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Unusual Edgar Ullrich-designed house in La Jolla is designated historic

The Edgar Ullrich-designed house at 6001 Bellevue Ave. in La Jolla was designated historic on Oct. 28.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A house in La Jolla’s Upper Hermosa area designed by master architect Edgar Ullrich in the 1920s earned historic designation during the San Diego Historical Resources Board’s Oct. 28 meeting.

It was approved on the consent agenda, meaning there was no presentation or discussion.

While there was no debate over whether the property at 6001 Bellevue Ave. should be designated under Criterion D (indicating notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman), there was some concern that other criteria were not considered.

A research report prepared by cultural landscape specialist Vonn Marie May — representing the applicant, Edwards Family Trust — concluded that the house also is significant under Criteria B (indicating a property is identified with people or events significant in local, state or national history) and C (indicating a property 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).

City staff determined that the site is a significant historical resource for its connection to Ullrich but not under the other criteria.

The house “retains integrity as it relates to the original design,” the staff report states. “The house is significant as an example of Ullrich’s work as the tract architect in the La Jolla Hermosa subdivision in which he designed large luxury homes. Specifically, the resource is notable as a rare example of Ullrich’s work outside of the strict confines of early-20th-century revival styles in which he combined several different architectural styles to design a custom home for his clients,” Karl Kenyon and his wife, Marian Brown Kenyon, who lived in the residence from 1927 to 1935.

Of note was the use of shingles — uncommon for the architect.

May said the house “is slathered in shingles,” making it “the strangest house I’ve ever seen Ullrich do.”

The staff report states that after building the house, Ullrich became the tract architect for La Jolla Hermosa, “designing its earliest houses, landscaping much of the tract and reviewing proposed house designs.”

He had a hand in 15 houses in the area, according to the report, which says “his style for this subdivision emphasized color coordination, random tile roofing with noticeable mortar, distinctive chimneys, window grilles and wood shutters with pegs.”

Ullrich, born in Colorado Springs, Colo., reportedly came to San Diego to design the Casa de Mañana hotel in
La Jolla, which became the Casa de Mañana senior-living facility. The Historical Resources Board established him as a master architect in 1987 with the designation of Casa de Mañana as a historic resource. Since then, HRB has designated 10 of Ullrich’s buildings.

During his career, Ullrich designed more than 25 major structures in La Jolla, including churches and public and academic buildings.

While agreeing that the Bellevue property should be designated for its connection to Ullrich, May spoke during public comments at the meeting about the importance of the Kenyons to local history and questioned whether designating the house under Criterion B should be reconsidered.

According to the staff report: “Karl Kenyon worked in the banking industry, and the institutions he presided over as president and vice president provided funding that aided in La Jolla’s development. In his personal life he was an active member of La Jolla society ... including helping to found the La Jolla Country Club in 1927 and later be one of its presidents. While Kenyon was vice president and treasurer and director of La Jolla Properties Inc., the company helped to develop the La Jolla Hermosa neighborhood in the late 1920s.”

Marian Brown Kenyon “was so aware of old La Jolla that when old La Jolla was surveyed in the 1970s, the surveyor went to Marian,” May said. “She knew all the houses and had all the information.”

However, the Kenyons did not live in the Ullrich house when their most significant contributions to local history were made. Thus, the board moved to designate the house as historic only under Criterion D for its connection to Ullrich.

May said she felt “it’s very strict to say they have to have lived in the house when they achieved those great accomplishments.”

Benefits of historic designation include availability of the Mills Act program for reduced property tax for owners to help maintain, restore and rehabilitate historic properties; use of the more flexible Historical Building Code; flexibility in other regulatory requirements; use of the historical conditional use permit, which allows flexibility of use; and other programs that vary depending on site conditions and the owner’s objectives. However, houses cannot be significantly modified once they are designated historic.

The San Diego Historical Resources Board meets monthly. To learn more, visit sandiego.gov/development-services and click on the “Public hearings, meetings and notices” tab. ◆