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La Jolla Historical Society presents Jewel Awards to Country Club and Barber Tract houses

This house at 7766 Hillside Drive, originally designed by Thomas Shepherd in 1928, won the Jewel Award for rehabilitation.
(Courtesy)

It isn’t often that a house that cannot be designated historic earns the accolades of the La Jolla Historical Society. But as part of the Historical Society’s 2021 Landmark Steering Committee Jewel Awards, one such house in the Country Club area was granted an award for its historically respectful rehabilitation.

In addition, a house in the Barber Tract neighborhood was given the Jewel Award for excellence in historic restoration.

The Landmark Steering Committee brings forward nominations for the awards that are voted on by the Historical Society board of directors. The criteria for selecting winners are based roughly on the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

The award for both recipients is a tray with a painting of their house on the base.

The Jewel Awards were launched last year, but a ceremony could not be held due to COVID-19-related restrictions on gatherings. This year, an outdoor ceremony was held March 12 at the historically designated home of Ann Craig, with attendance limited to those involved with the houses or associated with the La Jolla Historical Society.

The La Jolla Historical Society presented its Jewel Awards ceremony March 12 with limited attendance at the historically designated home of Ann Craig.

“In La Jolla, when citizens take time and talent and money to invest in these historic properties rather than tear them down, it’s so important to the legacy of our historic architecture, so we felt we needed a way to recognize them,” said Seonaid McArthur, chairwoman of the Landmark Steering Committee.

Hillside Drive house rehabilitation

The Jewel Award for rehabilitation was given to Linda Sherman and Jim Lantry for their work on their property at 7766 Hillside Drive.

The home, originally designed by Thomas Shepherd in 1928, had undergone several changes by the time Sherman and her now-late husband bought it in 1986, and it could not be restored to historical accuracy. After her children had grown, she and current husband Lantry decided to renovate the house to return more closely to the original Shepherd design. They hired architect Ione Stiegler to redesign the facade and Grunow Construction to put the design into effect.

“The award for rehabilitation is for structures in La Jolla that might not be historically designated but are historically important and to highlight the talented people that have come forward and bring them back to life and make them shine again,” McArthur said.

“We wanted to see if we could change the structure a bit to make it more like a Tom Shepherd,” Sherman said. “The house means so much to me, I’ll have to go out feet first, so there was nothing we wouldn’t do to keep it as historically intact as possible, even though it could never be historically designated. We wanted it restored to what Tom Shepherd would have wanted.”

As an avid antique collector, she added that she “feels like a custodian” of historical things. “I’m just taking care of these things until someone else does. And I feel that way about the house, too — that I’m taking care of it until the next generation comes along to take care of it. I feel fortunate that we found it. We’ve done our best to be worthy of it.”

Florence Palmer Spec House restoration

The 1927 house known as “Florence Palmer Spec House No. 2” received the Jewel Award for historic restoration.
The 1927 house known as “Florence Palmer Spec House No. 2” is at 7154 Olivetas Ave. It received the Jewel Award for historic restoration.
(Courtesy)

Amy Waterhouse and Ben Reineman, owners of a 1927 house known as “Florence Palmer Spec House No. 2” at 7154 Olivetas Ave., received the Jewel Award for historic restoration for their care in getting the Barber Tract house restored and designated historic.

The house was designed by master designer Palmer, one of the few female architects working in La Jolla in the 1920s. Before Waterhouse and Reineman bought the small Tudor Revival home in 2016, significant modifications had been made to render it unworthy of historic designation.

However, they worked with Vonn Marie May, a principal at Cultural Land Planning & Research, who created a report needed to determine what it would take to get the house designated.

“[May] wrote the report and sent it in, and the city said there were parts of the house that were not historic, so we worked to restore those things and we reapplied for historic designation,” Waterhouse said. “We got everything back to how it looked in the 1920s. We had to use pictures to measure window sizes and dimensions. Our front window is tiny now, but it’s tiny in the photo, too — just large enough for a face to see out.”

The application for historic designation was approved last year.

“We knew we weren’t going to change the house, but now the people around us can know this house isn’t going to change,” Reineman said.

Waterhouse said preserving the house’s historicity was important to them because “there are all these houses around us that are really special and I would hate to see the neighborhood change. If someone were to tear this house down and build something larger, it wouldn’t have the same feel.”

Fellow Barber Tract resident Susan Comden, who nominated the couple for the award, said at the ceremony: “The big concern we all have … is what’s happening to these charming houses. Generally ... the people that buy them have the tendency to level these homes and put up these monster houses. But much to our pleasant surprise, this wonderful couple bought the home and decided that they were going to work with the [San Diego] Historical Resources Board and Vonn Marie May to try and see if the home could be designated. ... They did a lot.”

Learn more about the La Jolla Historical Society at lajollahistory.org. ◆