Gillispie School converting home to science building

By Pat Sherman

A long neglected home at 7415 Fay Ave. that had neighbors grumbling over its shoddy condition is getting a makeover, thanks to The Gillispie School.

The 1906 house — located directly adjacent to the independent learning institution’s new multimillion-dollar sports field (which opened last year at 7411 Fay Ave.) — is being converted to a classroom for science instruction at Gillispie.

The school has submitted nomination papers to have the building listed as a local historic resource, approval of which the City of San Diego’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) has recommended (a final decision will be made during an HRB hearing at the end of June).

Gillispie School board trustee Mike Ryan, a parent who also chairs the school’s building and grounds committee, said a historic designation is “perfectly in line with what we want to do because we want to retain that vintage aspect of the house.”

Ryan said only “simple repairs” will be made to the exterior of the structure, such as fixing broken beams on the porch for safety reasons.

“They don’t prescript what color you paint it, but we cannot make any physical changes to the outside of the building,” Ryan said, noting that paint will likely be in early 20th century period colors.

A cottage at the rear of the property built sometime in the mid-1940s has already been restored and is being used as a student art


(French for workshop).

The remainder of the property, which Gillispie purchased for $1.225 million in July 2013, will be used as a sustainable garden that students will maintain.

“The addition of indoor and outdoor classroom space dedicated to science and sustainability will allow creativity and ingenuity to soar at Gillispie,” said Head of School Alison Fleming. “The classroom area will be designed as flexible ‘maker space,’ which is an innovative way for students to utilize square footage and building materials for hands-on experiences and invention.”

The science building will be delineated from the sidewalk with similar brick and wrought iron as that fronting the adjacent sports field, Ryan said, albeit at a lower height.

Trees will be planted in the right-of-way between the sidewalk and street, as well as a couple of larger trees in the front yard for students to sit under.

Painting will likely begin in the next few weeks, followed by the addition of landscaping and a drip irrigation system.

Work on the property should be complete by Aug. 1, so that the classroom can be used during the fall semester.

“You’ll see a flurry of work in the month of June because we’re trying to get it done so that the landscapers can have most of the month of July to get the landscaping done,” Ryan said.