The Turquoise House
By Wayne Harmon
Living in Pacific Beach, I walk the beach and boardwalk regularly from Crystal Pier to the roller coaster, and watch architecture change. From Crystal Pier south, almost all of the old small wooden beach cottages have been torn down and replaced. One builder proudly displays a banner on the front of a remodel stating "Changing the face of Mission Beach one home at a time." The era of the small beach cottage is gone.
One wooden cottage that I admired at 706 Manhattan Court was called the "Turquoise House" because it had been painted turquoise since the 1970s. It was a 1200-square-foot California airplane bungalow built by Maggie Becker in 1924 and originally painted barn red. Maggie Becker was the wife of George Becker, a dry goods and merchandising business leader in San Diego. She had the house built as a beach cottage. It was one of the first houses to be built west of Mission Boulevard fronting on the boardwalk, which really was an elevated wooden walk, constructed in 1914-15. A flood in 1926 destroyed much of the old plank boardwalk, and in 1928 the new concrete seawall and cement walk were built.
The "Turquoise House" had all of the California bungalow characteristics-wood construction, shallow pitched gable roof, wide overhanging eaves with exposed large roof beam-ends and a front porch. Perched on top, looking like a cockpit on an early airplane was a second story room, hence the term airplane bungalow. There are other airplane bungalows in Hillcrest, North Park and Mission Hills, but this was the only surviving one on the Pacific/Mission Beach boardwalk. The "Turquoise House" also held a personal attraction for me because Hazel Hays, who lived in the house over 50 years, would sit behind her picture window and wave at me and others as we walked and ran past. Hazel died in 2002, the realtor's for-sale signs went up, and we were concerned that the house would be destroyed. Granted the house had a lot of deferred maintenance, but the bones and style were good.
SOHO launched a campaign to have the Historical Resources Board designate it as a significant landmark on local and national registers, and I wrote a "save the house" article for the Beach and Bay Press. The new owners renovated the house and lived in it. By cutting off the exposed curved roof beam-ends, replacing the original front door, constructing an artificial wood deck, removing the porch, adding vinyl windows and painting the whole house cream, they altered it significantly, but at least it was saved and still looked like an airplane bungalow.
The California bungalow was the most popular house type in San Diego in the early 1900s. However, architecture was changing rapidly in San Diego in the late 1920s and 30s. For example, right next to the 1924 "Turquoise House" is the "Campbell Beach House," built just 9 years later in 1933. It's not a bungalow at all but a mission revival house with stucco walls and mission tile roof.
I was walking on the boardwalk last February, and when I got to 706 Manhattan Court, I noticed a chain link fence around the lot where the "Turquoise House" belonged. The house was gone-nothing left but sand. It had been demolished in late 2005. The Historical Resources Board determined that the house had been altered so much during renovation that they were no longer able to recommend its designation as a historical landmark. No doubt there will be a glass, vinyl and plaster behemoth in its place designed by a leading architect, but a piece of San Diego's history is lost.
Photo by Wayne Harmon
- Duchscherer & Keister, Bungalow Basics, Porches, Pomegranate Communications, Petaluma, CA, 2004
- Cigliano, Jan and Walter Smalling, Jr., Bungalow, Gibbs Smith, Publisher, Layton, Utah, 1998
- May, Ronald V., Historical Nomination of the Maggie Irwin Becker Beach Cottage, Legacy 106, Inc., San Diego, 2005. This is found in the San Diego Historical Resource Board file on the Turquoise House.
- San Diego Historical Resources Board file on the Turquoise House, September 22, 2005
- Winter, Robert and Alexander Vertikoff, American Bungalow Style, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1996
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