By SANDEE WILHOIT | Gaslamp Quarter Association
After Alonzo Horton made his propitious buy of the land that was to become modern-day San Diego, he immediately returned to San Francisco to drum up interest in his new venture. In order to prosper, he needed investors. To this end, he touted the balmy weather and offered city lots, which sold so quickly that they soon doubled in cost. Many local businessmen, sharing Horton’s enthusiasm, purchased lots in Horton’s New Town for future devel-opment. One of these gentlemen was Charles Gerichten, a merchant and distiller. An immigrant, he arrived in the United States from Germany in 1863. He was hardworking and industrious: By 1866, he was already paying taxes in San Francisco. Gerichten very shrewdly purchased several lots from Hor-ton and other investors, which ultimately included two of the coveted “cor-ner lots.” Although he was listed in the 1873 San Francisco City Directory, he had actually moved to San Diego in the early part of that year. When Alonzo Horton fell into one of his periods of limited funds, Gerichten retained his as-sociation with Horton by leasing the Horton House Hotel and operating it for five years.
Gerichten raised his family with his wife, Anna, in San Diego, and in the en-suing years, he gifted each of his daughters — Ella, Leda and Amy — with one of his lots. The corner lot on 4th and F, though gifted to his daughter, Leda, actually came under the stewardship of her husband, Gerichten’s son-in-law, Jerald J. Ingle. Jerald Ingle was the son of Hubert Ingle, one of the four original developers of Coronado. The younger Ingle, who became the Deputy City Attorney for San Diego, was considered one of the most promis-ing young lawyers of the time. However, he gave up the law to enter the real estate business and pursued the profession quite successfully until his death in 1954.
In 1906, Gerichten contracted to build a two-story brick structure on the property, which he named the Ingle Building. He selected Joseph Falken-ham, a partner of Irving Gill, to design the building, and Moritz Trepte to do the actual construction. Many thought his choice of Falkenham as the archi-tect was unusual, as Falkenham was known primarily for designing Queen Anne style homes in Coronado. However, he had designed the Timken Build-ing and also became the San Diego Building Superintendent and a member of the Board of Public Works.
The Ingle building, a sturdy two-story brick building with a basement, was fairly utilitarian on the outside but featured a row of beautiful stained-glass windows and a transom above the traditional glass storefront windows. The inside featured exposed brick walls and elegant wood paneling, and it was finished with crown moldings and wainscoting and multiple skylights. Per-haps more interesting than the architecture were the various tenants.
When the building opened on Tuesday, January 1,1907, the first tenant of the first floor was Herman M. Fritz. He opened his “buffet for men,” which he called Ye Golden Lion Tavern. It featured a statue of a golden lion above the entry, and the tavern quickly became known as one of the best restaurants in the entire West. Fritz operated the tavern until 1912.
The first occupants of the second floor were an attorney, a broker, an inves-tor and John B. Stannard, the architect who designed the Grand Pacific Ho-tel, the Louis Bank of Commerce and the Cole Block.
From 1912 until 1914, Ernest and Charles Fischer were listed as the proprie-tors of the Golden Lion, but they sold the tavern to James J. Podesta in 1915. He installed a modern kitchen of the times complete with a grill and installed Maurice Bernardini, a well-known chef, as the grill master. Podesta changed the name of the tavern to the Golden Lion Tavern and Grill and welcomed women as part of his clientele. In 1921, Louis H. Provost acquired the Golden Lion and retained Bernardini as chef until 1924, when Bernardini left to open his own restaurant. With no grill master, the restaurant once again became the Golden Lion. By 1932, Provost moved the restaurant to a newer building on Sixth Ave. and later to El Cajon Blvd., where it closed in 1965.
After the Golden Lion vacated the premises, the ground floor space passed through many hands and sported a colorful South Seas mural during and af-ter WWII. In 1953, Patrick’s Bar moved in and remained until 1980, when they were forced to leave due to a fire. Patrick’s moved next door to the Keating Building, site of another of Gerichten’s original lots, and became Patrick’s II, where it remains to this day.
In the 1980s, after the fire, the building was fully restored. At the close of WWII, the building’s exterior had been covered with plaster and paint in an attempt to modernize it. During the restoration the plaster and paint were removed, and the beautiful stained-glass windows were revealed. The lion statue was placed by the entrance, where it stood until 2017, when it was, unfortunately, stolen.
The second floor also had a rather colorful history. By 1928, the Sierra Yacht Club and the Optimist Club occupied the upstairs. By 1930, another club, the Gold Club, had moved in. It was billed as a “sport rendezvous,” known for its burlesque shows and bootleg booze. It was, as to be expected, raided nu-merous times.
Today, the most significant feature of the building is a stunning stained-glass dome located in the center of the first floor. The dome, 25 feet in diameter, was constructed in 1906. Its original destination was San Francisco. but due to the 1906 SF earthquake, it was redirected to Stockton and finally to San Diego.
With the restoration completed, the Golden Lion Tavern occupied the build-ing again for nearly a decade. In the early 1990s, Johnny M’s nightclub moved in but gave way to the Hard Rock Cafe in 1998. The Hard Rock re-mained until 2018.
The first floor is the home of the Mad House Comedy Club, a lunch and din-ner venue, featuring local and national comedians in the evenings.
The second floor, now restored to its original elegant appearance, houses the offices of several attorneys.
Ingle Building/Golden Lion
NE Corner of Fourth and F St.
Architect — Joseph Falkenham
Architectural Style — Modern with Victorian Elements
— Sandee Wilhoit is the historian and lead tour guide for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation at the Davis-Horton House. She can be reached at email@example.com.