By Katherine Hon
If you think North Park south of University Avenue is a crazy quilt of mismatched streets and block configurations, you are correct. The patchwork of subdivisions (“tracts”) resulted from various landowners designing their paper kingdoms as they liked and filing subdivision maps at different times.
One of the first areas to be mapped extended from Alabama to Boundary streets between University Avenue and Upas Street. In the early 1870s, two pioneer merchants, Aaron Pauly and Joseph Nash, and the city trustees created three subdivisions on the three pueblo lots that encompassed this area: Pauly’s Addition, Park Villas and West End.
Pauly beat the city trustees by six weeks, filing his map for Pauly’s Addition on April 1, 1873. The West End map was filed May 17, 1873. Although Joseph Nash had a map of his large Park Villas tract prepared in 1870, the official subdivision map was not filed until Oct. 14, 1887 because of an extensive legal dispute.
Pauly’s Addition is bordered by Alabama and Arizona streets on the west and east, and by University Avenue and Upas Street on the north and south. Individual lots originally measured 25 feet wide (fronting the north-south streets) by 125 feet deep, although lots were often sold in pairs to create 50 feet of street frontage decades later when development finally began in the early 1900s.
Pauly was born in 1812. He was an original “forty-niner” who came to California during the gold rush and moved to New Town San Diego in 1869 when the town was brand new. He set up a large and successful general merchandise store at the foot of Fifth Street, renting the wharf and store from Alonzo Horton. Pauly was the first president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. He ran his store — which later became an important supply center and assay office for Julian gold miners — with his sons Frederick and Charles. A young George Marston was an assistant bookkeeper in this store for a year, and he took his meals at the Pauly home. Both Aaron and Charles entered the real estate business in 1875. Aaron Pauly died in 1900, just before his subdivision began to fill with homes. His son Charles died in 1925, when development in Pauly’s Addition was thriving.
One of the first building permits in Pauly’s Addition was issued on Feb. 2, 1910 for a house built by F.L. Edwards on the northeast corner of Texas Street at Landis Street. This rambling bungalow still graces the corner. Many master builders worked in the tract, including Alexander Schreiber, Edward F. Bryans, and the team of Ralph Hurlburt and Charles Tifal.
Certain builders had a particular fondness for Pauly’s Addition. John Pearson obtained a building permit for a Spanish Revival house at 3435 Texas St. on Oct. 19, 1925, and permits for four similar houses on Mississippi Street in successive years, at 3544 on June 28, 1926; at 3530 on Dec. 1, 1926; at 3536 on March 21, 1927 (his family home); and at 3575 on Jan. 23, 1928.
John Pearson was the older brother of master builder Pear Pearson. The brothers were born Johan and Per Olsson in Espelunden, Sweden in 1885 and 1887, respectively. Johan came to the United States in 1904, and Per followed in 1905, where they both “Americanized” their first names and changed their last name to Pearson. The brothers lived in Denver, then came to San Diego in the early 1920s with their families. John Pearson lived in North Park homes, several of which he built, the rest of his life. He died in 1952 at age 67.
Although John Pearson is not recognized by the city as a master builder, he was responsible for many high-quality bungalows reflecting various architectural styles and finely detailed interiors. Several of his Craftsman homes reflect his Swedish heritage with rounded porch columns and intricately scrolled eaves and rafters. An especially attractive example of his work is 3593 29th St. built in June 1925, which has been designated individually significant for both its Craftsman exterior and elements of its interior.
The North Park Historical Society (NPHS) plans to nominate John Pearson as a master builder. The nomination to the City Historical Resources Board will need to include his history and a compilation of the homes he built. Basic information has come from Pear Pearson’s granddaughter, Kari Koskinen, and building permit records compiled by the late Donald Covington. NPHS invites anyone who has information about John Pearson or a house that he built to contact Katherine Hon at email@example.com or 619-294-8990.
—Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.