Lots of history; Team renovates 1925 home on adjoining properties


What can be accomplished when combining willpower and know-how is on display in a lovingly restored Edgar Ullrich-designed home at 1745 Kearsarge Road in La Jolla.

Co-developers Bill Walsh and Louis Beacham of Beacham Walsh Properties, along with architect Tim Martin, have spent more than five years updating the 1925 home set high on a hillside.

Their problem: how to preserve the home’s historicity while transforming it into a functionally modern dwelling. The solution involved creativity at all levels - and a little daring, they said.

“There were a lot of local developers who shook their heads and said, ‘Why didn’t you pick something a little easier?’ ” said Walsh, noting that they had the resources to tackle the job. “We had a great team.”

The redevelopment odyssey began in May 2005, when La Jolla Kearsarge LLC, a group of four La Jolla businessmen, bought the property from its longtime owners, the Rudee family, intending to upgrade it and resell it.

But from the start, the Kearsarge home wasn’t your garden-style remodel, Walsh said.

For one, the original house was built square in the middle of two legal lots that had to be turned 90 degrees to allow the site to be redeveloped.

Since the home had been designed by famed early La Jolla architect Ullrich, known for his Spanish Mediterranean- and French Normandy-style homes in La Jolla Hermosa and the Muirlands, the buyers decided to seek historical designation for the dwelling, qualifying it for tax breaks under The Mills Act.

The city Historical Resources Board concurred, wanting the distinctively historical portions of the home preserved. But there was a problem.

“There was this 70-plus-year-old cedar tree that the historic resources board wanted saved every bit as much as the old house,” said Martin, who spent one year redesigning it multiple times. “So we had to save less of the original house, which created this almost J shape because we had to wrap the structure around the tree.”

Then there was the question of what to do about the 50-plus stairs leading up to the home’s entrance.

The task of resolving that issue fell to La Jolla master builder Beacham of Beacham Construction, who built a new foundation and first floor much more accessible to Kearsarge, and, by crane, lifted the historical portions down onto the new foundation.

“I’ve moved a lot of homes and taken them away, but this was the first time I moved a home onto a different location on the site,” Beacham said. “It was a little tricky. Weeks of prep work. We had to build a new foundation to put it on. That took a month. But once it was ready to go - it all happened in a day.”

Painstaking care has been taken in preserving the home’s period character down to its finest details.

Walsh said: “We wanted to just put in new windows, but the historic resources board insisted on us maintaining the old doors and hardware, having them reconstructed. So we’ve been five years in the process and 18 months in the actual construction.”

Beacham had two wishes to make for the property’s future owners. “I hope some lucky family lives happily ever after in it and enjoys the historical significance. And I hope Edgar Ullrich is happy with our redoing of his original design.”