Flights of Fancy
Although Craftsman and Spanish architecture predominated in early Chula Vista, a few daring builders and homeowners looked elsewhere for inspiration, reinterpreting styles from French Normandy and Tudor England. Sometimes called "Storybook Style," this whimsical architecture reflects America's fascination with medieval Europe and the exuberant mood of the mid- to late 1920s. A few of these homes survive, including a picturesque threesome on the south side of E Street, just east of Fifth Avenue; a sprawllng Cotswold cottage (now the home of Bayview Behavioral Health Center) on Third Avenue just south of L; and a stunning example on First Avenue nearly hidden behind a heavily landscaped wall.
355 First Avenue (1926)
This house was designed by the noted architect Ralph E. Hurlburt and constructed in 1926 by his partner, Charles H. Tifal. (Hurlburt is certified by the San Diego Historical Resources Board as a master architect and Tifal as a master designer. The team was also responsible for several houses in San Diego's Mission Hills and North Park neighborhoods.) Drawing on the French Norman style, this result of their collaboration has high hipped dormers, a round stone tower entrance, and multiple-paned, leaded-glass windows. Inside, the medieval mood continues in the vaulted living room with an overlooking wrought-iron balcony. The owner, William S. Phillips, was an engraver and had the initial "P" added to features throughout the house, including the custom-made downspouts. Hurlburt and Tifal featured the house in their book, "Distinctive Homes." The house, unfortunately, has not been designated and is thus at risk of demolition or inappropriate remodeling.
840 First Avenue (1927)
This house and the one next door, at 834 First Avenue, were built by Harold Doan in 1927 in the English Tudor style. The original owner was Mary Drew, who sold the house in 1933 to Dr. Ivan Jagger, a plant pathologist. The neighboring house has been significantly "remuddled," but this one still retains several elements inspired by a romantic American interpretation of Tudor architecture: exposed timbers, a steep cross-gable roofline, an arched entryway and a corbeled chimney. Another house from this period, the George Steese House (Historic Site No. 48) at 224 Fig Street, is distinguished by its Tudor-style chimney pots. The Mary Drew House is designated as Chula Vista Historic Site No. 55.