This Month in La Jolla History: South Molton Villa constructed, Lincoln memorial flagstaff, more

The first iteration of Ellen Browning Scripps' home, South Molton Villa, pictured in 1909, was built in 1897.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

This Month in History is a recurring feature in the La Jolla Light highlighting local happenings from yesteryear. If you are aware of events from any year in La Jolla history that deserve recognition, email

Feb. 8, 1897: Ellen Browning Scripps began construction on her home on Prospect Street in La Jolla, naming the house South Molton Villa (sometimes spelled South Moulton Villa) after the London street on which she was born in 1836, according to “This Day in San Diego History” by Linda Pequegnat.

Scripps also built two cottages on the property, one for her library and the other for visitors. Another cottage nearby, built in 1904, was owned by her half sister Eliza Virginia Scripps. That cottage, called Wisteria Cottage, is the current home of the La Jolla Historical Society.

South Molton Villa burned down in 1915 and Ellen Browning Scripps hired San Diego architect Irving Gill to build a new house, which was completed in 1916 and now houses the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Pequegnat wrote.

Other February events

Feb. 27, 1869: Two of the first pieces of land sold in La Jolla went to brothers Samuel and Daniel Sizer, according to Pequegnat. La Joya, as it was spelled then and meaning “the jewel” in Spanish, was part of San Diego’s pueblo lands.

The Sizer brothers bought two 80-acre lots for $1.25 per acre — $100 for each lot. The lots were a few blocks south of what is now The Village, in an area that now includes La Jolla High School.

The brothers began a vineyard of 5,000 grape vines and a large vegetable garden on their land, Pequegnat wrote. Daniel fell down a well and died in 1870, and Samuel left San Diego shortly afterward.

The Sizers’ land was part of a large parcel in La Jolla later acquired by a railroad company, Pequegnat wrote, though it would be the 1880s before any real development began in the area.

Feb. 12, 1909: La Jolla celebrated the centennial of former President Abraham Lincoln’s birth by erecting a flagstaff in the park that would later be known as Ellen Browning Scripps Park, Howard Randolph wrote in his 1955 book “La Jolla Year by Year.”

The Abraham Lincoln Centennial Memorial flagstaff is celebrated in La Jolla in 1909.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

A ceremony included a reading of the Gettysburg Address, Randolph wrote. The tablet at the base of the flagstaff reads “Abraham Lincoln Centennial Memorial … erected by the people of La Jolla.”

The flagstaff at the Abraham Lincoln Centennial Memorial has been removed, but the plaque at its base remains.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The flagstaff is gone, but the plaque laid in a boulder at the site remains. San Diego city staff was unable to discern when the flagstaff was removed.

Feb. 28, 1916: A “colonial evening” was held at the La Jolla Woman’s Club, Randolph wrote. Men and women were dressed as George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams, John Hancock, the wife of Alexander Hamilton and more. “The photographs ... proved that this was the most charming tableau,” Randolph wrote.

La Jolla Shores, pictured around 1920, celebrated the opening day of its residential development in 1926.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

Feb. 21. 1926: The La Jolla Shores residential development celebrated its opening day with a “well-advertised affair,” Pequegnat wrote. Nearly 10,000 people attended the grand opening of The Shores, and about 120 lots were sold totaling $240,000, or about $2,000 per lot.

Feb. 26, 1943: The Windansea Hotel, built in 1909 at the corner of Neptune Place and Playa del Sur, burned down, Pequegnat wrote. All the guests escaped except one.

The fire started in the kitchen around 1 a.m. The kitchen and all 22 guest rooms were destroyed, and the dining room and lounge sustained severe damage.

The hotel’s name came from a contest in which “Mrs. Montgomery Brackett won the prize of six dinners at the [hotel’s] restaurant” for coming up with Windansea, Pequegnat wrote. Windansea Beach is believed to have derived its name from the hotel.

The hotel was never rebuilt after the fire. ◆