La Jolla is one of the most beautifully preserved areas of San Diego, due in large part to early history advocates like Ellen Browning Scripps and more currently, the La Jolla Historical Society. With every bit of history comes an interesting story, however, and these four are no exceptions – a lost doll, a community named after a mythical green beast, and a cottage that looks like Noah’s fabled Ark are all elements of La Jolla’s whimsical narrative.
La Jolla Women’s Club
The La Jolla Woman’s Club was founded in in 1894 as the Current Events Club, taking its present name in 1900. The social club was without a permanent home for the first twenty years of its existence, until philanthropist and club member Ellen Browning Scripps donated the site, design, and construction of the clubhouse to Club in 1914. The building was built by architect Irving Gill, and is a prime example of his eccentric, modern, and minimalist flair: simple geometric shapes, arches, and columns abound with very few embellishments or additions.
The interior of the building is also, interestingly, a testament to Gill’s alleged obsession with sanitation: there are no baseboards, moldings, or other design details, as Gill believed that these features only served to trap dust mites and dirt. Perhaps its the building’s straightforwardness that has led to it being named one of Gill’s most successful works.
Green Dragon Colony Site
The same Irving Gill was commissioned to build a home on Prospect Street in the 1890s by a German émigré named Anna Held Heinrich. The home he eventually crafted bore the typical skeleton of a West Coast bungalow, with one peculiarity: it had a room out back overlooking the ocean fashioned in the shape of a boat – or Noah’s Ark as it soon came to be known!
Construction on the cliff side property continued well into 1906 and by the time he was finished there were eleven small cottages – all of which Held dedicated to the arts. This grouping was the famous Green Dragon Camp, later re-named the Green Dragon Colony, and was the source of some of the finest art work to come from San Diego. Artists, musicians, and writers were allowed to live in the cottages for free.
Held lived at the Colony into the late 1930s, during which time she developed a strange hobby; she amassed more than 200 children’s dolls. At the center of this collection was a rather peculiar doll named Miss Olive Mishap. By the time she returned to Germany in 1983, she’d given most of her collection of dolls away including her favorite, Miss Mishap. Held died in England in 1941. Just last year, the doll resurfaced in the home of a local La Jollan; she had kept it in a her closet for years before matching the description to one in a local newspaper and returning it to the Historical Society. Aside from a wood beam with German inscription and an old stone fireplace from one of the cabins, strange Miss Olive is all that remains of a La Jolla era: the last remaining cottages of the Colony have since been demolished.
Red Rest and Red Roost
On Coast Blvd., there is a pair of dilapidated old cottages that have slowly been deteriorating over the last 30 years. Named the Red Roost and the Red Rest (also known as the Neptune and Cove Tea Room), they were built side-by-side in 1894 and looked similar to how they appear in the photo below, which was taken in the 70s. Almost a century later their current owner wanted to knock them down and build a resort hotel in their footprint. The Coastal Commission said no; the owner subsequently threw a temper tantrum, kicked out his tenants, boarded over the windows, and then allowed the cottages to fall into disrepair.
These two are among the oldest buildings in La Jolla and are the first of San Diego’s West Coast bungalows, a type of design that would inspire the later Arts and Crafts movement in architecture. Have you spotted them tucked away on Coast Blvd.?
The Old Scripps Building was built in 1909 and holds the distinction of being the oldest oceanographic research building in continuous use in the United States. It was the first building of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the nation’s first oceanographic institute, founded in 1903. The building was also designed by Irving Gill and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1982.
La Jolla is certainly rich with history, and there’s no shortage of strange and eccentric stories to accompany it; visit the Historical Society or the La Jolla Library to browse more old photographs and read up on the rest of what makes our little coastal town so unique. Have you been to any of these interesting historical landmarks in La Jolla?
[photos courtesy of lajollahistoricalsociety.com, sohosandiego.org, & sandiegohistory.org]
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