By Katherine Hon
Historical photos of the Granada Building from the 1920s reveal that the structure has not changed much since its construction. The two-story building at the southeast corner of University Avenue and Granada Avenue has retained its parapet roofline, large display windows, white glazed brick veneer, and mosaic tile trim for nearly 100 years. The elegance of its gleaming facade built over a framework of steel and concrete tile is unique on University Avenue. The building has been identified by the city of San Diego as a contributor to the future 30th Street/University Avenue Commercial Historic District set for processing in 2022.
William Patrick McCloskey, a plumber by trade, developed the building in the early 1920s. He bought the lots in West End from Michael B. Murphy in January 1921 and pulled multiple permits for the address of 2867-75 University Ave. in the summer of 1924. In December 1924, McCloskey advertised “Two or four-room flats, private bath, second floor, Granada Building, furnished or unfurnished” for rent in the Evening Tribune. In January 1925, the tax assessment for McCloskey’s property improvements in the City Lot Books jumped from $350 to $4,100, indicating a major building had been completed onsite.
McCloskey lived with his wife Josephine Adella and their three children in the building upstairs at 2875 University Ave., and he operated a plumbing shop in the building at 3875 Granada Ave. — the current location of The Windsmith — from about 1926 until he died unexpectedly on March 25, 1936. His obituary noted that he had been in the plumbing business in San Diego for 21 years. But he was far more than a simple plumber.
He was a member of the National Association of Plumbers and San Diego Merchant Plumbers Association as well as the Al Bahr Temple of the Shrine, Normal Heights Masonic Lodge and Normal Heights Eastern Star. He was listed as a director of San Diego State Bank along with important North Park businessmen like Jack Hartley and George and Emil Klicka in 1928. That same year, McCloskey organized a unique enterprise to benefit all types of builders.
The San Diego Union’s Nov. 11, 1928 issue announced on page two, “A New Venture for San Diego by San Diego Business Men” — the “Architects’ Building Material Exhibit.” A new building with 15,000 square feet of floor space and 200 lineal feet of 16-foot-high plate glass windows had just been completed at 210 G St. The newspaper article noted, “Mr. McCloskey plans an exhibit that will include the leading building firms of the city, creating an institution where the home builder may go to have ideas turned into plans, and where he personally can select the materials that will go to build his home.”
The accompanying advertisement for the new venture stated, “We will furnish plans, drawn to suit your ideas, build and finance your home.” Architects, contractors, sub-contractors, material men and manufacturers were encouraged to “make your application now for desk room or space to display your goods. We will furnish light, heat, phone and janitor service … Address all inquiries to William McCloskey, 2875 University Avenue.”
McCloskey initiated this venture at a time when the future seemed bright. On the same page as his advertisement, a realtor declared, “Prosperity Straight Ahead! Never in the history of Southern California, San Diego or San Diego County has there been a time when one should look forward with such an absolute degree of certainty to prosperity as at the present moment.”
Unfortunately, a year later the stock market would crash, bringing on desperate times for many throughout the country. In the 1931 City Directory, the building at 210 G St. was listed as vacant, and it has since been replaced by Horton Plaza.
Although McCloskey’s ambitious Downtown plans did not survive the Great Depression, his Granada Building remained occupied through the hard times. The upstairs offices provided living space for various renters and office space for doctors and dentists. A notions shop and a restaurant occupied the downstairs spaces.
In 1936, physicians Dr. James Macpherson McColl and his younger brother Dr. William Frazer McColl moved their offices to 2867 University Ave. — the downstairs corner space of the Granada Building where A7D Creative Group is now — and in the mid-1950s, the building became known as the “McColl Building.” James retired in 1955 and William retired in 1962. They died in 1968 and 1969, respectively, and are buried at Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita.
Both men had sons who became doctors. James’ younger son, Douglas, became the 11th medical doctor in his family when he received his degree from the University of Southern California in 1957. He was the chief of staff at the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center for many years. He married Gloria Demers in 1953. Gloria McColl became well known to North Park, serving as the city of San Diego Council member for District 3 from 1983 to 1989.
William’s younger son, William F. (“Bill”) McColl, Jr., also became a doctor after playing football at Stanford University — being selected twice as an All-American player in 1950-1951 and third runner up for the 1951 Heisman Trophy — and playing professionally for the Chicago Bears from 1952 to 1959. He became an orthopedic surgeon and served in Korea as a Presbyterian missionary doctor from 1962 to 1964.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.