buildings that now reside in Heritage Park with demolition. Seven buildings were acquired and relocated to Heritage Park over a period of 25 years. Funds for purchasing, moving and restoring the historic Victorian structures came from both public and private sources. Heritage Park restored Victorians are owned by the county and leased to private and commercial entities who are responsible for interior renovation and operation in keeping with the Park’s Victorian theme.

A variety of architectural styles are represented at Heritage Park in San Diego Old Town:

ItalianateBushyhead House — 1887

Italianate homes were typically two to three stories in height, with flat or hip roofs, bay windows with inset wooden panels, corner boards and two over two double-hung windows. This house was built as a rental by Edward Wilkerson Bushyhead. Bushyhead was part Cherokee Indian, born in Oaklahoma, and a surviving participant of the ‘trail of tears’ when only seven years old. Bushyhead traveled to California during the gold rush and served as San Diego sheriff and chief of police in addition to being part owner of the San Diego Union newspaper which published its first edition near the Plaza in Old Town on October 10, 1868. Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune is a result of the merger of The San Diego Union, purchased by John D. Spreckels in 1880, and the Tribune, founded in 1895 and purchased by Spreckels in 1901.

Stick EastlakeMcConaughy House — 1887

 Stick-Eastlake structures were plain, simple and relatively modern. Stick houses are characterized by a large, ornamental truss under the gable eaves of a house. They frequently include square bay windows, flat roof lines and free-style decorations. Eastlake houses were named for British architect and arts writer Charles Eastlake and featured more decoration. The two styles merged to be called “Stick-Eastlake.” This two story house is named for the original owner, John McConaughy, founder of the first regularly scheduled freight and passenger service in San Diego County. McConaughy’s four-horse passenger stages and six-horse wagons operated between San Diego and Julian.

Stick EastlakeSherman-Gilbert House — 1887

Another Stick-Eastlake house — the first structure moved to Heritage Park, in the spring of 1971— has been designated City Historic Site #8. This distinctive structure with its “widow’s walk” cupola or belvedere and circular window was occupied from 1892 to 1965 by Bess and Gertrude Gilbert. These spinster sisters were patrons of art and music and had many famous entertainers including Marian Anderson, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Ernestine Schumann-Heink visit the house.

Queen AnneChristian House — 1889

Queen Anne style houses are composed of a number of parts, including towers, dormers, bay windows, and corbelled chimneys. Wall surfaces such as coursed shingles, clapboards, and inset panels of sawn wooden ornament are combined with irregular roof lines and decorative wrap-around porches. Windows may include small square or diamond panes. This late Victorian design was built by Harfield Timberlake Christian, the founder of an early San Diego abstract company. The Christian House and the Bushyhead House next to it are now known as Heritage Park Inn owned by Charles and Nancy Helsper who first saw the Victorians in 1992.

Classic RevivalTemple Beth Israel — 1889

 The Classical Revival was an analytical, scientific, dedicated and dogmatic revival based on intensive studies of Greek and Roman buildings. Unlike the Neoclassical Style that used Classical motifs and adornments on Georgian or at least traditional floor plans, the Classical Revival was concerned with the application of Greek plans and proportions to civic buildings. City Historic Site #8 — San Diego’s first synagogue—was constructed by the Congregation Beth Israel. Now operated by San Diego County as a community center, the building served as temporary quarters for many religious sects before they were able to establish churches of their own.

Classic RevivalBurton House — 1893

Another Classic Revival built during a trend that had, by the turn of the century, begun to reduce or even eliminate decoration.
This Victorian home was built by Henry Guild Burton, a retired Army physician.

Nineteenth Century Vernacular — Senlis Cottage — 1896

A modest cottage built for Eugene Senlis, an employee of San Diego pioneer horticulturist Kate Sessions who has come to be known as the “Mother of Balboa Park.” The Senlis Cottage, without the amenities of gas, electricity, water, or sewer, is an example of dwellings occupied in the 1880s by working-class people.

See more Victorian houses on my Historic Victorian Homes in San Francisco  page.

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