The Storied History of Brockton Villa

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In 1894, the very first beach cottages were built along a previously desolate hillside just above present day La Jolla Cove. Among them was this marvelous house, built as a weekend getaway by San Diego physician Dr. Joseph Rodes, who acquired the prime oceanfront site for a mere $165. The architecture is characteristic of early California bungalows, replete with single wall construction and vertical tongue-and-groove siding of pure heart redwood with cedar shingles. A hip roof and a wraparound veranda take full advantage of soothing Pacific sea breezes. The construction was quite simple then as compared to today’s sophisticated means. Unfortunately, some historic cottages remain in disarray above the cliffs on Prospect Street, but give visitors an idea of what the construction was like at the turn of the century.

In 1900, subsequent to Dr. Rodes’ death in 1896, the house was taken over by two sisters, Olivia Mudgett and Nellie Mills, allegedly La Jolla’s first real estate agents. Believe it or not, at the turn of the century it was a four-hour trip from San Diego to La Jolla, that is, until the railroad came. Consequently, weekend cottages were very alluring to people wanting to get away to the seaside community. Mrs. Mills rented out several beach cottages, including this one, which she named The Brockton Villa. It was named in honor of her New England heritage in Brockton, Massachusetts. Furthermore, as far as history tidbits go, the diaries of her husband, Anson Mills, contain numerous references to the cottage, one of which was: “Today, I painted at the Brockton….”

Sometime in the 1920s, the unique shell-inlaid fireplace was probably built. Based on the construction material used, especially the fire bricks and Portland cement, it may be noted that the rare, oversized abalone shells are impossible to find today due to over-fishing.

During the 1940s, the house was occupied for many years by Moreland MacPike, known to many in the community as the “Turtle Lady.” She was noted to be a very shy woman who had a performing turtle. If you believe the rumors, it was purported that she and her piano-playing reptile (no, turtles are not amphibians!) once entertained President Harry S. Truman at the White House. We wonder if it was a slow performance.

In 1968, Pannikin Copper, Coffee and Cookery opened at 1296 Prospect, specializing in freshly roasted coffee beans and copper cookware. Shortly after opening its doors, Cooper and Cookery gave way to tea and spice. Pannikin’s first coffee-roasting plant was located in a garage near the Cave Store just up the street from Brockton Villa. Today, Pannikin Coffee and Tea is recognized for being way ahead of its time.

During the 1990s, Pannikin obtained the lease to this historic but somewhat decrepit property. The idea was to renovate it and thus modify it for use as a restaurant. Pannikin founder Bob Sinclair had a robust commitment to preserving the community’s architectural legacy. It comes as no surprise that he also renovated and adapted other buildings for several of its locations. In 1993, Pannikin won the prestigious Orchid award for preservation of the distinctive restoration of the Brockton Villa cottage. Megan (Lee) Heine, daughter of the Pannikin family, took ownership of the Brockton Villa Restaurant in 1994, and the remaining Pannikin coffee business was sold to outside interests.

In 2001, Brockton Villa celebrated the 10th anniversary with 300,000 Coast Toasts sold! In 2005, Megan and her husband Dave expanded their family of restaurants into the Bird Rock area with “Beaumont’s Neighborhood Eatery.” Beaumont’s features an extensive grill menu, including dinner & weekend breakfast, takeout lunches, a full bar and live entertainment.

In 2006, the La Jolla Historical Society honored the Brockton Villa at their 15 Year Anniversary celebration. Meanwhile, over in thn budding Bird Rock, Brockton’s sister restaurant, Beaumont’s Neighborhood Eatery, celebrated its first anniversary. These days, the aforementioned live music, full bar, lunch takeout bags, as well as nightly dinner and weekend breakfasts has made Beaumont’s a true local favorite.

Brockton Villa remains an important reminder of the architectural past which is very much alive and well in the La Jolla community: simple and charming, blessed by the Pacific Ocean breezes, the ever abundant sun, and the warm sand that has seen countless toes sink into its depths.

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