Art Deco and Moderne
Like the rest of the country, modern Chula Vista fell in love with the automobile. After years of dithering, the city Board of Trustees (known as the City Council after 1927) voted to pave E Street shortly after the end of World War I, and President Roosevelt's Public Works Administration provided funding for another 20 miles of paving (and jobs for 250 men) in 1935. With the onset of Prohibition in 1919, Chula Vista became a busy thoroughfare for people headed south to Tijuana in search of legal libations, and motor courts catering to these travelers soon appeared along National Road (now Broadway).
Howe Court, in the 300 block of G Street, was built in the Pueblo Revival style, and the Spanish Revival Arvilla Court, located in the 300 block of Del Mar Avenue, was a popular hangout for jockeys at the Tijuana Racetrack. But the latest trend in architecture reflected America's fascination with the sleek glamour of modern planes and automobiles. Although Art Deco, and its permutations of Streamline and Zigzag Moderne architecture, never became as popular in Chula Vista as the Spanish Revival style, a few noteworthy examples survive.
Thanks to income generated
416 Third Avenue (1930)
Although less vigorous than before the Wall Street Crash of October 1929, new development did continue in Depression-era Chula Vista. Beginning in 1930, Tijuana-bound travelers had the option of staying at the 22-room El Primero Hotel, built for John and Lily Ratcliffe at a cost of $30,000. As the city's first modern hotel, it incorporated the vertical elements of the Zigzag Moderne style, with ornate accents around the roofline and front facade windows. Although the hotel fell into disrepair by the end of the last century, current owners Pie and Sol Roque have made a valiant effort to restore it to its Depression-era glory and to operate the hotel as a viable business once more. The El Primero Hotel is designated as Historic Site No. 73.
289 Third Avenue (1930)
The Smith Building was designed by architect Hammond W. Whitsitt for Charles Smith, the city's first fire chief, who wanted a structure that would be resistant to fire. Local contractor Victor Tessitore did the concrete work, including the rounded corners and horizontal bands that are an integral part of the Moderne style. (Many sidewalks on the west side of Chula Vista bear the imprint of Tessitore's cement company.) The building features four reeded concrete pillars topped with scrollwork in a classic Deco design. Whitsitt, an Illinois native who built several commercial and civic buildings in that state before moving to San Diego, also designed the Robert Mueller House (Historic Site No. 36). The Smith Building has not been designated.
516 Flower Street (c. 1930)
An interesting example of the Streamline style is evident in this cluster of apartments known as Dyson Court. Built sometime around 1930 by local cement contractor Robert Dyson, the individual buildings feature rounded corners, horizontal detailing and semi-circular overhangs at the front and back doors. They also reflect the post-automobile trend toward homes clustered around a quiet central courtyard, tucked safely away from cars and busy thoroughfares. Unfortunately, Chula Vista has yet to recognize the historical significance of Dyson Court or any of its early motor courts, and all of the sites remain undesignated and at risk of demolition.