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Canfield-Wright House Rescued
from Demolition

By Vonn Marie May

Canfield-Wright rescued from demolition

Photo courtesy of David Marshall

When an aggressive development permit containing a 100% demolition request was pulled last Spring in the City of Del Mar, all the preservation red flags went up. The plight of the Canfield-Wright House, written about in SOHO's last newsletter issue, came to the attention of Del Mar residents and preservationists immediately. A mobilized effort ensued; petitions were circulated, legal options were explored, talks within the City of Del Mar were held, and a National Register nomination was completed and filed.

Over the summer the development permit languished. The City of Del Mar went through a bit of a learning curve regarding the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and how it applies to historic resources. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) sent the legal notice to the owner acknowledging receipt of a National Register nomination (applied for by local concerned residents).

So here we are in the Fall and I am very happy to announce at this time that the owner who had eyed the property for a 'contemporary' fate, has withdrawn his money and intentions and a new historically sensitive owner has stepped in. This is somewhat of a record. In my experience preservation battles go on for some time, ie; the Balboa Theatre, 15 years; the Old Police HQ, 5 years; you get the picture, but 6 months? This is a Guinness moment, for sure!

The new owner is none other than Bill Davidson, President of Davidson Communities, a housing development company, and who, coincidentally lives in the same neighborhood as the Canfield-Wright House. Bill had always admired the residence and when it was in threat of complete demolition he had to act. Some may remember a project that the Davidson Company is well known for; the restoration of Amy Strong's Castle in Ramona, a National Register site. A beautiful organic stone landmark residence designed by Ms. Strong and her architects, Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter.

Davidson built a well-designed housing development around the Castle, utilizing the historical cues and precedents. He preserved a large swath of open space with a golf course and clubhouse showcasing the Castle as the cultural anchor and star of the whole layout. The Castle is available for wedding and reception rental and is one of the best historic settings in San Diego County. Other developers could and should use this development as a model. It pays great homage to the historical resource, it allows the resource to have breathing room and it maintains the cultural character and access to the area. A preservationist couldn't ask for more.

Successes in preservation are never to be taken lightly. During the process of fighting the good fight for this very significant historic resource, the recurring argument of private property rights came up, as it always does. What happened in this case though, is that the right property attracted the wrong owner. It is unfortunate when that happens and to their credit the owners who are now bowing out have done so with no rancor. The preservationists and the community also rest with fewer cuts and abrasions than usual. The situation has been successfully resolved and we haven't trampled on the inalienable, albeit conditional, property rights of anyone. To the contrary, we have saved a landmark. Good luck to the Davidson Family in their new home.

We now need to turn our attention to the City of Del Mar and assist them in producing a comprehensive preservation ordinance and policies that will protect and preserve the character of this wonderful beach community with its extraordinary history.

2002 - Volume 33, Issue 4


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Canfield-Wright House Rescued from Demolition!

Temple Beth Triumphant!

Coronado Railroad Designation to be Challenged

Executive Director Report

President's Message

SOHO Files Suit to Protect Red Roost and Red Rest Cottages

Border Field State Park

Volunteer Profile, Sandé Lollis

Getting To Know Your San Diego

Historical Resources Board

Welcome New SOHO Board of Directors

Remember SOHO in Your Will

Latest on the Old Police Headquarters

Remembering Claire

The Whaley House Junior Docent Program

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Around the Whaley House

Strength in Numbers

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