Golden Hill marks 10 years since Moose Lodge fire
By JIM STEPHENS | Uptown News
“Moose” is one of those funny singular words that serves as its own plural. Therefore, the list of former tenants of the long-vacant San Diego Moose Lodge together are called “moose” — not “meese” or “mooses,” though both words are hysterical and worth using on that basis alone. If you’re going to have a neglected structure in the middle of your neighborhood, why not at least laugh about it?
Sunday, Feb. 9, about 20 Golden Hill residents gathered at 1648 30th St. to raise awareness of the abandoned lodge. Feb. 10 marked the 10-year anniversary of a fire that effectively closed the place. Attendees satirically sang “Happy Birthday, Dear Something” and “celebrated” with a decidedly frowning cake.
The “meese” sold the vacant property in November 2018. Jim Rinehart, leasing realtor, said in an email: “I can’t share anything about the property at this time, but once it’s open again for business you’ll be able to get all the details.”
One attendee at the anniversary party claimed to have put in a market-value lease offer shortly after it went on the market. She was informed the owner was “waiting on a response from a restaurant group,” then abruptly told months later that “they went with another offer.”
Multiple neighbors dropped by to express concerns about what the blighted building “could be.”
I haven’t seen any productive activity beyond locals voluntarily re-painting the graffiti-laden front door months ago. A chain link fence was erected along the parking lot’s eastern border, though given the lack of progress, it’s unclear why the barrier is required other than to add to an already ghastly site.
The lot, at the busy intersection of 30th and Date streets, is centrally located and historically significant.
30th Street has long served as the neighborhood’s widest thoroughfare, with MTS stops and bike lanes to boot. San Diego’s trolleys used to carry workers who were transforming then-City Park into Balboa’s namesake up that “Golden Hill” to their new home.
Date Street emerges from Golf Course Drive at 28th Street and leads travelers four blocks east to the intersection with 30th. It is the only reasonably direct route into South Park from Interstate-5 north of Pershing Street (i.e., the airport).
The structure is nestled between two gorgeous murals that bookend 30th Street. The stunning result of Jonny Pucci’s collaboration with GFit owner Kristen Lucek presides over the northwest corner of 30th and Beech streets.
At 30th’s panoramic intersection with Juniper is famed street-artist Shepard Fairey’s three-story achievement, “Burmese Monk.” He painted it months after the Moose burned, as part of the MCASD’s “Viva La Revolucion.” It was his first stenciled piece on that scale.
One block east of the lodge is charming Fern Street. West is the eastern end of Balboa Park, covered as it is with beautiful green space and abundant trees.
Aesthetically speaking, the “mooses” were abandoned in the worst place in South Park.
The former lodge sits in the center of 30th Street’s “spiritual” corridor from Grape to Ash streets. Each of those seven intersections contains at least one institution dedicated, in part or whole, to uplifting the human spirit. The Big Kitchen and Buona Forchetta have transformed profit centers into community support. The Alano Club and Pathfinders support recovery from addiction.
Christ United Presbyterian Church and the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses are self-explanatory. The McGill School of Success and Albert Einstein Charter Academy use holistic educational models. In the middle of all that devotion is the “Home for Neglected Mooses.”
The building itself was originally home of the Turners, a gymnastic organization with a San Diego chapter since 1873. The Turners, or Turnvereins, were devoted to a sound mind and body. They moved to 30th Street in 1950, five years after their Downtown location caught fire. Like their successors, the Turners hosted community activities throughout the year and generously supported local events.
Every household at Sunday’s event expressed concern about the building’s future. I hope, given the property’s central location, historical and spiritual significance, its owners’ and lessees’ will create something worthy of the plot of land on which it will sit.
— Jim Stephens has lived in South Park for five years. He is a retired CPA turned freelance writer. He writes about South Park and the San Diego Symphony at southparksdblogger.com.