HISTORY OF SOHO - THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS
Twenty Years of Preservation Efforts in San Diego - 1979
By Kathleen Flanigan
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President Carol Lindemulder
Vice President Nicholas Fintzelberg
Vice President of Education Cathy Grigsby
Vice President of Government Affairs Larry Ford
Secretary Cia Brown
Treasurer Harry Evans
SOHO celebrated its tenth anniversary on January 31, with aplomb. A myriad of members partied at Robert Miles Parker's house on January 30. The group, which now boasted over 600 members, hashed over "the good, the bad and the ugly" of the past ten years.
The January 31 edition of The San Diego Union emphasized the 's notable achievements over the past decade included the establishment of Heritage Park, and the saving of the Villa Montezuma and the Santa Fe Depot. Miles Parker felt that "Our greatest accomplishment hasn't been to save any single structure. The greatest thing we've done is to make people aware of preservation, to get people in this city to think along those lines. There is much preservation being done around San Diego now with which is not directly involved, but there is no question that it was our organization's influence that brought such awareness about."
Past president, Carol Lindemulder, reminisced, "I remember when we got together at Miles' house, about twenty people, most in their early twenties to talk about saving the Sherman-Gilbert. Miles started talking and he was very realistic in saying that there had not been any historic sites saved by San Diego yet. He wasn't sure how we were going to save the Sherman-Gilbert, but thought we should just do it. I guess we were all a little crazy then-still are. We just do it because we love it. It's certainly not for the money or the popularity."
Pat Schaelchlin, 1978-79 president, verbalized goals for the group for the upcoming years. She felt SOHO had gradually changed its approach to preservation in the past few years, and "seeking more bargaining power politically to usher through its plans." She foresaw that the group would have to move into the legislative arena to help provide for some types of historic properties. "I think, too, we would like to establish better rapport with the redevelopment authorities in this city, as well as the City Council and County Board of Supervisors." And indeed, it seemed that legal and political hassles plagued the group almost immediately after the birthday celebration.
Specific building concerns for the activists for 1979 included the Melville Klauber house on 6th, and the Horton Hotel.
The fate of the 1907, Irving Gill-designed, Klauber residence had long been on the minds of members. Enough so, that members, Jim and Kathleen Kelley-Markham along with Gill historian, Bruce Kamerling, formed The Friends of Gill society, an adjunct of SOHO, to accentuate this architectural treasure, which faced Balboa Park. Jim Kelley-Markham, quoted in the April 1979 Preservation News periodical claimed, "There are some members of the City Council who have a hard time understanding historic structures. San Diego has never really paid attention to Gill's work in terms of preserving it. It's something the city should be more proud of."
Tempers flared over the Klauber house. The recent heirs to the building, Kevin and Kathleen Kelly, wanted to demolish the structure to build a new high-rise condominium building. SOHO, which had been content to move Victorians early in its history, wanted the more modern Klauber house to stay intact on site. The Kellys and their attorney threatened to sue if the organization persisted in pressing the City Council to withhold a demolition permit. The Friends of Gill proceeded to take its own legal action to stop the razing of the structure. San Diego Magazine in 1979 predicted that "Legal action will become more of a preservation tool in the future and it is expected that will return to the arena."
On May 22, SOHO released itself from the Klauber house legal battle. The Board voted 9-3 not to join in a suit against the Kellys and also voted to seek legal advice to avoid a suit filed against the organization by the building's owners. It seems the development company and owners had not only filed a lawsuit against SOHO, but against the city, amongst others, to have the building demolition permit issued. One disappointed member, Harry Evans, lamented, "I think the Board has proved to be very cowardly about the whole thing. The Klauber House is in terrible danger because we're the only activist organization that has the capability of pushing the suit."
Legal suits by the Friends of Gill for various reasons continued through 1979, but the deplorable fact of the whole episode remained that the historic structure suffered demolition that year and nothing up through 1989 emerged on the site to replace it.
Alongside the Klauber house fight, the group continued its struggle to save the Horton Hotel and Sort Palace Bar. On May 23, a vociferous group of activists and Gaslamp Quarter supporters poured into Bob Johnston's Sport Palace Bar on the ground floor of the hotel. They proceeded to toast their continued campaign to save the entire block surrounding the bar, which also included the Lyceum and Balboa Theatres, from the bulldozers of the Centre City Development Corporation. Johnston, owner of the bar, and President, Pat Schaelchlin, flamboyantly signed their names to an agreement to repaint the Horton building in keeping with "its turn-of-the-century glory." Under C.C.D.C. plans, the Balboa Theatre was to be retained at its original location, the Lyceum was to be demolished and the Horton façade dismantled and saved. However, the preservationists in the bar wanted everything kept on site.
SOHO continued its work to keep the Horton Hotel on F. On August 4, scaffolding went up outside the soon-to-be-removed structure and so did members-to cover the Victorian façade with tough acrylic paint in period designs. Even in the height of the building's preservation controversy, the regal lady could not be caught without her dignity and well-deserved make-up job. Activists even hung a "Death Certificate" from the structure, created by Robert Miles Parker, which included the names of Mayor Pete Wilson and five non-supportive city council members. The efforts were to no avail, and the Horton suffered dismantling in 1981, with façade, balustrades, skylights and other furnishings placed in a warehouse awaiting reconstruction at 4th and Island.
Carol Lindemulder, again elected president in September, recalled the group's past in an October interview with the San Diego Daily Transcript. She stated, "When we were formed, we were definitely an activist group. We were formed primarily to preserve Victorian structures. Then, later, we were more organization-oriented. Now, we know we've got to become smarter these days as a preservationist group." The legal hassles concerning the Klauber house still left burning memories. She was questioned as to why the organization left the fight without the lawsuit. Lindemulder explained, "Stridency can be detrimental to a group's effectiveness. Once you've sued them, you alienate them. Since working with city and county officials is important to SOHO's cause, it would sometimes be self-defeating to go to court on some preservationist issues." On another note, the new president stressed that SOHO sought to educate the public on San Diego's architectural history.
SOHO continued to celebrate its tenth year on September 18, at the Christian house in Heritage Park. The invitations to the newly opened Heritage Park Restaurant in this structure stated - "Victorian Dress Desirable" - and the eight-course dinner started with pate maison and finished with gateau.
On October 13, SOHO sponsored a free two-and-one-half hour walking tour of Balboa Park that emphasized Balboa Park's historical and architectural development. A guided historic home and walking tour of Mission Hills was offered on November 10. Small guided groups left Pioneer Park and viewed seven homes along the route.
HISTORY OF SOHO
- THE FIRST 20 YEARS
Preface | Beginnings | 1969
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974
1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984
1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
- THE SECOND 20 YEARS
Four Decades of Historic Preservation
in San Diego County