By Katherine Hon | Past Matters
What’s happening to historic building at Kansas and University
Fresh colors highlight architectural elements of the arcaded historical Newman/I.O.O.F. building at Kansas Street and University Avenue in North Park, which until recently housed Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge.
While interior construction for the Tamarindo restaurant continues in the building’s large western corner, fresh colors of pretty clothes have popped up in the window of the easternmost space. This is the new home of RAE, the latest store for Shelly Vanderlinden. Her Pretty Please and Daisy Blue stores throughout San Diego and Arizona provide fun and affordable fashion for those of all shapes, sizes and ages.
Sales lead Carley Watts said they are excited to be part of North Park, a neighborhood where people like to walk, savor great restaurants and shop in distinctive stores. The RAE concept aims to provide a unique selection of carefully curated gifts, jewelry and clothing. As they settle into their new location, they plan on getting involved in the community by hosting pop-up yoga, private parties and other events in the store.
The origins of the spacious building constructed in 1929 were highlighted in a July 1, 2016 San Diego Uptown News article by editor Ken Williams about the Tamarindo restaurant [read it at bit.ly/29AXOOt].
Watts was interested to learn that the building originally housed North Park’s first comprehensive department store, founded by Edward Nathanial Mudd when he was 54 years old. Mudd had a long history in the dry goods business. He worked as a retail merchant for the J.C. Penney Company in the 1920s in Nebraska. His new store in North Park “offered a complete stock of ready-made clothing for the entire family as well as a dry goods department,” according to the history related in Donald Covington’s book, “North Park: A San Diego Urban Village, 1896-1946″ (available at Paras Newsstand at 3911 30th St. for those who want all the fascinating details of North Park’s first 50 years).
Unfortunately for Mudd, experience was no match for the collapsing national economy. In the early years of the Great Depression, he closed his ready-to-wear department and moved his dry goods section to 3916 30th St., where Core Power Yoga is now. The bargains offered at the clearance sale are reflected in store advertisements published in the San Diego Union. “Lovely silk dresses … priced far below cost” could be purchased for $5.00, $7.35, and $11.88. Women’s hats were reduced to $1, $2, and $3. Other bargains mentioned in the Covington book included “men’s pure wool sweaters, $5.79; women’s fur trimmed dress coats, $39.00; boy’s wool knickers, $1.00; and girl’s sweaters, $2.35.”
It would be a whole decade before another department store followed in the 30th Street and University Avenue commercial district. Finally, in 1942, J.C. Penney Company opened the first segment of its store at Ray Street and University Avenue. This building, which retains its historic character from a 1954 makeover, is now awaiting another tenant since Wang’s restaurant closed.
Through the 1930s, various businesses filled the retail spaces in the Newman/I.O.O.F. building, including a clothes cleaners, florist and cigar store. By 1940, appliances were being sold in the western space at 2906 University Ave., and Hughett & Smith linoleum had set up shop in the eastern space at 2912 University Ave. Through the 1950s, MacLean Appliances and Smith Shade & Linoleum activated the building. In 1969, Bab’s Bridals replaced appliances at the corner, and by the late 1970s, Smith Shade & Linoleum had moved to 30th Street and North Park Way, currently the home of Waypoint Public. In place of tile and Venetian blinds, the discerning shopper walking to 2912 University Ave. could find custom fit bras at Joy Bra Salon.
North Park residents and visitors who remember the neighborhood’s doldrums before this latest renaissance wholeheartedly thank new restaurants and retail stores like Tamarindo and RAE. These incoming businesses are activating our historic buildings while retaining the authentic and irreplaceable historic architecture of such special places. Welcome to the neighborhood!
—Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.