Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Victorian House in San Diego - turned into a box

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy is "Local History! As genealogists, we are used to tracing our ancestors and the history of the places they lived. But not all of us live where our ancestors did - do we take the time to see the history all around us? Use some of your investigative skills to research the house, street, or town/city where YOU live. Write about an interesting person, place, or event of local history."

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 three contiguous lots of land in San Diego for $450. The lots were 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. The house style was originally Victorian (I was told "Gingerbread" but I don't know for sure).

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 (name unknown):

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, and topped by a widow's walk. There was a large front porch on the west and south sides on the ground floor.

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 framework 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 south and west side of the house, plus a staircase on the north side to the second floor. The entry for 2115 30th Street, 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 into this flat in 1947 after my brother Stanley was born. He and I initially shared the bedroom in the southeast corner and had bunk beds. It had a central desk, a dresser and a closet adjacent. The master bedroom was in the middle of the house on the south side, and had a large walk-in closet (which used to be the central staircase space) and dresser drawers and a double bed. My mother did her artwork, pottery and copper enameling in the sunroom. The living room was on the west side of the flat, and had a central coffee table, two couches and a TV set (located in the master bedroom closet - but viewable in the living room. Off the living room was one of my hideouts -- the "cubby-hole" over the entry staircase - I could watch the street and not be seen by anyone inside or outside. We usually put the Christmas Tree in the cubby-hole during the holidays.

There was only one bathroom on the east side of the flat, with a bathtub (no shower until about 1960). The kitchen was in the northeast corner of the flat, and had a stove, sink, cabinets and washing machine (in later years). The kitchen had a back door that led to a small porch (with clothes lines running across to the adjacent building) and a 20-step staircase on the north side of the house (until about 1960) and on the east side of the house (after 1960). This had a great wooden banister with rounded corners, and we boys would slide down the banister to the ground.

When my youngest brother Scott was born in 1955, Stan and I moved into the sun room. My dad built a long desk for both of us to do our homework on, and we had a stand-alone closet in the room. From our bedroom, we could see the buildings in downtown San Diego, the end of Point Loma and occasionally ships at sea. My bed was on the east side of the room, and I was able to run wire antennas out of the window to foster my radio listening hobby.

My father's desk was in the entry way at the top of the stairs. He often worked at home as a life insurance agent. A wall heater was also in the office - the only heat source in the house and a very popular place on cool mornings. The dining room had a large bookcase, a buffet table and a large dining room table. We always ate at the table - never in our rooms or the living room.

My grandparents, Lyle and Emily (Auble) Carringer, lived in the downstairs (2115 30th Street) flat from 1946 to 1951, when they moved to the new house on Point Loma. From about 1951 on, 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 brother Scott 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 in 1920) 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! Fortunately, I have many papers, photographs, and artifacts from all four generations of the family that lived in this house.

1 comment:

Bill West said...

Sounds like a great home, Randy!
It's something I wish we'd had when I was a kid. We moved around so often!