Ellen Browning Scripps’ Carriage House gets face lift


By Ruth Varonfakis

La Jolla Historical Society

At a recent exhibit opening in the La Jolla Historical Society’s landmark Wisteria Cottage, paint contractor John Peek of Peek Brothers Fine Home Painting took a look around the property and noticed the 1894 Carriage House that once housed Ellen Browning Scripps’ horse-drawn carriage, then later her prized Pierce Arrow touring car, one of the first cars in La Jolla.

Peek got an idea so he called Mike Chism of Chism Brothers Painting and together they decided they would help bring the little structure back to life and offered to donate their time to complete the project.

The result of this renovation partnership is the brilliantly enhanced historic Carriage House painted with meticulous detail taking more than two months from removal of the old paint to the last brushstroke. If you think about it, John Peek and Mike Chism have given the community a gift vis a vis the La Jolla Historical Society that would make even Miss Scripps proud.

Peek and Chism consulted every step of the way with members of the Society’s Facilities Committee, along with Matthew Welsh, a La Jolla architect specializing in historic structures, and SOHO’s Bruce Coons.

“While not original to the Carriage House, the colors are contemporary to turn-of-the-century Arts & Crafts buildings in Southern California and their use complies with U.S. Department of Interior standards for historical structures,” John Bolthouse, the Society’s executive director said.

Peek credits board member Betty Vale and Bolthouse for choosing the historically correct colors that highlight the beautiful trim work. With paint provided by Dunn-Edwards Paints, the Sherwin Williams colors in “Roycroft Suede,” “Roycroft Vellum,” and “Roycroft Bottle Green” were used on the majority of the structure, with “Roycroft Copper Red” adding the final touch on the garage door fronting Eads Avenue.

“John (Peek) is the one who proposed that he and I work together to get the project completed,” Mike Chism said. “It made sense to be involved in a friendly low key project. He was a local guy growing up in La Jolla. I grew up in Mission Hills where we have been active with their historical committee, too. Plus, it’s just a good thing to be involved in the communities that support us.”

Chism Brothers Painting has been helping Las Patronas for years with their annual Jewel Ball. Due to a grant from Las Patronas, the Carriage House will be converted into the Society’s new archives.

Chism is no stranger to the Society. In the early 1980s when contractor George Dewhurst moved the beach cottage, which now serves as the Society’s office, library and archives, from its former location, Chism was there to lend a hand, too. Chism is also a longtime corporate member of the Society.

Over several weekends, Chism Brothers and Peek Brothers “had a wonderful time bringing back the little ‘gem’ of a building to its former glory in the heart of our ‘jewel’, La Jolla,” Peek said. “I particularly enjoy the Arts & Crafts house painting and wanted to share my abilities putting my shoulder to the wheel in appreciation of all the fine folks at the La Jolla Historical Society, who put in countless hours to ensure that we will all be able to enjoy our wonderful little town for years to come.”

Having worked on other buildings in the La Jolla community, including The Bishop’s School, St James by-the-Sea, St. James Hall, Darlington House and League House, the Woman’s Club and Stella Maris Academy, Peek said he always coveted the opportunity to work on the craftsman-style buildings originally owned by Miss Scripps, and now owned by the La Jolla Historical Society.

Peek said: “I was asked to drop off a quote for painting to John Bolthouse and when I did I found that my good friend, Mike Chism, was also giving a quote. It occurred to me then that we might join forces and donate our services as a big thank you to all our clients in La Jolla who have supported both our businesses over the years.”

The late Ellen Clark Revelle and her daughter, Mary Revelle Paci, donated all three structures, including the Carriage House and Wisteria Cottage, and the land once belonging to Ellen Browning Scripps, to the La Jolla Historical Society in July 2008.

The La Jolla Historical Society has a capital campaign underway to renovate the Wisteria Cottage into exhibit gallery spaces and to serve as a venue for education programs, lectures, meetings and special events.