S.D. board gives historical designations to 3 La Jolla houses and an architect

This Frederick Liebhardt-designed house at 7224 Carrizo Drive was designated historic on Oct. 29.

In addition to designating three La Jolla houses as historic, the San Diego Historical Resources Board took an unusual turn when members granted an architect “master” status during their Oct. 29 meeting.

Two of the properties were designated on the board’s consent agenda without discussion.

All three properties were being viewed through the lens of designation Criteria C and D. Criterion C states a house merits historic designation because it “embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of natural materials or craftsmanship.”

Criterion D states a house merits designation because it is “representative of a notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman.”

The Frederick and Marianne Liebhardt House in the Country Club area was pulled from the consent agenda for full discussion of the criterion under which it would be designated.

City staff determined the property at 7224 Carrizo Drive would qualify under Criterion C. City planner Suzanne Segur said the house “features an asymmetrical front facade, a shed roof and wide overhanging eaves and exposed rafter tails.”

The home was built in 1951 by Frederick Liebhardt and added to in 1969, also by Liebhardt.

The Country Club-area house at 7224 Carrizo Drive, built in 1951.
The Country Club-area house at 7224 Carrizo Drive, built in 1951, “features an asymmetrical front facade, a shed roof and wide overhanging eaves and exposed rafter tails,” according to city staff.

“Other than the 1969 addition, very few modifications have been made” to the house since its construction, Segur said. “The house continues to convey the historic significance of the geometric style and retains integrity from its 1951 construction.”

However, HRB trustee Todd Pitman said the house also would qualify under Criterion D for its connection to Liebhardt.

“I think this [house] is one of the most important pieces of modern architecture in San Diego, certainly for residential,” Pitman said, noting that Liebhardt worked with architects Lloyd Ruocco and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Liebhardt worked with Ruocco “during the construction of [Ruocco’s] first house or shortly thereafter,” Pitman said. “That house was torn down, but these houses are almost brothers and sisters; they are similar in design and construction. The [Liebhardt] house also responds in a direct way to the site.”

“In working with Lloyd Ruocco, [Liebhardt] was bathed in some of the early modernism in San Diego,” Pitman continued. “His work is the most evocative of what I would call San Diego regional modernism. We talk a lot about imported design and imported designers … we don’t always do a great job of celebrating the people who best represent what is unique to San Diego. Liebhardt is one of those people. The house is the best representation of that.”

During his time working with Wright, Liebhardt traveled with him to Arizona and Wisconsin. “That makes [Liebhardt] unique in and of himself,” Pitman said.

In his motion to designate the property under Criterion D, Pitman said Liebhardt’s “more organic approach to construction methods of all eras can be seen in his extensive use of exposed woods, often native rock, exposed concrete as well as a direct expression of the structural systems of the building. Contextual landscape is a prime feature of the interior of the building, and thoughtful site orientation and extensive use of glass allows both privacy and connectivity to the outdoors. All these aspects of his architecture vernacular were used in the design of his own home.”

The rest of the board members unanimously agreed and voted in favor of the motion.

In designating the property historic under Criterion D, the board also granted master architect status to Liebhardt.

The board also unanimously approved designation under Criterion C.

Other designations

One of the two La Jolla properties designated historic on the consent agenda was Florence Palmer Spec House No. 2 at 7154 Olivetas Ave. in the Barber Tract neighborhood, under Criteria C and D.

According to a report associated with the submission for designation, the house “continues to convey the historic significance of the Tudor Revival style by embodying the historic characteristics associated with the style, including an irregular floor plan, one-and-a-half-story massing, exposed rafter tails, stucco, decorative half-timbering, clay pipe vents in the gable ends and fenestration consisting primarily of six-over-one double hung windows and eight-lite casement windows.”

The property was designed by master designer Palmer, who moved to La Jolla and established a practice in the 1920s.

The Helen Copley/Henry Hester House at 7932 Prospect Place also was designated under Criteria C and D.

A staff report states the house “embodies the distinctive characteristics through the retention of character-defining features of the mansard style with postmodern influences and retains a good level of architectural integrity from its 1987 period of significance. Specifically, the resource features standing-seam metal mansard roofs, arched ‘through-the-cornice’ windows, a setback entryway and reinterpretations of traditional design elements through distortions in proportions and scale. … [And it] is representative of a notable work of master architect Henry Hester and retains integrity as it relates to the original design.”

The Historical Resources Board’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 19, with a special meeting set for Friday, Dec. 4. Learn more at ◆