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Del Mar Landmark Faces Demolition

By Vonn Marie May

Photo courtesy David Marshall


Just when you think society is becoming more and more sensitive about historical preservation issues, a development permit is pulled in Del Mar that would allow the demolition of a stunning landmark property.

The Canfield-Wright House sited on a hill overlooking the coast and the Blue Pacific was built in 1910 by oil magnate and philanthropist, Charles A. Canfield. The list of projects for this early century southern California mogul is quite amazing. Along with partner Edward L. Doheny, another incredibly significant figure in California history, Canfield drilled the first oil well in Los Angeles, ushering in an era of major historical proportions. The two also drilled the first oil well in Mexico. Their actions in Mexico credit them with not only being the precursors to Pemex Oil, but with a by-product of oil, asphalt, they paved all the streets in Mexico City at the time. Now, oil history is not my cup of black tea, but history is all about people who affect broad patterns of social history regardless of personal preferences.

Canfield, the philanthropist, built schools and endowed housing facilities for homeless children. He also teamed with H.E. Huntington, Wm. G. Kerckhoff, H.W. Keller (builder of the Rock Haus) and San Diego's own Col. Ed Fletcher, to found the South Coast Land Co. The partners began to develop Del Mar as a resort destination, their first project and corporate base was the beautiful Tudoresque Stratford Inn, (the demolished old Del Mar Hotel). Canfield and Huntington are also credited with being involved in the development of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Aside from the historical characters in this scenario, the architecture and stateliness of the home is significant in its own right. It's an eclectic range of Mission Revival with Italian Villa influences, sited brilliantly on a rise addressing the ocean. Architect, John C. Austin, chosen by Canfield to design his second home in Del Mar, was also the architect for the Stratford Inn, working closely with the South Coast Land Co. Among other notable projects attributed to Austin either personally or as a team architect are; the Shrine Auditorium, Griffith Park Planetarium, and LA City Hall, which are all major Los Angeles landmarks.

SOHO, in full preservation advocacy mode, is guiding the local community on how best to deal with this issue. The community is unable to locally designate the property because the city of Del Mar doesn't have a preservation ordinance or any preservation incentives in place to encourage and reward owners for preserving significant properties. Once again, preservationists become educators and facilitators. The development permit is pending and we hope to assist city officials in recognizing what they have and how best to facilitate its preservation.

2002 - Volume 33, Issue 2

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