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Century-old Torrey Pines Lodge slated for major renovation as new conservancy president steps in

Torrey Pines Lodge was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1922.
Torrey Pines Lodge was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1922 and is now the ranger station and visitor center for the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
(Rick Gulley)

Nestled among the trees of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a lodge that serves as a lesser-known feather in the hat of famed La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.

The lodge is less visible than (but predates) the Children’s Pool that she funded and hosts fewer people than the hospitals that bear her name, but it nevertheless was important to Scripps.

One hundred years ago, Scripps financed construction of Torrey Pines Lodge, and it was completed in February 1923, according to its website. The architects were Herbert Lewis Jackson and Richard Requa. In addition to his work for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition at San Diego’s Balboa Park, Requa was a leader in bringing Spanish Revival-style architecture to San Diego and La Jolla.

The adobe-style lodge — not to be confused with The Lodge at Torrey Pines hotel — opened as a restaurant with “stumpy tables, chintz curtains, lampshades made of Torrey pine needles and a jukebox,” according to the website.

La Jolla Historical Society historian Carol Olten said Scripps’ “viewpoints and interest came from the fact that she loves the native things to Southern California and southern region. She had a great deal of interest in the flora and fauna we have. That was one of the reasons she gave money for the preserve and the lodge.”

“You can just imagine what it was like in the 1920s. It’s quite extraordinary,” said Rick Gulley, incoming president of the Torrey Pines Conservancy, which promotes preservation of Torrey pine trees and the State Natural Reserve. “The road inside the park was the main road from Los Angeles to San Diego, so it’s a historic route. The lodge was built as a restaurant, so people going from L.A. to San Diego would stop there.”

Little is known about when and why the restaurant closed, Olten said.

The building, at 12500 N. Torrey Pines Road, is now the ranger station and visitor center for the reserve.

In coming months, a fundraising campaign will be launched to renovate the lodge to the tune of $3 million to $4 million.

“The roof, the front facade, the interior/exterior walls all need replacing and the perimeter walls need repair,” Gulley said. “Because it’s adobe, that makes the restoration a little more difficult. But the charm of the place … and the views are extraordinary. The 100th anniversary [of the opening] is next year, and we hope to have significant fundraising done by 2023.”

The renovation project is a major goal for Gulley in his presidency of the Torrey Pines Conservancy, which he assumes on Sunday, Feb. 27.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is “an island of extraordinary beauty in an urban sea,” says Rick Gulley of the Torrey Pines Conservancy.
(Peter Jensen)

“Ellen Browning Scripps saved that whole Torrey Pines reserve,” he said. “She did so much for San Diego, and she saved the area from being destroyed. I want to restore this gift she gave to San Diego.”

Gulley also has a goal to “preserve the reserve and work with the state parks system and rangers to maintain the reserve’s trails and nature programming and the Torrey Pines Docent Society. We work with the Docent Society as the fundraising arm.”

Gulley got involved with the conservancy after a serendipitous hike with a friend four years ago.

“We enjoyed it so much and there was postcard box at the reserve, so we took one of the postcards and it was an invitation to join the conservancy, so we did,” Gulley said. “I have hiked there every Thursday ever since.”

Rick Gulley is the incoming president of the Torrey Pines Conservancy.
(Courtesy of Rick Gulley)

Gulley, a retired insurance broker, moved to San Diego from Louisiana in 1972 and lived in La Jolla for 25 years before moving to Carmel Valley.

He said he was drawn to the “combination of the ocean and the trails and the trees” at the 1,500-acre Torrey Pines reserve. “It’s an excellent opportunity for exercise outside … with beautiful scenery, good terrain, good trails that are well-maintained. It’s an island of extraordinary beauty in an urban sea. You’ll see dozens of plant species and many different views of the ocean and the trees.”

“We love to have people become members of the conservancy” to help with everyday fundraising and the lodge renovation, he said. Learn more at torreypines.org. ◆