By Margie M. Palmer
Community celebrates with Old House Fair, walking tours
South Park’s annual Old House Fair may be best known for its Historical Home Tour, but organizers want people to know that this is just one feature of the family-friendly event.
“We’re very excited about this year. Not only will the street fair be bigger and better than ever before, we’ve also added a lot of new elements,” said Marsha Smelkinson, acting executive director of the South Park Business Group, the sponsor. “We will also have more exhibitors and vendors than ever before.”
In addition to enjoying the vendor and exhibitor booths during the June 18 event, attendees can participate in a free walking tour, which is designed to provide an up-close and personal understanding of what makes South Park unique.
“South Park’s most succinct feature is the classic architecture and residential nature of the neighborhood,” Smelkinson said. “We’re mostly residential with pockets of businesses and restaurants that are surrounded by residences and Craftsman architecture.”
The local tour company Urban Safari will lead 45-minute walking tours. An experienced tour guide will point out landmarks and provide an oral history of the neighborhood.
Those who want to get a closer look at some of the historical residences can sign up for the Historic Home Tour, which costs $25 per person. Four of this year’s five featured homes are more than 100 years old; the fifth house was built in 1929.
This year’s homes include a Craftsman with Japanese design details, a Vernacular Prairie style, a Spanish eclectic Craftsman, a Mission style, and a 100-year-old home that incorporates modern green energy and environmental improvements.
If you’re hoping to get an advance preview of the historical residences, you’re out of luck. The exact addresses will not be provided until the day of the event, and after you have purchased your tickets.
South Park resident Rebecca Tuggle is among those whose homes will be featured in this year’s tour.
Tuggle said she was initially approached by the Old House Fair committee several years ago but since she knew her home would be turning 100 years old in 2016, she decided to hold off until now.
“In past years I’ve enjoyed touring the historical homes and I’ve particularly enjoyed learning what other owners have done to restore and decorate their homes,” she said, adding that her residence underwent a major restoration in 2012.
“[During the six-month restoration] I wanted to keep historical aspects intact and restore the original aspects, such as the interior wood and fireplace, while upgrading all major systems and installing a smart home system. I also found antique, period-appropriate fixtures from the 1915-20s to add where needed.”
Tuggle said the fair takes great care when it comes to both historical accuracy and in defining design details, which provides guests with a wonderful opportunity to see various forms of historical architecture.
Smelkinson said that while they expect 3,000 people will attend the free street fair, they estimate that 750 folks will purchase tickets for the home tour. They will be on sale in advance at theoldhousefair.com or at the fair. Tour participants will be given with a free booklet that will provide historical details and resource information for each featured residence. All of the homes are within walking distance of the street fair, Smelkinson said, adding that trolley service is also available.
The South Park Business Group hopes this year’s fair will raise $10,000. Past proceeds have been used to add street banners and signs, new bicycle racks, and planters throughout the streets of South Park.
“The Old House Fair is a great way to spend the day in San Diego and a great way to see some things you might not expect and discover some things about San Diego, South Park and its history that might surprise you,” Smelkinson said. “It’s free, there are lots of people there to entertain you and you can’t help but have a good time.”
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.