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Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Beloved historian, fine arts professor and author, the late Don Covington stands in front of the Charles Crouch house, a Churrigueresque style home in the Burlingame section of North Park.  
Photo Tom Shess, North Park News
BURLINGAME—Guest Blog by Historian Donald Covington, an excerpt from his book “Burlingame: The Tract of Character, 1912-1929.”
Billed as a community history and a self-guided architectural tour, Prof. Covington has penned an understanding of one of the first successful tract home projects in this country.  The title of Covington’s work hails from what the Burlingame developers dubbed the tract.

Began in 1912 and located off of 30th Street between North Park and South Park in San Diego, Burlingame is a remarkable collection of individual homes created within defined boundaries.

Prof. Covington once told this reporter that if the standard of small scale tracts set by Burlingame’s developers, McFadden & Buxton, would have been followed into the future, our urban and suburban neighborhoods might have had far more character today (read: charm and architectural success) than the cookie cutter projects that came to pass.

Burlingame tract in Historic North Park

Burlingame Introduction
By Don Covington

In January, 1909, a group of citizens living on the northeast corner of Balboa Park petitioned the vice president of the San Diego Electric Railway Company for an extension of the South Park line up 30th Street to Upas Street.  The single track line and 30th Street bridge were constructed that year helped to open the sparsely settled region to suburban development.

Two years later, in the autumn of 1911, the car line was double tracked in response to heavy demand from the rapidly expanding area. In November 1911, a real estate development firm, McFadden & Buxton, bought 40 acres east of the 30th Street (#2) streetcar line overlooking Switzer Canyon.  After two months of improvements, the 40 acres was subdivided for a new tract...Burlingame.

On Saturday, January 13, 1912, the Burlingame tract was opened for public inspection.  On that first weekend, 34 lots were sold.  Throughout the following weeks, scores of mule teams labored to grade the streets with crushed granite and generally to improve property in the tract.  Late in January 1912, the distinctive red curbs, crosswalks and sidewalks were laid, thereby paving the way for the beginning of residential construction.

In the years following the opening of the tract Burlingame became a showcase of architectural concepts.  Between 1912 and the 1930s, the Burlingame microcosm unfolded in a rare collection of architectural fantasies.  Many of San Diego’s leading architects, craftsmen, and designers worked out their earliest inspirations within Burlingame’s residential blocks.

Architects and architectural designers such as Carleton Monroe Winslow, Earl Josef Brenk, Walter Keller, Charles Salyers and Ralph Hurlburt, as well as master craftsman such as Alexander Schreiber, Pear Pearson, Archibald McCorkle and David Dryden played significant roles in the aesthetic development of Burlingame.  Most important of all, however, was William Wheeler, who served Chief Architect for McFadden & Buxton’s firm.  It was Wheeler who designed most of the earliest homes in the tract.

In the first year of building (1912), there were examples of Arts and Crafts, Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Prairie and Swiss Chalet styles to be admired along the new streets [including an ornate
Churrigueresque residence pictured with Professor Covington].

FYI: Churrigueresque is a highly decorated style named after the Churriguera family of Spanish architects, which migrated to the Spanish colonies in America.  The California Tower complex in Balboa Park is an example of that architectural style.


Norris Residence

Erwin Norris was a home builder, who moved to San Diego from the Bay area.  Lot for the Arts and Crafts style home was purchased in January 1912.  In February, lumber was delivered to the site and in late Spring 2012, the Norris family moved in and lived there for the next decade

Rhinehart #2

The second of Mary Rhinehart’s investments came to be a unique example of California Arts and Crafts style notably for its use of clinker bricks, clapboard and plaster siding and an upstairs porch supported by a heavily beamed pergola.  William Wheeler was the architect and it was completed in 
September 1912

Rhinehart #1

Mary Rhinehart was one of the Burlingame tract’s best customers.  She purchased four lots.  Only two homes were built for her.  Architect William Wheeler in the Spanish Colonial style designed this first one.

Cottee Residence

Self-employed builder Archibald McCorkle built this home for Nathan and Edith Cottee in 1912 blending Mission Revival and Craftsman styles.  It was one of the first homes to include a “telephone system” which connected the bedrooms to the maid’s chamber.

Wegeforth Residence
Designed by prominent San Diego architect William Wheeler for first owner Dr. Harry Wegeforth, the one of the principals behind the birth of the San Diego Zoo. Dr. Harry married his bride Rachael Granger in the home in November 1913.  The style is reminiscent of the early prairie style houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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