La Jolla house owned by military ‘pioneer’ is designated historic

The Donald and Joyce Schmock/Sim Bruce Richards House at 7345 Remley Place in La Jolla was approved for historic designation.

When the San Diego Historical Resources Board took up the matter of designating the Donald and Joyce Schmock/Sim Bruce Richards House at 7345 Remley Place in La Jolla’s Country Club area during its June 25 meeting, the issue wasn’t whether to designate the house but under what criteria.

The item originally was listed on the consent agenda for approval under Criterion C, which indicates “distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction” and Criterion D, which indicates “work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman.”

Two La Jolla houses were on the San Diego Historical Resources Board docket June 25: one, at 1802 Amalfi St., was quickly designated historic; the other, at 1174 Prospect St., was “reluctantly” not designated after a presentation from the city.

But trustee Ann Woods wanted to pull discussion of the property for a full presentation. She said that while she agreed with a staff recommendation to designate the house based on Criteria C and D, she also wanted to discuss whether the project would qualify under Criterion B, which indicates people or events significant in local, state or national history — in this case, La Jolla resident Joyce Cunningham Schmock.

A Historical Resource Research Report stated that in 1942, Schmock enlisted in the Army, becoming part of the first group of trainees in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC, later WAC). In 1952, when the house at 7345 Remley Place was built, she had become an Army major and was helping to organize the Army’s Organized Reserve Corps School at Fort Rosecrans in Point Loma. She continued to live at the house until she died in 2008.

“I realize there is not a lot of info about her in the report, but what is here is really compelling,” Woods said. “She was one of the first group of women officer candidates in 1942. She signed up for the military because her mother didn’t have sons to send to the war. … I don’t know how many women majors there were in the military during this period, but I think she’s exceptional and should be recognized in some way.”

Urbana Preservation and Planning founding principal Wendy Tinsley Becker, representing Donald and Joyce Schmock’s son Johnathan, added: “We felt Mrs. Schmock was a strong woman … and we would be remiss if we did not try to put her legacy forward with this. We view her as a pioneer and an impressive woman from the midcentury period.”

However, staff said that crucial period in Schmock’s military history was before she commissioned the house’s construction in 1952, and therefore did not recommend its designation under that criterion.

As a compromise, Woods suggested adding Donald and Joyce Schmock’s military ranks to the name of the house on the historic register (Donald’s was Lt. Commander).

While some were on the fence about designation under Criterion B, there were no objections to renaming the property to reflect the military ranks. And there was no objection to designation under Criteria C and D.

A report to the city of San Diego about the property states, regarding Criterion C, that it “embodies the distinctive characteristics ... of the Organic Geometric style and retains integrity to its 1952-1963 period of significance. Specifically, the resource features exposed rafters, polygon design motifs, natural materials, angular massing, an asymmetrical facade, complex roof form and site-specific design.”

Regarding Criterion D, the report says the house “is representative of a notable work of master architect Sim Bruce Richards and retains integrity as it relates to the original design. Specifically, the resource is a notable example of Richards’ use of natural materials, angular massing, complex roof forms and site-specific design.”

The San Diego Historical Resources Board next meets Thursday, July 23. It isn’t known whether any La Jolla properties will be up for designation. ◆