Fire destroys La Jolla’s historic Red Rest cottage and damages Red Roost

The remains of the Red Rest cottage at 1187 Coast Blvd. in La Jolla after an early-morning fire Oct. 26.
The remains of the Red Rest cottage at 1187 Coast Blvd. in La Jolla after an early-morning fire Oct. 26.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla’s Red Roost and Red Rest cottages, considered The Village’s oldest structures, were seriously damaged by fire early Oct. 26.

Crews responded just before 2 a.m., according to a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department report. Red Rest burned down, and Red Roost was damaged.

For the record:

1:07 p.m. Oct. 26, 2020This article originally misstated the date of the fire. It has been corrected to Oct. 26.

Flames consume the 1890s-era Red Rest cottage in La Jolla early Oct. 26.

“Firefighters were forced to fight the fire from the exterior because the structure was fully engulfed in flames,” according to San Diego Fire-Rescue. No one was inside.

The fire department’s Metro Arson Strike Team investigators were called to the scene and have called the cause of the blaze “undetermined.”

One firefighter suffered a minor nonburn injury and was not taken to a hospital.

The estimated cost of the damage to the structures is $175,000.

La Jolla's Red Roost and Red Rest cottages, built in 1894, are pictured in 2016.

The Red Rest and Red Roost were built in 1894 for George Leovy and Dr. Joseph Fishburn, respectively, at 1187 and 1179 Coast Blvd. They have stood virtually unmaintained for three decades in what preservationists have called “demolition by neglect.”

At the time of the fire, they were uninhabited and covered by protective tarps.

After almost 50 years of private ownership and holdings transfers, the Red Roost and Red Rest were acquired in 2014 by Denver-based Apartment Investment and Management Co. In 2018, AIMCO sold the property and the adjacent La Jolla Cove Suites to a group of investors in the hotel business.

The owners said in a statement to the La Jolla Light that “we are appalled and saddened about [the] fire affecting the Red Roost and Red Rest. We will work tirelessly to establish a comprehensive plan to move forward.”

Speaking for the owners, La Jolla architect Paul Benton said their intent was to preserve the property as much as possible until the cottages could be rehabilitated or restored.

La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox went to the site to examine the damage. “You can see all the way through to the back; the roof has collapsed, the steps in the front are burned. The damage looks, from the street, to be very severe,” he said.

Red Rest cottage burned in a fire early Oct. 26 on Coast Boulevard in La Jolla.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Fox said the two cottages, which have been on the San Diego, California and national historic registers since the 1970s, are “extremely important.”

“They are La Jolla’s oldest buildings on their original site, represent the arts and crafts vernacular of construction in La Jolla’s early period [and] were a prototype to the California bungalow style that grew to be so prominent in the 20th century, and their proximity to the Pacific Ocean all contribute to what makes them historically important,” Fox said.

It is “incumbent ... to reconstruct Red Rest and rehabilitate Red Roost,” he added. “It’s the responsibility of the city to enforce that it happens in accordance with local code.”

Benton said the owners are committed to restoring them to historical accuracy.

“They took on this project because they wanted to make the area better,” he said. “They aren’t going to break their resolve.”

Inquiries to the San Diego Historical Resources Board were not immediately returned. ◆