June 13, 2003

Chula Vista’s historic architecture welcomes us to the past

By Pablo De Sainz

All cities change with time. This not only applies to the people who live there, but also to the culture, the fashion, and, of course, the design of the city’s architecture. These types of changes can be seen all over the United States, including our own backyard.

Such is the case in Chula Vista. A few decades ago, the city’s population was mainly composed of white Americans. Today, more than half of the city is of Hispanic descent.

“Historic San Diego” has a treat for those of you who are interested in the Chula Vista’s past, and would like to take a look at some of the beautiful architectural designs that have made this city a more beautiful city. The 2003 Chula Vista Historic Home Tour will take place this weekend, on June 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event includes a special tour of six Chula Vista’s homes, built from around 1912 to 1950, with different architectural styles ranging from Craftsman to Storybook Tudor, from Cape Cod to French Eclectic.

“In previous years we held our tour to coincide with Mother’s Day and National Preservation Week,” said John Parks, President of the Heritage Museum Society and owner of the historic Leo Christy House. “This year we’re celebrating National Preservation Week a little bit later and giving folks something fun to do during Father’s Day Weekend.”

In recent years, people’s interest in the tour has been great, according to Pamela Bensoussan, vice president of the Chula Vista Heritage Museum Society and owner of the historic Greg Rogers House.

“The response to the two previous tours was overwhelming,” she said. “The historic homeowners are pleased to organize this tour to bring recognition to Chula Vista’s historic neighborhoods. Last year people came from all over the country, from Los Angeles, and as far away as San Francisco to see Chula Vista’s historic houses. This tour is a way to showing pride in Chula Vista while promoting cultural heritage tourism to the city.”

And this is really a unique event: Guests will not only learn about Chula Vista’s past through historic homes, but will also educate themselves on how everybody can contribute to preserving our city’s heritage. Some of the lectures and workshops include: “Saving Millions with the Mills Act,” a workshop where you can learn how this property tax reduction for restoring your historic building benefits the homeowner and the neighborhood. Also included in the event is the “Stepping Back in Time” Lecture Series, “a fun, fast-paced lecture series featuring Chula Vista experts.” Some of the lectures include: “Chula Vista History and Architectural Heritage,” presented by Pamela Bensoussan; “Preserving Family Memories and Recording Oral Histories,” presented by John Panter, from the San Diego Historical Society; and Feng Shui for the Historic Home,” presented by Jill Galvez, owner of the Hadley Johnson House that’s featured on this tour.

The Hadley Johnson House deserves special mention here.

Originally built in 1949 by constructor Herbert Hadley Johnson, the house was built in a post-war Cape Cod architectural style. It is registered as Chula Vista historic Site #58. According to the biography provided on the tour, Mr. Johnson “was a prominent 20th century developer who reached statewide prominence. Hadley’s developments exist in: Victorville, Chula Vista, Del Mar, San Diego, and Sacramento. Other projects of Hadley’s include: the Cresta Way neighborhood of Peppertree, pre-WWII Naval bases around San Diego (including Fort Rosecrans), Chula Vista High School, the first hotel in Cabo San Lucas, and Club Las Cruces (partnership with Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, and Rod Rodriguez).”

The Hadley Johnson House has been featured in television and print advertising and programs, bringing production crews from Stu Segall productions, Univision, the San Diego Film Commission, and several international film crews to Chula Vista.

So, without a doubt, this event and tour is a must for those interested in Chula Vista’s past and love of architecture.

Remember, the Historic Home Tour is this weekend, Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Tour cost is $15 per person for members of the Heritage Museum Society or Friends of the Library, $20 for nonmembers. Discounts are available for groups and students. For more information visit www.HistoricSanDiego.org or call (619) 233-8833.

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