2017 Most Endangered List of Historic Resources
Save Our Heritage Organisation's 2017 Most Endangered List reveals the alarming and persistent neglect of historic buildings and sites throughout San Diego County. The 30th annual list includes 10 significant landmarks and cultural landscapes that are threatened with demolition or irreparable damage by development, deterioration, or lack of maintenance.
In a stark reflection of the county's perilous state of preservation, eight of the Most Endangered historic resources are carried over from last year. Balboa Park, Presidio Park and the shamefully deteriorating Red Roost and Red Rest cottages in La Jolla are among these, and they are in even greater jeopardy than a year ago, due to indifference and neglect. This should be a clarion call to residents, community and business leaders, and government officials to take action before these and other irreplaceable historic places that inform and enrich our lives are lost forever.
The three additions to this year's Most Endangered List are the Modernist SDCCU Stadium; National City's Granger Hall, designed by Irving J. Gill; and Southwestern College's Mayan Modern gymnasium.
This year marks three decades that SOHO has cumulatively identified scores of imperiled historic and cultural resources to raise public awareness about the most important architecture, landscapes and sites at risk. SOHO is the region's largest and most effective historic preservation advocacy group, and its Most Endangered List has been a catalyst for protecting and preserving San Diego's built and cultural heritage.
Here is the 2017 Most Endangered List and why these buildings and places matter:
Presidio Park, Old Town San Diego
Once one of San Diego's most visited parks, Presidio Park is now a decaying and unkempt embarrassment with few tourists to be found. As San Diego approaches the 250th anniversary of its founding in 2019 and embraces its rightful place as the Plymouth Rock of the West Coast, the City of San Diego must restore this nationally significant cultural landscape. The 1769 Spanish expedition founded not only the first mission in Alta California here, but also the presidio, port, and town of San Diego. George Marston, a civic visionary and preservationist, commemorated this inspiring feat by purchasing this historic site almost a century ago. He also commissioned the prominent architect William Templeton Johnson to design the Serra Museum on the park's hilltop. Marston then donated the land and museum to the City. Although it is a National Historic Landmark, Presidio Park does not receive the public attention or maintenance it deserves. The museum building and Serra Cross are severely deteriorated, the magnificent park sculptures are often littered with food and broken bottles, and important elements of the historic John Nolen-designed landscape have died or are nearly dead. Along with restoration, a comprehensive landscape management plan using the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's standards must be adopted. Presidio Park is nationally and locally significant and warrants immediate attention. For a city whose economy has been fueled by tourism since the 1880s, it is incomprehensible that this and other historic places that reliably attracted millions of visitors for decades are tossed aside and left to decay. We urge the Mayor to form a committee to raise funds, and, under strict historic preservation guidance, to restore the city's place of origin in time for its 250th celebration. In 2019, the eyes of the world will be on San Diego. What will they see? Presidio Park photo gallery
Balboa Park, San Diego
Internationally renowned Balboa Park remains on SOHO's Most Endangered List because its historic buildings, gardens and vast cultural landscapes are in dire need of long-deferred maintenance. In addition, large museums, such as the San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of Man, are said to be overdue for earthquake retrofitting. SOHO calls on the City of San Diego to focus its efforts on these pressing needs, not on an $80 million dollar bridge-and-parking garage boondoggle that will destroy the park's historic core. Structural engineer, Tony Court has warned the city and museum officials that San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of Man are in danger of loss along with their priceless collections unless they are seismically retrofitted. The City should pledge the $80 plus million toward the estimated $500 million needed for crucial park repairs and earthquake safety. The bridge to nowhere project, an unnecessary, car-centric plan, will decimate Palm Canyon, adversely impact the tranquil Alcazar Garden and irreversibly harm the iconic Cabrillo Bridge. Instead of tearing down the park's historic character, the City must build it up by implementing desperately needed, long-term maintenance and retrofitting so that this National Historic Landmark District and its rich cultural landscapes can delight and inform generations to come. Balboa Park photo gallery
SDCCU Stadium, Mission Valley
Voters may be casting ballots on the uncertain future of San Diego Stadium (its original name), but many do not know that this sports magnet is one of the few mid-century designed, multi-purpose stadiums to remain standing in the United States. Designed by Frank L. Hope Associates, a leading San Diego firm for decades, the stadium opened in 1967 as home to the San Diego Chargers, San Diego Padres, and San Diego State University Aztecs football team. Innovative design features include the pre-cast concrete, pre-wired light towers, and spiral concrete pedestrian ramps. The novel form of the stadium (eight concentric circles) provides excellent sight lines. For these and other features, the stadium received an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1969 for outstanding design --- the first such national award for a San Diego building and a United States stadium. The City of San Diego must find a way to reuse this iconic, adaptable, and award-winning Modern monument. Equally important, we need to save this building instead of dumping untold tons of concrete into our landfills. Preserving and adapting the stadium would be a win-win in sports history and for sustainability. SDCCU Stadium photo gallery
Southwestern College Mayan Modern Gymnasium, Chula Vista
Southwestern College intends to demolish, instead of adaptively reuse, its distinctive Mayan Modern style gymnasium to construct a new math and science building. This plan ignores the 1966 gym's historic and architectural significance, as well as its potential for new uses. Architect George Foster, whose firm Kistner, Curtis and Foster designed the college's original campus in 1961, created this Mayan-influenced Modernist building in homage to California's pre-European history. Foster is recognized for developing the Mayan Modern style, which in San Diego can be traced to the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. He served as the campus architect until 1973. Southwestern College should be celebrating the legacy and design contributions of George Foster by adapting this unique Mayan Modern style gymnasium for new use. Southwestern College Mayan Modern Gymnasium photo gallery
Hillcrest Commercial Core, San Diego
The heart of Hillcrest beats with a bohemian vibe and its historic embrace of the LGBTQ and art and literary communities adds to a sense of urbanity within a walkable, village atmosphere. On these city blocks of shops, eateries, bars, a movie theater, and a few apartment buildings, most structures are only one or two stories tall. Neighborhood character is rooted in a variety of architectural styles, such as Mission Revival and Art Deco, and people still live over the stores. This bustling area owes is commercial pedigree to early streetcar lines and the two Expositions in nearby Balboa Park, which brought waves of residential development in need of services. Now, a group of commercial property owners has formed the Uptown Gateway Council to push for a 200-foot-height limit so they can build high-rises that would dwarf most of Hillcrest -- and simultaneously eliminate its rich past. These developers would scrape and redevelop entire blocks of this dense community, robbing Hillcrest of its character, historic resources, and LGBTQ and cultural heritage. SOHO has joined Mission Hills Heritage in legal action to protect the Uptown area, including the heart of Hillcrest, from overzealous development that would destroy the area's historic character and scale. Hillcrest Community Core photo gallery
California Theatre & Caliente Racetrack, 1122 4th Avenue, San Diego
This long-abandoned and neglected Spanish Revival theater was heralded as the "Cathedral of the Motion Picture" when it opened with 2,200 seats in 1927. It later became a popular rock concert venue due to its fine acoustics. Now the theater is threatened with demolition, along with the popular 1960s racetrack mural on the rear wall that promised entertainment at Tijuana's Agua Caliente Racetrack. The developer rejected solid proposals to restore and reuse the building and intends to replace this landmark with high-rise residences. SOHO is engaged in legal action to protect the California Theatre from demolition. California Theatre & Caliente photo gallery
Granger Hall, 1615 East Fourth St., National City
Granger Music Hall is deteriorating through long-term neglect and severe deferred maintenance. National City must invest in relocating the hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to its permanent home, near Pepper Park, and commit to rehabilitation immediately. Originally built for private concerts and to house Colorado silver magnate Ralph Granger's important violin collection, Granger Hall was first located at his Paradise Valley estate, then moved to East Fourth Street in 1969. Granger hired Irving J. Gill, San Diego's now acclaimed early Modernist architect, for this unusual commission, completed in 1898. Gill employed his knowledge of acoustics from his earlier work in Chicago to achieve outstanding results when he designed the original 19' x 36' room, and two later additions. Another important feature is the 75-foot ceiling mural with musical Greek gods and cherubs painted on linen by New York artist D. Samman. The hall also contains a large pipe organ, with an intricately carved fretwork grille of kiln-dried cedar covering the organ. National City must rejuvenate this unique and rare historic resource so that music can once again be heard in the acoustically perfect, Gill-designed Granger Music Hall. Granger Hall photo gallery
Teachers Training Annex #1, 4193 Park Boulevard, San Diego
This 1910 Italian Renaissance Revival beauty in University Heights is deteriorating under the ownership of the San Diego Unified School District for records storage. For years, community leaders have suggested this property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, could be adapted for a neighborhood library, foreign language school, or art studios. These revitalizing and meaningful proposals have fallen on bureaucratic deaf ears while a handsome building that could be a community attraction threatens to slip away. Teachers Training Annex photo gallery
Barrett Ranch House, Jamul
Built in 1891, this two-story farmhouse has been vacant and vulnerable for years and is severely deteriorating. The wood façades and special architectural elements, such as double front porches and a bay window, are still painted barn-red with white trim, as is the large barn next to the house. It appears vandals have stripped the interior and uninvited guests may have moved in. Rural farmhouses are rare enough; this one needs to be preserved. Ownership has been difficult to determine. Barrett Ranch House photo gallery
Red Roost and Red Rest Bungalows, La Jolla
These 1894 redwood beach cottages are the last of a cluster of simple vacation cottages and an artists' colony built on a hillside overlooking La Jolla Cove. They are considered the forerunners of the Arts & Crafts bungalows that are still home to many in San Diego's older neighborhoods. The cottages' dismal fate of severe and illegal neglect has been the focus of SOHO's longest running preservation battle, stretching more than a quarter century. SOHO has tried negotiating with the owner for restoration or adaptive re-use, and appealed to the City of San Diego to enforce its own laws protecting historic resources. Nothing seems to deter the owners from their shameful and illegal strategy of "demolition by neglect." The city code requires the owners of unoccupied historic buildings to maintain them in "a manner that preserves their historical integrity." Yet, the ravages of time and weather coupled with intentional neglect have brought the Red Roost and Red Rest close to collapse, and the city has done nothing to effectively stop the demolition. Red Roost and Red Rest photo gallery
Please support SOHO's preservation work by attending public meetings we alert you to, writing letters, and donating to our End of Year Campaign or Legal Defense Fund. We appreciate all that you do for these endangered sites, and more.