La Jolla manse once owned by Copleys undergoing significant rehabilitation

By Pat Sherman

A spacious Tudor Revival-style brick home the late newspaper publisher David Copley purchased for his mother, Helen Copley, to lift her spirits while she was in ill health, is undergoing a significant rehabilitation that should be complete early next year.

In 1997, La Jolla Realtor Joan Henderson Brown, then of Westland Properties, sold the property for $975,000. Following a major interior renovation, her clients resold it to David Copley in 1998 for $1,525,000.

“They did some pretty brilliant things,” Brown said.

Despite the work, which included new paint and landscaping, the property still needed a new kitchen and other finishing touches. “We had heard that Helen wasn’t feeling well. David thought it would be a nice little project for her,” said Brown, noting that the property was close to a mansion the Copleys owned two blocks down, at Virginia Way and Ivanhoe Avenue.

Architect Laura DuCharme Conboy, who designed the rehabilitation and sits on the La Jolla Historical Society’s board of directors, said the home will be used as a single-family residence and its historic character preserved (including the restoration of an original slate roof that was replaced several decades ago with red-hued shingles).

However, she said, via e-mail, “The house has not been designated as historic and we do not know for certain what determination the (city’s) Historical Resources Board (HRB) would give it, but we have proceeded on the assumption that the original character of the house is worth preserving and, while incorporating 21st century necessities, endeavored to remain consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties for Rehabilitation.”

Working with historian and attorney Scott Moomjian (who, ironically, has been hired to refute the historicity of many older La Jolla structures when owners seek to redevelop them) it was determined that the home at 1419 Virginia Way had no master architect or builder associated with it.

“If anything, it possessed the characteristics of a certain style,” Conboy said.

All exterior modifications to the existing structure have been limited to portions not visible from the street, she said.

A new, two-story structure being added at the rear of the property will include a three-car garage, laundry room and second-story bedroom. Though the roof slope and material (slate) will be the same for the addition, as well as its scale and proportions, concrete will be used in place of brick. Conboy said preservationists prefer continuity when adding additions to older properties, in lieu of mimicry, to differentiate the two. A four-foot glass wall will be used as a transition between the old and new structures, she said.

In addition, a rear entryway and covered porch will be preserved, though a mature Norfolk Island pine tree had to be removed due to a beetle infestation and because its root system blocked construction, Conboy said. It will likely be replaced by a cedar. A magnolia tree will be removed from the front of the property.

The interior renovation will bring the property up to 21st century standards by removing some doors and opening up passages between rooms.

“That’s one of the challenges of renovating old buildings,” Conboy said. “Lifestyles are so different now. In the 1920s, activities were sequestered into rooms. We don’t live like that anymore. … The spaces need to flow and need to fit today’s family’s lifestyle.”

Stalled construction:

A home across the street at Virginia Way and Exchange Place, which sold for $1.45 million several months ago, has sat gutted for months, as the city requests that its new owner address several items.

A historic site specific study obtained by

La Jolla Light

shows the city found “16 outstanding review issues” with the property, including “recent, unpermitted modifications.”

The city determined that the property “appears eligible for designation” under one or more Historical Resources Board criteria (despite the applicant’s January 2014 report submitted to the city deeming the project not eligible for designation). The city’s historic site study states, “any work must be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties in order to avoid adverse impacts to the potential resource.”

According to the study, the owner is seeking to add a second story, deck and other modifications.

To be approved, the study states, side windows, stucco finishes, roofing, rafters and other items removed from the historic portion of the house must be reconstructed or replaced. Remaining historic windows and doors should also be repaired and remain in place. In addition, the proposed addition should be “substantially stepped back from the front façade of the (existing) house and reduced in scale to minimize impact to the historic house,” the report states.