Historic Home Tour: Craftsman, then and now

Posted: September 8th, 2017 | Featured, Homes & Garden, Lifestyle, Mission Hills | No Comments

By Mission Hills Heritage

Mission Hills Heritage will be holding its 13th annual Historic Home Tour on Saturday, Sept. 23, with eight homes on view instead of the usual six.

Visitors will be able to explore both interior and exterior features, and docents will provide historical details.

One of the eight homes on view during the 13th annual Historic Home Tour (Courtesy of Mission Hills Heritage)

Craftsman homes became popular in San Diego during the rapid growth of the early 20th century that surrounded the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in Balboa Park. Influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement, architects and builders embraced its philosophy of valuing natural materials, skilled carpentry with select woods and native stone. The Craftsman aesthetic complemented the natural environment, and imposed a high regard for quality materials and mastery in craftsmanship.

Useful decorative art, often handmade, was the style of the era, expressed in the creation of furniture with clean simple lines, ceramic tiles, textiles, painting and pottery. All perfectly complemented these beautifully crafted homes.

Local interest was kindled by the Marston House, built by William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill in 1905 at the north end of Balboa Park. Although wealthy clients could hire an architect to design a custom residence, families of modest means could purchase design plans or a whole kit house from a catalog and hire a builder to construct a house.

Smaller one-story bungalows became popular because of a severe housing shortage and an economic downturn following World War I. Mission Hills has a wide range of Craftsman homes, ranging from bungalows to large custom masterpieces. Most have been altered and some enlarged through the decades.

Craftsmen homes valued skilled carpentry and furniture with clean simple lines.

A variety of Craftsman homes will be open for the 2017 tour; four are historically designated. Because of its comfortably warm and inviting style, Craftsman houses continue to be built. One of these new treasures is included on the tour.

Making even extensive renovations to meet families’ needs does not automatically disqualify homeowners from attaining historic designation and qualifying for the Mills Act, a state contract with a homeowner that grants a reduction of property taxes in exchange for the continued preservation of the historic property. Guidelines have been established that help maintain the character and charm of century-old neighborhoods. These guidelines will become more understandable as the eight houses on the tour are presented and discussed.

Complimentary refreshments will be served at one of the houses featuring Mission Hills Heritage’s almost-famous homemade cookies and beverages.

Purchase of advance tickets is encouraged. Purchase them online to save $5 at Day-of-tour tickets will cost $30 for Mission Hills Heritage members and $35 for non-members. All tickets will be available at Pioneer Park, 1521 Washington Place. For membership and additional information, visit

To read Michael Good’s House Calls column in Uptown News about a Craftsman bed-and-breakfast that will be on the tour, visit

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