The 1887 Villa Montezumais a high-profile example of the city of San Diego's continuing neglect of its historic resources. City officials have ignored SOHO's willingness to operate this beloved Victorian and return it to active use for the community and visitors.
Designed in 1887 by the renowned architecture firm of Comstock & Trotsche, this ornate, polychrome Queen Anne mansion has been a beloved landmark ever since it was built for the world-famous concert pianist and spiritualist, Jesse Francis Shepard. The colorful artist invited friends and neighbors for classical concerts and mysterious séances in grand rooms with specially commissioned stained-glass windows at a time when cultural offerings were relatively scarce in San Diego.
In 1971 SOHO helped save this palatial house when it first left private ownership in a debilitated state. Now owned by the city of San Diego, it was operated as a house museum for many years by the San Diego Historical Society, but attendance and priorities dropped dramatically in recent years. The society closed it and, in February 2009, gave up the lease and left the house back with the city.
One of the state's finest ornate, Queen Anne-style homes, with its important lessons of the city's history to tell, remains empty and vulnerable to weather and vandalism. A house this intricate requires specific professional oversight. Recently, funds were acquired to do some work, but SOHO has yet to see the plans, or know the scope of work. SOHO should be involved with this significant city-owned landmark as much as possible, as the region's preservation organization who fortuitously count among their board, staff, and membership, the city's leading experts on Victorian architecture, the city should be welcoming SOHO's participation.
Faded, cracked and peeling paint, the prevailing conditions. Photo by Sandé Lollis
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