Thursday, February 22, 2007

The house I grew up in

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy is to describe "Shelter from the storm, stories of the home and hearth" -- a family home, the history of it, and memories of it.

I choose to discuss the house I grew up in on 30th Street in San Diego. The house was built before 1900 by my great-grandparents, Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer.

Here is what I know about the house itself:

In 1894, Della Carringer bought a lot of land in San Diego for $450. The lot was bounded by Ella (now 30th Street), Watkins Avenue (now Hawthorn Street), Horton (now Ivy Street) and Fern Street in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Her mother, Abbie (Vaux) Smith also bought a lot on the same block.

Austin was a carpenter, and he built the house on the southwestern corner of the block at Ella and Watkins Streets (now 30th and Hawthorn Streets) facing Watkins Street. They occupied the house by 1898 until their deaths in 1946 and 1944, respectively.

A photograph taken in 1900 shows the house with Austin Carringer, his wife Della, their son Lyle (my grandfather), Austin's parents D.J. and Rebecca Carringer, his brother Edgar Carringer, Della's mother Abbie (Vaux) Smith, and the family horse.

This house had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a parlor on the first floor There was a staircase in the center of the house up to the second story. The second story had at least four rooms - including at least two bedrooms, topped by a widow's walk. There was a large front porch on the west and south sides

In about 1927, the house was moved to the middle of the block on 30th Street, and renumbered as 2115 30th Street. The house front porch was modified so that it faced only south, and a living room and den were added on the west side (essentially where the west porch was). A separate second story flat was created by adding to the existing rooms, eliminating the inside staircase, and building two staircases on the north side for the front entry and the kitchen exit, resulting in 2119 30th Street. The structure was then stuccoed over, and the roof was flattened, so that the original frame of the house could not be discerned.

The picture below is from about 1929, the time of Della's Journal. The two-story house in the front of the picture is the 2115/2119 flats. As you can see, the original house has had a full second story added on. The entry for 2115 30th, which is where Della and Austin lived, is on the south side of the building (the side facing to the right).

The San Diego Union of September 11, 1937 has an article headlined "Honeymoon Trip to S.D. Extends Half a Century," with a picture of Austin and Della entitled "True Vowers View Letters on Golden Wedding Day." In the article, Della says "We have lived here on this corner for 39 years. We built this house. On our lot we have planted and grown most every kind of fruit and vegetable that grows in California. Flowers always have been my hobby."

Della designed some of their furniture, and was a painter. She was quoted on their philosophy of life: "We have worked hard as partners and tried always to be kind and helpful to others. After all, we are of the opinion that this is the best religion to make a happy and successful life." The article says that Austin did all of the finishing on their home and also built some of their beautiful furniture.

Now for my memories about the house.

I grew up in the second story flat at 2119 30th Street. It had two bedrooms and a sun room on the south side (over the porch). My family moved in in 1947 after my brother was born. We initially shared the bedroom in the southeast corner. My mother did her artwork, pottery and copper enameling in the sunroom. There was only one bathroom on the east side of the flat, with a bathtub (no shower until about 1960). One of my hideouts was the cubby-hole over the entry staircase - I could watch the street and not be seen by anyone inside or outside.

When my youngest brother was born in 1955, my brother and I moved into the sun room. My dad built a long desk and we had a stand-alone closet. From our bedroom, we could see the buildings in downtown San Diego, the end of Polint Loma and occasionally ships at sea. My father's desk was in the entry way at the top of the stairs. A wall heater was also in the office - a very popular place on cool mornings. The dining room had a large bookcase and a large dining room table.

From about 1951, the downstairs flat at 2115 30th was rented to tenants. There were several long term tenants who enjoyed the hand-built rooms. I loved going downstairs and seeing the living room, den and dining room especially.

After my grandparents died in the 1970's, my parents moved to their Point Loma house, and my younger brother rented the upstairs flat for several years with his young family. My parents sold all of the property in 1983 to a neighbor, who had purchased 2130 Fern Street (the house that my grandparents built) earlier. I still drive by occasionally, and have even taken pictures of the current house (now painted a sort of nectarine color). I've thought about knocking on the doors and asking to see the flats, but haven't done so. If they ever go on the market, I'm going to go look at them to refresh my memories of the room layout. And I'm going to look for my baseball card collection from the 1950's in my secret hiding place.

That's the story of "my" house. If only the walls could talk and tell me stories - I would go listen by the hour!


Tipper said...

Very neat post about your family's home. I can almost see you sitting in the cubby hole as a small boy. I really enjoyed reading this post.

Family Curator said...

Great house history, Randy! What a treasure of a home.