Mission Hills Heritage to Nominate Inspiration Heights to National Register

| January 10, 2021 | 0 Comments

Mission Hills Heritage has begun a project to nominate Inspiration Heights—one of the earliest subdivisions in Mission Hills—as a historic district for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The long-anticipated step of bestowing historic district status on Inspiration Heights will help protect the irreplaceable architectural gems that line the streets of Inspiration Heights.

Captain Henry James Johnston, captain of the steamship Orizaba, purchased the land that later became known as Inspiration Heights in 1869, dubbing it Inspiration Point.  His step-daughter, Sarah Johnston Cox Miller recorded the first tract map for the area in 1886 and built a Victorian home known as Villa Orizaba on the land, incorporating portions of the steamship Orizaba, then being scrapped.  Her son, Harry L Miller, re-subdivided the land in 1909, renaming the land Inspiration Heights. Harry remodeled Villa Orizaba into the more fashionable Prairie style and moved it to face Orizaba Street. He also formed the Inspiration Heights Company, which graded roads and constructed sidewalks, then began marketing the lots in 1910.  Over the next few decades the area filled with homes built in various styles, including Prairie, Arts & Crafts (Craftsman), Mission and Spanish Eclectic styles, Colonial Revival and, finally, post-World War II ranch style homes.  Three remaining pyramidal pillars on Sunset Blvd. (out of five originally constructed) still mark the entrance to Inspiration Heights.

The City of San Diego has previously mapped approximately ten potential historic districts in Mission Hills for eventual designation, including Inspiration Heights.  About ten years ago, a group of Inspiration Heights neighbors, with assistance from Mission Hills Heritage, began the process to designate the area as a local San Diego historic district.   However, the process stalled and the City’s processing of historic districts in Mission Hills and all of Uptown is now on hold indefinitely while the City focuses on processing historic districts in other planning areas.  Designating Inspiration Heights as a historic district at the national level will ultimately ease the path for designation on the local San Diego register.  Once designated at the national level, the City of San Diego’s guidelines would automatically qualify the district for local designation.

Mission Hills Heritage recently hired Architectural Resources Group, a qualified historic consultant based in Los Angeles, to prepare the nomination package and guide the process with the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), which processes nominations to the National Register.  The project will be overseen by MHH board member and Inspiration Heights resident, Kirk Burgamy.  We hope to have the nomination submitted to the OHP by early-to-mid 2021 and to have a hearing and decision before the end of 2021.

Please help us pay for the cost of the consultant and other expenses involved in this process by making a donation to Mission Hills Heritage.  Donations can be made at our website, www.MissionHillsHeritage.org.  We look forward to bringing the Inspiration Heights Historic District to fruition.

The pillars on Sunset Blvd. have announced the entrance to Inspiration Heights for over 100 years.

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Category: Architecture, Historical, Local News, Nonprofit

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