OH! LA JOLLA: 16 Jewel gems make Open House San Diego’s top-architecture tour

La Jolla’s Salk Institute campus, designed in 1965 by architect Louis Kahn’s, is one of the most iconic architectural structures in the world.

The doors to 16 La Jolla buildings will swing open for Open House (OH!) San Diego Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24. Entering its fourth year, the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s tour of 100-plus sites includes La Jolla for the first time as a distinct geographical entity.

The La Jolla sites were chosen by the La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) to represent a mix of architectural styles, periods and building uses.

“Many of the sites are things you couldn’t necessarily just walk into — the architectural firms and the Salk Institute,” said LJHS executive director Heath Fox. “For the ones you normally can get into, you’re going to learn more about them this way.”

OH! San Diego is affiliated with OH! Worldwide, which presents similar behind-the-scenes events in 42 international cities. In the U.S., only San Diego, New York, Chicago and Atlanta participate.


“I’m really glad that San Diego could be one of the cities chosen,” Fox said, “and we’re very happy to collaborate with the San Diego Architectural Foundation to represent the best in architecture that La Jolla has to offer.”

What follows is a list of the La Jolla sites in alphabetical order. (The information is a mix of Light research and facts provided to OH! San Diego by the current site owners.) Most sites are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24. Admission to all sites is free during the event. However, pre-registration is required to tour the Grande Colonial Hotel and both the Salk and J. Craig Venter institutes.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall St., (858) 454-5872
Architects: William Templeton Johnson (1921), William Lumpkins (1957) and David Singer (2006)


Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

The oldest cultural institution in La Jolla, this non-profit membership library is housed in three historic Spanish Revival-style buildings joined together, and features stylized arched windows, classical columns at the front portico and an iconic rotunda.

Dan McKinney YMCA
8355 Cliffridge Ave., (858) 453-3483
Architects: Unknown (1967) and Golba Architecture (2018)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

Longtime La Jolla resident Dan McKinney donated $5 million to add 25,000 square feet to La Jolla’s 50-plus-year-old YMCA. It now includes two new swimming pools, a splash pad for water play, a three-story play structure and studio for children, a community space with cafe and an outdoor fitness area.

Grande Colonial Hotel
910 Prospect St., (858) 454-2181
Architects: Richard Requa (1913), Thomas Shepherd (1925), Frank Stevenson (1928)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are required.)

The Colonial Apartments and Hotel, as it was originally known, is La Jolla’s oldest hotel and was a favorite of Groucho Marx, Charleston Heston and Gregory Peck (whose father once ran the onsite pharmacy). The property includes two designated historic landmarks: the Shepherd-designed Little Hotel by the Sea and the Garden Terraces. The original wood-framed hotel, by architect Richard Requa, was later moved to the rear of the property, where it still operates as part of the hotel today. The four-story main building, designed by Frank Stevenson in 1928, boasted the first fire sprinkler system west of the Mississippi.


IS Architecture
5645 La Jolla Blvd., (858) 456-8555
Architects: Unknown (1951), Ione Stietler (2018)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

Formerly a retail storefront, the IS Architecture building’s two side-by-side storefronts provide employees with a shared open-plan space to collaborate and more private areas to retreat to for focused work. The carefully crafted office design features an eclectic mix of contemporary and historic fixtures, such as a Danish modern light and repurposed Egyptian doors. IS Architecture specializes in historic restoration and custom residential architecture.

J. Craig Venter Institute
4120 Capricorn Lane, (858) 200-1800
Architects: ZGF Architects (2013)
Guided tours will be given every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are required. E-mail

The home of the J. Craig Venter Institute laboratory and research facility is a 44,000-square-foot response to the client’s challenge for a building that generates more energy than it consumes. The building contains some of the most innovative water conservation and energy-efficient systems available, and serves as a model for sustainable research buildings worldwide.

La Jolla Historical Society
780 Prospect St., (858) 459-5335
Architects: Unknown (1904), Irving Gill (1909), IS Architecture (2013)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)


The La Jolla Historical Society couldn’t be more appropriately housed than in Wisteria Cottage. Over the years, this Craftsman-style cottage — historically designated in 1982 — has served as a guest house, a school and a bookstore — with additions by master architect Irving Gill. The surrounding garden terraces with cobblestone walls feature the newly installed Venturi Pergola and Garden, while the former house’s interior has been adaptively reused for exhibition space. Despite the Society’s best efforts, however, the cottage’s original architect remains lost to time. It was built for Edith Seaman and her husband, George in 1904 but they only lived here a few months before mysteriously vanishing. The cottage was then acquired by Eliza Virginia Scripps, sister of La Jolla benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps, whom Edith met through their half-sister, Annie Scripps, at an Alameda sanatorium.

La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association
908 Kline St.Architects: Henry Hester (1964)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

Designed specifically as a meeting space for the La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association (REBA), the architecture’s mid-century modern lines are enhanced by the textural quality of the stacked masonry walls and the glamour of the book-matched polished marble slabs on the front facade. Wide planes of glass, oriented to the entry courtyard, allow for the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, while protecting them from the street.

The La Jolla Rec Center was financed by Ellen Browning Scripps and designed by Irving Gill in 1915.

La Jolla Recreation Center
615 Prospect St., (858) 552-1658
Architects: Irving Gill (1915)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

Originally called the La Jolla Playground and Community House and dedicated to the children of San Diego, the oldest standing rec center west of the Mississippi was conceived of and financed by Ellen Browning Scripps while she lived across the street. Its tilt-up concrete construction — by architect Irving Gill, who rebuilt Ellen’s original wooden house after it burned down in 1915 — was considered innovative for its time and became a hallmark feature of Gill’s work.

La Jolla Woman’s Club
7791 Draper Ave, (858) 454-2354
Architect: Irving Gill (1914)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

The Woman’s Club was also commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps and employed Gill’s tilt-up concrete construction and trademark arches. Its clean lines are enhanced by a series of pergolas, porches, courtyards and gardens that still surround the building. In 2017, the building won the esteemed Legacy Award from the San Diego chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which called it “the jewel in the crown of Irving Gill’s work.”

La Valencia Hotel and Spa
1132 Prospect St., (858) 454-0771
Architects: Reginald Johnson (1926)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

For La Jolla’s Pink Lady, architect Reginald Johnson envisioned a Mediterranean palace of pink, adorned with stucco and terracotta tile, overlooking lush, terraced gardens and the ocean beyond. The property’s details include hand-painted ceilings, Spanish-tiled steps and mosaic fountains. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Greta Garbo stayed here over the years, and La Jollan Raymond Chandler set part of his final novel, “Playback,” in the resort, which he renamed “Hotel Casa del Poniente.” Irving Gill’s adjacent Hotel Cabrillo was integrated into the LaV as its west wing in 1956.

LUCE et Studio Architects
5070 Santa Fe St., Suite A, (858) 274-0223
Architects: Unknown (1989)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

LUCE et Studio’s work spans multiple scales from regional master plans to custom furniture. Located along the Rose Canyon Bike Path, in a tilt-up concrete industrial warehouse structure, the studio encloses two large meeting spaces with 17-foot ceilings, a lounge and a large collaborative workspace.

Quint Gallery
5171 Santa Fe St., Suite H, (858) 454-3409
Architects: Unknown
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

This industrial gallery space has presented over 250 exhibitions during its 37 years of business. When Mark Quint took it over in 2016, he rebuilt the interiors and transformed the spaces to accommodate his vision for the gallery, which currently consists of seven spaces exhibiting contemporary art by emerging, mid-career and established artists.

Shepherd YMCA Firehouse
7877 Herschel Ave., (858) 551-9622
Architects: Harold Abrams (1936), Trip Bennett III (2015)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)

Fire Station Engine Company 13 began life as much more than a fire station. Simultaneously, it also housed La Jolla’s first city hall, a police station, a hospital room, and the water department until 1976. The City-designated historical landmark was designed in the Spanish-Mission Revival style for the Works Progress Administration. The building remained unused for about a decade until the YMCA leased it from the City in the ‘80s. The most recent renovation restored the firehouse’s exterior and added modern metallic finishes that contrast with the historical building’s facade.

Ellen Browning Scripps dedicated the bell tower of St. James by-the-Sea to her late sister, Eliza Virginia, with this plaque in 1928.

St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
743 Prospect St., (858) 459-3421​
Architects: Louis Gill (1929)
Guided tours will be given every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Enter via the front doors of the church. (Reservations are not required.)

This is the fourth Scripps-connected site on the tour. Eliza Virginia Scripps was instrumental in the 1909 founding of the first church on this site. (In 1929, it was moved to 627 Genter St., where it still stands today as the La Jolla Christian Fellowship.) In 1928, Ellen Browning Scripps laid the cornerstone of the current bell tower in memory of her sister, who died seven years earlier. Ellen selected Louis Gill as the architect (the nephew of Irving Gill, who rebuilt Ellen’s house after it burned in 1915). Gill drew inspiration for the iconic tower from the Campo Florida church in Mexico City.

The Salk Institute
10010 North Torrey Pines Road, (858) 453-4100
Architects: Louis Kahn (1965)
Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are required at or

The Salk Institute was established in 1960 by Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. Salk envisioned spacious, unobstructed laboratory spaces that could be adapted to the ever-changing needs of science, with building materials that were simple, strong, durable, and as maintenance-free as possible. The result: two mirror-image six-story structures, constructed of concrete, teak, lead, glass and steel, flanking a grand courtyard. The monumentality of architect Louis Kahn’s vision is particularly felt in the open courtyard of travertine marble, bisected by a ribbon of water which leads your eye to the ocean beyond. In 1992, the Salk building received a 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects.

7812 Girard Ave., (858) 454-0347
Architect: Unknown (1918)

Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Reservations are not required.)Established in 1896, Warwick’s is the oldest family-owned and operated bookstore in the United States. William T. Warwick opened the first Warwick’s in 1896 in Minnesota, moving it to Iowa — along with his wife and two sons — in 1916. Meanwhile, in La Jolla, E.L. Redding and his wife, Genevieve, founded Redding’s Book Store on Cave Street in 1902. In 1921, they relocated it to 7816 Girard Ave. After E.L. died in 1934, Genevieve operated Redding’s on her own. In 1939, William (who had a sister living in La Jolla) purchased Redding’s from Genevieve and renamed it Warwick’s. (The two later married.) In 1944, a rent dispute sparked a move to 1038 Wall St. (now part of the building that houses Whisknladle). In 1950, the store was passed down to Charles Warwick and his wife, Louise, who moved it back to its current — and approximate original — location. The third generation took over in 1964: Charles’ son, Bob, and his wife Marian. In 1976, they doubled the store’s size by acquiring the adjacent space previously occupied by Burriston’s Shoes. The couple’s daughter, Nancy, grabbed the baton in 2001 and still runs with it.

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