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Windemere Cottage & Heritage LostBy John Bolthouse
Admirers of La Jolla's architectural and cultural heritage are deeply saddened by the recent demolition of historic Windemere Cottage, formerly located at 1328 Virginia Way. This incredible 1894 structure was one of the first designs of Irving Gill, a celebrated master architect who would later conceive other icons of La Jolla and San Diego: The Bishop's School, Wisteria Cottage, La Jolla Women's Club, La Jolla Recreation Center, and many others. Windemere's Orient-influenced "flying" eves, decorative roof brackets, and rare, two-story single-wall construction made this Craftsman-style architecture unique among California's disappearing turn-of-the-century beach bungalows. Originally located on Prospect Street, Windemere was moved to Virginia Way in 1927 - a common occurrence in La Jolla throughout the twentieth century, for even as our community grew, Windemere and other La Jolla structures of historic significance and architectural character were deemed worthy of preservation.
Courtesy La Jolla Historical Society
Given this decision, and the lack of an appeals process, the La Jolla Historical Society reached out to the property's new owner in late November to broach the idea of allowing the cottage to be relocated to another site. We gave our word to the owner that, if given such an opportunity, the Society would do everything it could to expedite the move and limit the owner's financial burden as much as possible. The owner was receptive to the idea and a partnership seemed to emerge. The Society had every indication that a mutually beneficial compromise was at hand. Our volunteers and staff began surveying locations in La Jolla for the relocation of Windemere and we expected to begin taking the next steps after the first of the new year.
All that remained on December 23, 2011. Photo by Dan Soderberg
How could this have happened? Our questions about the process are many. We want to know how the City of San Diego could grant a demolition permit without the state-required Coastal Development Permit. Ultimately, we want to understand why the City's historical review process seems so stacked against preservation. The culture within our local government that permits the systematic disregard and removal of the historic landscape is disheartening. It is here where our collective disappointment should be directed. As long as we, as a community, accept a status quo that devalues the heritage of our built environment, expect more Windemeres in the future.
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