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Save Our Heritage Organisation

March 26-27, 2011
SOHO's Annual Historic Home Tour Weekend
Cocktail Party · Museum Shops Spanish Revival Sale

March event logo

Historic Home Tour (Sunday Only)
Cliff May's First Houses 1932-1936
Recreating an Ancient Mexican Hacienda

Sunday only · 10am-5pm
SOHO members $30 · Non-members $35
Purchase Advance Tickets
Tickets will be available the weekend of event (Sat & Sun)
for an additional $10

Saturday · 10am · 11:15am · 1pm · 2:15pm
$15 each
Members & Non-members alike
Purchase Advance Tickets

Cocktail Party
Classic Cliff May home
Saturday evening · 6-9pm
SOHO members $45 · Non-members $55
Purchase Advance Tickets

Marston House & Whaley House Museum Shop
Spanish Revival Sale

Saturday & Sunday · 10am-5pm
Featuring Select home furnishing items, period décor, architectural and DIY restoration books focusing on the Spanish Revival period and California Ranch House style.

Press Release

Important Information
Historic Home Tour Ticket & Program pick up
A tour program booklet with maps and background information on each home will be provided. Because of the geography of the tour this year, you may begin by picking up your ticket and tour program during the event weekend at the location closest to you at either of these two sites. Maps for easy and free parking are contained in the following links; please take a minute to look at these.

Note: If you attend the evening cocktail party on Saturday you can receive your program then. Party details to be given at point of purchase only.

The tour can be self-driven or you can relax and take the roving trolleys we provide for attendees at no additional charge.

Important ticket information

  • If you are not a SOHO member and wish to join now, you will receive the discounted prices. This is an immediate benefit of membership. Join HERE.
  • Tickets purchased by phone or fax before February 28 will be mailed to you. You will still need to provide the name of ticket holder when you turn in your ticket for the tour program for control purposes.
  • When purchasing tickets online, you will be given several options to choose from, these include being placed on the Will Call list, Print-at-Home Tickets, Mobile Phone Tickets, and Physical Tickets that will be mailed to you. Please choose one of these options upon purchase!
  • Tickets may be picked up at the time of purchase at either of our two museum shops beginning February 15
    • Whaley House Museum Shop: Sunday - Tuesday 10am-5pm, Wednesday closed, Thursday - Saturday 10am-9:30pm
    • Marston House Museum Shop: Friday-Sunday 10am-5pm
  • Tickets will be available the day before and the day of for an additional $10. Additional cost is to help defray the cost of staffing for last minute ticket buyers and is for members and non-members alike.

About the Tour
An unprecedented tour of the first homes built in the over 50-year career of Cliff May, known as the father of the American Ranch House.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tour the very first homes built by Cliff May. The fabled homes, designed and built between 1932 and 1936, showcase the work of this Southern California Master Builder. The six homes on tour include the first five out of six he built (a sixth was lost) and one of the few Monterey style homes he built, a style that became popular by the late 1930's.

Located in several communities, Talmadge Park, Presidio Hills, Point Loma, and Loma Portal, and representative of the California ranch style, these homes are the result of May's experimental early hacienda style and his fascination with the early California adobe haciendas and ranchos. The visitor will be able to see firsthand the origins of the signature style of this master designer, builder, and architect for the first time.


  • These homes are spread out geographically so please give yourself a minimum of 3 to 4 hours to enjoy your day at a relaxed pace.
  • Parking is on street only as these are all located in residential areas, or for your convenience please park in Old Town and use the Old Town Trolley that will leave from the Whaley House.
Alex Highland home photo
Alex Highland home, one of five historic homes on the tour this year.

About the Designer/Builder/Architect
The home tour will shed new light on May's California rancho-inspired designs. May's career spanned more than 50 years; after San Diego he went on to design an estimated 49,000 ranch houses, which were promoted by Sunset and other national magazines. Hollywood clients, such as Gregory Peck and Shirley Temple Black, commissioned custom homes from May. He was still working when he died at age 81, still incorporating all of the signature features of his earliest work. May has probably influenced more architecture in the broader sense than any other architect to hail from San Diego.

As a child, May (1908-1989), a sixth-generation Californian, spent his summers on Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores in northern San Diego County, what is now Camp Pendleton, and often visited another family home, Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego.

Without formal training in architecture or construction, 23-year-old May designed and built his first hacienda with a walled courtyard in 1932 in partnership with O.U. Miracle Company. To help sell this and other romanticized, California style adobe-like dwellings with rough tile roofs, heavy wood doors and shutters, and beehive fireplaces, May filled their rooms with rustic, ranch-style furniture of his own making. Despite the Great Depression, the strategy quickly attracted buyers and publicity. With one reporter exclaiming that "Cliff May is one of the most interesting young men in San Diego," begins a story published in The San Diego Union in 1933. The reporter was describing the second home May designed, because the first one sold so fast he wasn't able to visit it.

Adobe Chapel, 3963 Conde Street in historic Old Town San Diego

Mary van Balgooy
Before LA: Cliff May's Beginnings in San Diego
10am · 1pm

In 1931, Cliff May left San Diego State College and returned to his old calling, jazz music. If someone had told him he would become the "father of the ranch house" and build thousands of homes, he would have laughed: "I never ever thought of building houses. Never. Even when I was in college it never occurred to me." But May did build houses starting in the 1930s in his hometown of San Diego. His early success would take him to Los Angeles and eventually he would be remembered as the man who developed the suburban dream home of the 1940s and 1950s, the California ranch house. In her illustrated presentation, historian Mary van Balgooy takes a look at May's early life, the inspiration he drew from his family heritage to design his houses, and the homes he built in San Diego.

Melinda Gándara
Cliff May: The Past is My Future
11:15am · 2:15pm

Links to May's Californio heritage are examined: his ancestral lineage placed him as a sixth-generation Californian with ties to José María Estudillo. He fondly remembers the indoor-outdoor living of growing up in an early California adobe on the Las Flores ranch, he paints a romantic picture of the past that he brings forward to his architectural designs. Cliff May markets himself as the "builder of hacienda and early California rancheria" on advertisements and brochures. He tied the planning and promotion of his homes to his own experience and understanding of early California history, and updated this experience for the "modern" family and their needs. This talk will examine the innovative marketing methods utilized by Cliff May as found in his archival records.

Cocktail party
On Saturday evening we are pleased to offer an exclusive home tour and cocktail party at a classic Cliff May home in Coronado. A much-anticipated highlight of the weekend events takes place in this home, built in 1936, that is a close duplicate to the lost third home in the series of May's first built. It is being restored by the current owners. Attendees of the party will be able to pick up their Sunday tour program in advance. Registration for this event is limited, so please purchase your ticket early.

Marston House & Whaley House Museum Shop Spanish Revival Sale
Select home furnishing items, period décor, architectural and DIY restoration books focusing on the Spanish Revival period and California Ranch House style have been brought in for your buying pleasure.

Local restaurants abound throughout all the neighborhood locations

Purchase Advance Tickets
Online HERE (Make sure to scroll through all ticket options, days, & times)
Call SOHO (619) 297-9327 or (619) 297-7511
In person Whaley House Museum Shop, 2476 San Diego Avenue;
Marston House Museum Shop, 3525 Seventh Avenue
*Children's tickets are full price
**Home Tour Tickets purchased the day before and day of the tour are $40 & $45

Proceeds benefit SOHO's advocacy and preservation work. No refunds. Tours run rain or shine! The cost of unused tickets may be considered a tax deductible donation to SOHO, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization.

Thank you to our Sponsors

  Funding provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture.

Sponsorships still available for this event.
Download a Sponsorship form HERE (pdf).

Save Our Heritage Organisation is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization.



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