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How To Designate Your Historic Home

By Kathy Flanigan

National Register criteria:

  • It is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • it is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
  • it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represents the work of a master, or that possesses high artistic values, or that represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  • has yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

Is your house historic? How do you know?

First - When was it built? Realtors and previous owners may know, and the style can tell you. Check Virginia & Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses for further information.

Second - Do a title search at the San Diego County Recorder's Office or pay a mortgage company or historian for the service. You need to know who the owners of the property were, when you obtain the name of the original owner, check for Notice of Completion to determine the builder and/or architect. The list of owners and Notice of Completion should be included in your report.

Third - Check San Diego City & County Directories 1887-1980 at the San Diego Public Library California Room and San Diego Historical Society to learn who the people associated with your house were, such as: owners, occupants, architect, builder, making note of their professions. A chronological list starting with earliest owners/occupants associated with your house and their professions should be included in your report.

Fourth - When you have acquired the names of owners/occupants/architect/builder, check the San Diego Historical Society biographical files and computerized index for further information. Search for information in local biographical histories compiled by Smythe, Black, McGrew, Heilbron, and Who's Who In San Diego, 1936. Also check the San Diego Union index at the San Diego Public Library California Room for references. Mount important biographies and obituaries, etc. on separate pages for inclusion in your report.

Fifth - If you know approximately when your house was built but don't know the architect or builder, search through the San Diego Union on microfilm during that time period, which can be obtained at the San Diego Public Library Newspaper Room. Include all articles you find relating to your house in your report.

Sixth - Check the historical photograph collection at the San Diego Historical Society to locate any photo documentation of your house. You may order pertinent photographs for about $20 or obtain a Xerox copy for $1. You should check under owners' names, neighborhoods, architectural files, family scrapbooks, or aerial photographs. All historic photographs should be included in your report with credit given to the San Diego Historical Society Photograph Collection.

Seventh - If a prominent local architect designed your house, check the architectural drawing files at the San Diego Historical Society, where you may purchase copies of the drawings. Also obtain biographical information about the architect in San Diego Architects, 1868-1931, compiled by U.S.D. and available at the San Diego Historical Society. You may include a copy of the biographical information in your report with credit given to U.S.D., as well as architectural drawings of your house with credit given to the San Diego Historical Society.

Eighth - Check the Sanborn Fire Maps for your community or city, these date back to the 1800's and show your house with additions, etc. over time. Sanborn Fire Maps are available on microfilm in the Newspaper Room at the San Diego Public Library, the librarian has an index. Include fire map copies in your report.

Ninth - Conduct oral interviews of previous owners and the architect/builder if possible, to obtain further information about your house. Also, the San Diego Historical Society has collected numerous oral interviews of prominent San Diegans, which are on file there.

Tenth - Obtain a copy of the Residential Building Record for your home from the San Diego County Assessor's Office, 5473 Kearny Villa Road, 3rd Floor. The cost is $2 per page (back to back) and this shows a configuration of your house with changes over time, as well as assessor notations. You may want to include this in your historic report.

Finally - You may obtain the DPR forms (Primary Record and Building, Structure and Object forms) for the City of San Diego from Angeles Leira, principal planner for the San Diego Historical Resources Board, (619) 235-5213.

I have amassed large files on local architects and architecture, and I may have information in my files that can assist you. You may call me, Kathy Flanigan at (619) 276-4376 and I will be glad to share my information with you.

2001 - Volume 32, Issue 2

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