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The H. Lee House

Submitted by the Lemon Grove Historical Society

A Tudor Revival mansion designed by the British architect, Frederick C. Clemeshaw, the H. Lee House was built by the Scottish "joiner" (carpenter), George Simpson, in 1928 on Troy Street in Lemon Grove for the San Diego auto dealer, Harold Lee. The house was part of the American Country Home movement of the 1920s, a period when high incomes, low taxes and a boom in car-buying sent Americans into the countryside in search of sites for second homes. For many, English Tudor was synonymous with gracious country living and became a popular style nationwide. Lemon Grove has two Tudor Revivals, both by the same architect and builder (Simpson built the 1926 Tudor for himself and his family and it lives on, lovingly cared for, in private hands).

The H. Lee House


With its former hilltop view of the countryside, the H. Lee House has long been a Lemon Grove landmark. Architectural features include the classic, black and white half-timbered and plaster walls, an immense, bellcast, hip-gabled roof clad in cedar shingles, two massive chimneys, leaded multi-paned windows, the distinctive quatrefoils at each end of the house and the original plank front door with its cast iron heraldic knocker. The intact interior features two fireplaces with original tile hearths clad in copper flashing, original oak hardwood floors, original wall sconces and a stairwell with its handsome railings and large newel post. On the first floor is a beautiful Great Room, a small dining room, a bathroom, rear hallway, kitchen and laundry room with concrete tub and original closets. The second floor has a spectacular bedchamber with two crossbeams, two small bedrooms, bathroom and hallway. There is a partial attic. The Lee House stood squarely in the path of the six-mile extension of SR125. The road has had major impact on one of Lemon Grove's oldest, most interesting neighborhoods (homes by Frank Hope and Alberto Treganza-both still owned by CalTrans-- grace Golden Avenue). Between 1990 and 2002, the year that a battered, frail Lady Lee finally crossed the trolley tracks and arrived at her new home on Olive Street, the Lemon Grove Historical Society waged a campaign to save the house. We proposed to our City Council that LGHS work with CalTrans to restore the house and then name it the H. Lee House Cultural Center. LGHS would raise all interior restoration funds, maintain the house and present concerts, classes and lectures in the house, and also make it available for rentals. All of that has come to pass thanks to the remarkable efforts of Society volunteers chaired by Helen Ofield.

Since 2002, the exterior has been fully restored; the interior is 95% restored. At Lee, people get married, hold Employee Appreciation Day, celebrate anniversaries and family reunions, enjoy small dinners, and more. Beautiful Civic Center Park has been constructed between Lee and the 1897 Parsonage Museum, the Society's first restoration project (winner of a 2001 Governor's Preservation Award).

Like SOHO, LGHS believes in saving old while building new and working to ensure that new development respects historic character. Not easy, but always worth the struggle!

2006 - Volume 37, Issue 4

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