1924 Spreckels Warehouse
A century ago in San Diego, the super wealthy John D. Spreckels was a leader in regional development and a civic booster extraordinaire. In part, we remember his impact through cultural landmarks that remain in constant use, such as the Spreckels Theatre and Spreckels Organ Pavilion. These buildings represent Spreckels' high aspirations for advancing culture in San Diego. By contrast, the utilitarian, modern Spreckels Warehouse, built in 1924 on J Street by the Spreckels Brothers Commercial Company, represents the work-a-day remnants of a once busy warehouse district.
So that we have a tangible record and understanding of historic downtown development, SOHO negotiated fiercely to save warehouses along J Street and nearby, for restoration and reuse as shops, restaurants and sports bars surrounding the new downtown ballpark. Since then, J Street has been recharged with new energy and pedestrian traffic; the urban texture is richer for having these buildings filling several blocks.
Elsewhere downtown we've lost a host of simple, vernacular industrial buildings, along with the Fifth Avenue wharf and rail yards associated with the working port on San Diego Bay. These losses make it all the more imperative to recognize the historic socioeconomic and architectural significance of the Spreckels Warehouse, J Street's western anchor. Its board-formed concrete walls support lightweight steel roof trusses, so there's no need for interior columns. Its large, open interior makes the warehouse flexible for accommodating different uses, as it has done for more than 90 years. Yet this warehouse may be in danger of demolition due to economic pressure to demolish and build a residential tower on the site, pressure that's compounded by the owner's indifference, so far, to its modern design and pedigree. Its fate now lies with the city's Historical Resources Board. We encourage the board to declare the Spreckels Warehouse a historic landmark and to steer its owner toward a buyer with preservation and adaptive reuse in mind.
Photo by Sandé Lollis
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