By Dave Schwab
The dwelling, located at 1157 10th Ave. and one of the last four middle-class houses left in the Centre City area from the Great Boom of the 1880’s, was purchased several years ago by Brian Caine as an investment. He wanted to demolish the house to make way for a high-density, high-rise, mixed-use development.
But Caine’s plans hit a snag: The house was involuntary designated historical on April 22, 2004, by the city’s 11-member Historic Resources Board. Caine subsequently appealed Harwood-Tichenor’s historical designation, which ultimately brought it to the attention of the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), a nonprofit devoted since 1969 to promoting and supporting preservation of regional architectural, cultural and historical links and landmarks.
Ultimately, Caine and SOHO agreed to attempt to save the Harwood-Tichenor from the wrecking ball, with Caine offering to give SOHO the $35,000 cost of tearing down the structure if SOHO “moved it, or found someone to move it,” he said.
Bruce Coons, SOHO’s executive director, then advertised the property, offering it for free. He received more than 70 replies.
“The agreement gave us a year to find somebody, but the agreement has run out,” Coons said. “We told him (Caine) if moving it didn’t happen, that we would support him in going ahead and demolishing it.”
Coons said he thought SOHO had found a bidder willing to move the property: Calvary Baptist Church of San Diego at 719 Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy. in Barrio Logan. But Coons said SOHO has repeatedly tried to contact the church to find out if it is still interested in acquiring the Harwood-Tichenor home but has yet to receive a reply.
“We are still very interested in acquiring the home,” said Johnnie Johnson of Calvary Baptist Church of San Diego, who declined further comment until, she said, “We finish the process.”
But time may already have run out on sparing the historic home from destruction. Caine, recently returned from being out of the country for three weeks, said he received two telephone calls from the church spread out over a wide time period.
“The last one was over a month ago,” he said. “I returned both calls promptly but didn’t hear back. By no means did I ever get an offer or proposal from them.”
Caine added that San Diego real estate developer Sandi Shapery had also inquired about the Harwood-Tichenor home, but for whatever reason has apparently lost interest.
“My understanding with SOHO was I would wait until March 31, 2010, and keep the offer open,” said Caine in an e-mail. “I have had the offer to pay the $35,000 since it was first designated (historical) and a lot of people have looked at it, but nothing has come together obviously.”
Noting he’s been cooperative and “incredibly patient” as his appeal has been on hold for more than five years, Caine said he supported SOHO in helping to try to save the building if it could be done on a reasonable basis, even though he felt it “never ever should have been designated to begin with.”
“It’s been a financial burden to have waited as long as I have so at this point my intent is to move forward with the appeal and our project,” Caine concluded.
Coons said Harwood-Tichenor is a relic of the 1880s when the region experienced its biggest land boom ever on a per-capita basis, with San Diego County’s population going from less than 5,000 in 1885 to 50,000 by the end of 1887. Explaining that middle-class homes like Harwood-Tichenor were where most people lived then, Coons pointed out San Diego has done a “really bad” job of preserving those remnants of its early architectural history, noting, “We’re down to only four of them out of literally thousands – and this is the best one.”
SOHO is also gathering signatures to ask the city of San Diego to entrust SOHO with the operation and management of the Villa Montezuma, 1925 K St., just east of downtown. The Queen Anne Victorian, also built in 1887, was designed by Comstock and Trotsche for spiritualist Jesse Shepard and is thought to contain some of the best examples of art glass in the Western U.S. Click here to access the electronic version of the petition.