The House Next Door

 

Gridley Ranch House, Diamond Street, 1968

Gridley/McConnell Ranch House, 1790 Diamond Street, 1968

An old 2-story frame house with white siding, green trim, a shingle roof and a brick chimney stood next door to our home on Diamond Street during the 1950s and 60s. Widening and paving the street had cut into the front yard leaving a badly eroded bank down to the sidewalk. An unpaved driveway cut through this bank on the east side and led to a garage at the back of the lot. There was a patio with a large brick outdoor fireplace or incinerator in the yard and a fish pond with large goldfish by the side of the house.

Our lot and the lot that this old house sat on were separated by a cement-block wall with bricks on top. The unpaved alley that ran behind both of our lots all the way between Jewell and Lamont Street was also blocked by a wooden fence along this same line, and by another fence further west, so this portion of the alley was blocked off from either end. We always wondered why.

It turns out that the cement-block wall and the fence in the alley marked the boundary between two historical Pacific Beach ‘acre lots’, and the blocked section of alley was a consequence of the different ways these two acre lots had been developed. When the Pacific Beach Company first sold lots to the public in December 1887 their map of Pacific Beach was a grid of north-south streets and east-west avenues which divided the entire area into residential blocks of 40 lots each. However, the Pacific Beach Company found that most people preferred to buy lots in a central corridor centered around Grand Avenue, which was also the route of the railroad to San Diego. To encourage sales in the outlying areas to potential farmers and ranchers, the company filed an amended subdivision map in 1892 in which most of the area south of Reed Avenue and north of Diamond Street (then Alabama Avenue) was consolidated into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres each, eliminating many of the original streets and avenues. In our area, Missouri Avenue and Jewell and Kendall Streets (then Ninth and Tenth Streets) were removed and Acre Lot 48 formed from the land between Diamond and Chalcedony (then Idaho) and what had been Jewell and the east side of Kendall on the original map. Acre Lot 49 was the land east of Kendall between Chalcedony, Diamond and Lamont (Eleventh) Street.

The acre lots went on sale in 1892 for $100 an acre and both of these lots were quickly sold. Mary E. Rowe purchased Acre Lot 49 and developed a lemon ranch on the property. Her 2-story ranch house stood near the center of the lot, where the apartments at 1828-1840½ Missouri Street are now (the large palm tree in front of these apartments once stood in front of the Rowe ranch house). Mrs. Rowe had moved to Pacific Beach in 1889 and her daughters Evangeline and Mabel had been students at the San Diego College of Letters. Her lemon ranching venture began successfully and by 1897 the San Diego Union singled her out  in reporting that ‘the ladies of Pacific Beach were justly proud of their ranches’; hers was then valued at $9000.

Mrs. Rowe moved to Los Angeles in 1900 and left the lemon ranch in the hands of her son Percy. However, by then the lemon business had seen its day and the new century brought another ‘boom’ in residential development. In 1903 Acre Lot 49 was sold to John and Julia Hauser and the Hausers re-subdivided the property into residential lots. The map for Hauser’s Addition reinstated Missouri Street and re-established the original two blocks of 40 25 X 125 foot lots which had preceded the acre lot. Like the originals, and most other blocks in Pacific Beach, these blocks included a 20-foot wide alley. Julia Hauser died in 1937, John Hauser remarried in 1939, and in 1950 my parents bought lots 39 and 40 of Block 2, Hausers Addition, from Martha Hauser, his widow. Block 2 was between Diamond and Missouri Streets and lots 39 and 40 were at the southwest corner, on Diamond Street adjoining Acre Lot 48.

By contrast, Acre Lot 48 has never been re-subdivided and was broken up piecemeal over the years into the irregularly-sized lots that exist today. In 1892 Hannah Cogswell had acquired the western half and Milton Trumbauer the eastern half; Trumbauer’s deed specified that his property had a frontage of 290 feet on ‘Alhambra’ (Alabama) Avenue, a depth of 680 feet and contained 4.65 acres. Today this would be from the cement-block wall half way down the block toward Jewell Street, and from Diamond Street to Chalcedony. Trumbauer did not hold on to his half of the lot for long; by 1894 county records show that the E 1/2 of Acre Lot 48 was owned by Fannie B. Gridley.

The old house on the property was built for Mrs. Gridley in 1896 by E. C. Thorpe, the contractor (and lemon rancher) who was also the husband of the famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe. Mrs. Thorpe’s 1896 diary mentions that he secured the contract to build the house on January 6, commenced work on January 13 and that it was finished by March 11, 1896, despite occasional delays due to rain. The status of the Gridleys’ house was also reported in the Pacific Beach Notes column of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune; on February 24, 1896 the note was that Mrs. Gridley’s house was nearing completion and would soon be ready for occupancy and on March 15 Mrs. Gridley was said to be moving into her new home. These reports are confirmed by county records; beginning in 1897 the ‘value of improvements’ on the E 1/2 of Acre Lot 48 ($250) corresponded to about what other houses in Pacific Beach were assessed at in those days.

The Gridleys remained in the house for six years and were noted in other Pacific Beach Notes; in 1899 Mr. Gridley was thrown from his carriage and badly injured in a runaway accident and in 1900 Miss Kate Gridley left for Stanford University on Sunday’s steamer. In 1902 they sold their half of the acre lot to Francis Kinney and in 1903 Kinney sold to J. W. Stump. The Stumps were prominent in organizing the Pacific Beach Methodist Church, which was then located at the corner of Lamont and Emerald, just a block away. When Mrs. Stump’s health compelled them to move in 1906  a procession of about forty people from the church marched over for a surprise party bearing food and gifts.

The Stumps also initiated the haphazard re-subdivision of Acre Lot 48 by splitting off the southeast quarter of their eastern half, where their house stood, and selling the remainder to Sterling Honeycutt. Honeycutt was a prominent real estate developer in Pacific Beach at the time and he proceeded to carve up his portion of the property into residential lots, while also setting aside land for the westward extension of Missouri Street and the alleys laid out in Hausers Addition to the east.

The southeastern corner of Acre Lot 48 was put on the market by real estate agents Asher & Littlefield who placed the following ad in the February 11, 1907, Union:

Here’s a Money Maker

At Pacific Beach, a beautiful southeast corner, 125X270, with a nice 8-room house, bath, hot and cold water, fireplace, etc.: barn, chicken house, 30 lemon trees in full bearing, 5 peach trees, 11 guava bushes, 2 fig trees, flowers, shrubs, etc. This is on Diamond avenue, and only one block from Hotel Balboa. Would be a good buy at $5000. Our price is only $4000.

(Hotel Balboa was the most recent occupant of the defunct San Diego College of Letters buildings; they were taken over by the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910 and demolished to make room for Pacific Plaza in 1958.)

This 125 X 270 parcel, a strip 125 feet wide on the east line of the lot between Diamond Street and Missouri, including the house, barn, chicken house and fruit trees, was sold in 1906 to Ralph Houck. In 1912 it was sold again, to Kate McConnell. The McConnell family, Thomas and Elizabeth and their 9 children, had immigrated from Ireland to Iowa in 1881. In 1897, one of the sons, also named Thomas, had moved to Pacific Beach and began buying agricultural properties. In 1900 he had been joined by his father, sister Kate and brother John, and the McConnell family became well-established in Pacific Beach.

Although Miss McConnell granted easements to Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company and San Diego Consolidated Gas & Electric Company for a telephone line and natural gas pipeline above and under her property in what would later become the alley, the parcel between Diamond and Missouri remained intact for decades until she sold to Arthur and Marion Hansen in 1946. Within a year the Hansens had divided the property into three parcels and sold them off. The east 65 feet of the south 125 feet, between Diamond Street and the future alley, including the old house, was sold to Roy and Catherine Pridemore in 1947. The west 60 feet of the south 125 feet was also sold in 1947, to Florence Dreher. The Pridemores acquired Ms. Dreher’s  lot in 1948 and in 1950 sold off the west 50 feet of their combined property while retaining the east 75 feet. These two properties thus came to resemble normal Pacific Beach residential parcels made up of 25 X 125-foot lots.

The remaining parcel, the north 145 feet of the east 125 feet, between these properties and Missouri Street, was much larger and was initially advertised as suitable for a motel. While other lots carved out of larger tracts in Acre Lot 48 had set aside land for public alleys and even for Missouri Street, there was no such exception for this parcel. The south 20 feet stood in the way of the 20-foot-wide alleys on either side and fences were built to block access from the alleys. Raymond and Clara Butchart purchased it from the Hansens in 1947 and in 1965 they finally granted the city an easement over that 20-foot strip. The fences were then removed and the alley opened and paved from Jewell to Lamont Streets.

The house itself, one of the last remaining ranch houses from Pacific Beach’s acre lots, stood for a few years after that. In 1968 the property was sold and the old buildings demolished and replaced by a 12-unit apartment complex, the Tiffany, which now practically fills the 75 X 125 foot lot. Our former home, remodeled with the addition of a second story, has also been sold. The two properties are still divided by a cement-block wall.

 

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Gridley/McConnell House

5 thoughts on “The House Next Door”

  1. This was the house my grandma lived in from about 1958 until 1968. Her name was Mary Beatrice Blankenship (born Sumner).

  2. Yes, the Blankenships were our neighbors. Was Hope your mother? I believe she lived there some of the time too.

  3. I remember the outdoor fireplace in the back of the house on the corner. A teenage girl used to make popcorn in a huge cast iron skillet for the neighborhood kids. I lived at that location from 1946 until 1951.

  4. Yes, my mother was Hope Blankenship ( married name Beason ) I’m so sorry that I didn’t see your comment for so long, I hope you get this message.
    And yes we did indeed live with Grandma for a while in this house, I was so young at the time that I can’t remember all the stories I heard while living there so any information you could give me about the house and why grandma left it would be greatly appreciated. ( I remember being told that the city basically forced her to leave by using city ordinances that would make it too expensive to upgrade to stay there.) I do remember dirt clod fights in the Browns Academy dirt lot and the massive pepper tree that was tearing up the street with it’s roots. Unfortunately my mother passed away in 2012 so I took up her Quest to document her family’s history. What I found was amazing and I would love to tell you about it. My mother was the last of that generation of Blankenship’s to pass away although the Blankenship name still lives in San Diego through their children although one branch bares the last name Beason. Any recollections, photos, stories about the Blankenship or the house on Diamond Street would be greatly appreciated. I am on Facebook under William Francis Beason,
    I was named after two of my uncles William the oldest and Fran the second-oldest comma although the name Francis we bother share was honoring his 4th and my 5th great grandfather’s name. Francis Lewis, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. ( one of the stories I do remember from childhood that turned out to be true ) please please please contact me…..
    William Francis Beason

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