By JILL DIAMOND | Uptown News
Not all apartment buildings in Bankers Hill are brand new. In fact, one dates to nearly 100 years ago and is still standing proud.
Welcome to The Barcelona, a centrally located, historic apartment community with a rich history, according to current owners of the property SENTRE.
SENTRE’s President and CEO Douglas Arthur said the company acquired The Barcelona property located at 326 Juniper St. in 2014. He described the beloved location as “a carefully crafted, boutique-style apartment building that artfully blends unique historic elements with a modern living experience.”
According to historical archives and the company’s website: “In 1921, the original developer James E. Collumb partnered with German-born and New York trained architect Eugene Hoffman (who also designed the John D. Spreckels building and William Penn Hotel) to design the iconic building, originally intended to be one of a larger, 4-building complex comprising the entire block between Third and Fourth avenues, and Juniper and Kalmia streets. The rest of the complex was never built, but The Barcelona was completed in 1923 and has proudly served the city of San Diego ever since.”
Now nearly 100 years old, The Barcelona was originally constructed as a full service apartment-hotel, complete with a solarium, ballroom, restaurant and golf course.
“City directories first listed it as the ‘Finest in the West.’ The same structure still stands today, with significant upgrades to the electric and plumbing systems, as well as a seismic retrofit of the roof parapet,” according to SENTRE’s Barcelona website and Arthur.
“In 2001, it was awarded a Mills Act Historical Designation for embodying the distinctive characteristics of the Spanish Colonial Revival/Spanish Eclectic architecture,” Arthur said during a phone interview.
Arthur added during the 1920s and 1930s, Spanish Eclectic/Revival Style architecture was all the rage in the Southwest United States, “capturing the rich architectural heritage of old Spain, and incorporating decorative details of Moorish, gothic, or Renaissance origin.”
He said today The Barcelona has an additional significance — only a handful of owners have owned it, which is a “rarity.”
“The Barcelona was truly an apartment hotel built well before its time — it was certainly unique then as it is today,” Arthur added. “It was built as a four-story building and on top was a solarium that is now is a two-penthouse suite.
“In the early days, there was also an area below used for parking cars and we have a lot of vintage postcards that were sent by hotel guests from all over dating to the 1930s that people have sent us over the years,” he said.
Arthur added SENTRE aimed to preserve the historical value of the property and even though the “paint colors here and there may have changed, the building has been preserved pursuant to historical designation.
“We wanted to keep the historical charm of the building so we did not touch the exterior; it still maintains the charm from an Art Deco meets Spanish Colonial,” he said. “… and the palm trees in the front are reminiscent of a building in South Beach.”
There are 90 studio and one-bedroom units ranging in size and layout and interior upgrades include some modernization. However, the core of the building has stayed the same — even the small units that reflects the look and feel of the hotel as it was in 1923, Arthur said.
Typical renters range from singles to older folks and given the location “there’s more of a millennial representation.”
“The Barcelona is an eclectic building with a theme everyone loves,” Arthur said. “It’s unique since there are few buildings left in San Diego that are as historical. Turnover is lower than we expect and we’re proud to own it. The Barcelona truly is a jewel in our portfolio.”
— Jill Diamond is a Southern California freelance writer with a penchant for interesting historical pieces. Reach her at JillDia¬mondHistory@gmail.com.